Financial Executives Weigh In On Protests

As protests over the killing of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police spread across the U.S., Mark Mason, one of Wall Street’s most senior black executives, debated whether to weigh in.

People around him kept asking what he thought.

On a conference call last week to honor a group of junior executives inside Citigroup Inc., an employee asked Mason, the bank’s chief financial officer, whether it planned to enter the political fray as it had on issues including gun control and protests by white supremacists. Mason’s wife and children encouraged him to speak up as well.

“It became obvious through the week that people needed to hear from the company,” Mason said in an interview Monday evening. “I wanted to speak out in a way that highlighted the atrocities of this incident, that explained what black Americans are feeling and that gave some way for people to help.”

The blog post he ended up publishing on Citigroup’s website late Friday began by repeating some of Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” 10 times. It has since drawn hundreds of public comments from bank employees.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Mason said.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other fatal police encounters now fueling protests nationwide have prompted executives from almost every major bank and investment firm to speak out. And behind the scenes, it’s driving conversations in an industry that wants to be viewed as more socially responsible, even as it struggles to deliver on promises to improve diversity within its ranks.

Executives of color are using the moment and their platform to speak out.

“It’s 2020 and enough is enough. We can no longer be silent,” Thasunda Brown Duckett, chief executive officer of consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a post on LinkedIn. Like Mason, she’s a rare black American in the top tiers of the U.S. finance industry. “Yes it’s painful and my tears are real.”