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U.S. Bank Chief Diversity Officer Greg Cunningham speaks at The Atlantic Festival 2020

Cunningham spoke about how Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank is working to address racial inequities in its home market and across the country.


Unknown Speaker 0:00

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And my neighborhood was very, was very segregated, quite honestly. I mean, I grew up in the late 60s. And if you think about the context of those times, and just the tension around those times, I don't think I ever before I turned six years old, I had never really been exposed to white people, quite honestly, because we never really had to leave our neighborhood. And my dad was the butcher in the neighborhood. And then, as you know, very well, Martin Luther King was assassinated in my entire world change. Our neighborhood went up in flames, there was civil unrest, my dad's butcher shop was looted and burned. And I can recall vividly him, you know, leaving the house every day, you know, armed and sleeping in the butcher shop to ensure that it was safe. And he would come home during the day and asked me to help him make a sign that said, owned by a soul brother, so we could put the sign in the window, so it didn't get looted and burned again. And so it was a very tumultuous time. And so, you know, my neighborhood, on the one hand, I have such really beautiful, vivid memories of safety. And this one community, there was also, you know, this part that brought into sharp focus for me, the true divisions that were happening in this country. You know, Minneapolis is a community that, in many ways is the tale of two cities. It's a community that has really thrived and prospered economically, overall, but for communities of color, that hasn't been the case, US Bank is the fifth largest commercial bank in the country located in Minneapolis, we're comprised of over 70,000 employees. And, you know, we offer, you know, a wide range of financial services, we're in 26 states, across the United States, obviously, have a robust digital platform, you know, banks do, you know, three things in my mind, it's workforce development, and Economic Development and Community Development. And I think, you know, at its core, US Bank is committed to those three things. And, you know, our purpose is all about people, which is, you know, one of the things that, you know, attracts me to the organization is it's a people centered organization. And I don't say that in a cliche kind of way, like it really is, you know, banking is never a field that I would have anticipated that I would have gravitated to. It just never seemed like an accessible career, even as a young person. You know, I firmly believe corporations are mirrors for society. And you just don't see many black executives in financial services. When I first heard about George Floyd, I was at home like most of us quarantined working from home. And you know, if you recall, he was he was killed on Memorial Day. And so it was the day after Memorial Day, and I remember it was a Tuesday morning, I got a call on my cell phone, and it was our CEO and necessary. And so I picked up the phone and he said, Good morning, Greg, this is Andy. And I said, Good morning, Andy, how are you? And he said, I'm doing well. Have you seen the news? And I said, Yes. And he said, Greg, I'm really, you know, I'm really troubled by this. And I just want to, you know, talk with you about, you know, what I should be doing, what we should do as an organization, but more importantly, I'm calling to check on you.

Unknown Speaker 3:59

I had no idea that it will come over here. I didn't know it will lay it on my doorstep like that. In business was great. It was great. When I opened up it was and you know, I'm had the bank right across the street in the closet every couple of days. You know, and I love what I do. I love the community. I love working on West Broadway. It was just part of my life. It was my lifestyle just to be there every day. When the ride started, like I said, we were just, you know, get ready to come out of the pandemic, you know, to open up the business. And two days later, my two days before opening my business burn all the way. It took away my dream it took away my life took away everything.

Unknown Speaker 4:46

Us Bank has been in this community and we're not going anywhere. We are continuing to rebuild and ensure that this community, bring financial services and you know, we built so that those communities have banking resources available to them, we're providing over $100 million annually available to black owned businesses in particular. So that's the commitment we've made, we're not going anywhere.

Unknown Speaker 5:14

From a banking relationship, we've been banking with US Bank since the very start, right. And so that's been a very good relationship, they've really stepped up with a very bigger presence.

Unknown Speaker 5:26

Us Bank has been a partner with us for a number of years, though. So you've been supporting us all along, you've helped build us as an organization. But right now, it's the opportunity to inject resources into the community at a critical time. And I think that's extremely important. I mean, this is we have an inflection point right now. And US Bank has stepped up in a major way. So we're just thrilled with that leadership, and the resources that allow us to really help our clients not only survive, but we wanted to flourish.

Unknown Speaker 5:54

14 year old kid who used to print t shirts, love music, and cut hair capital that I needed is huge. For me, it gave me first confidence to complete the pre development process of my project, which is now slated for building permit,

Unknown Speaker 6:12

it has always been my plan to own and operate my own business, I decided to just go for it and let the chips fall where they may, you know, so that's kind of what I did, even when all the unsettlement that has happened and the other stuff that's going on, I still believe that North Minneapolis is kind of on the uprise, to do better things and to grow and to be, you know, something great, you know, I've never had a greater sense of clarity about what I'm tasked to do. My job is quite simple in it is really to ensure that our purpose as an organization, which is to power human potential, that that's true for everybody. My job is to fight for every single employee in the organization, so that their voice is heard and that they feel valued and they have whatever opportunities are deserving of them. My job is to ensure that that happens, I think there are three things that organizations should do to really advance their commitment and outcomes to social justice. The first one is committing themselves to advancing minority talent and specifically black talent within their organization. The second thing is committing to supporting small businesses, small minority owned businesses. And then the final thing is I think leadership really needs to be vocal about denouncing systemic racism. The time has come where we have to put words to it. And leadership has to be courageous and talking about in articulating what we're talking about.

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