At TIAA, Duckett Joins Sector Where Players Must Scale Up

Thasunda Brown Duckett, who helped build JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s retail banking network, will take over at TIAA, the companies said Thursday, joining the asset manager at time when its rivals are scaling up to survive.

Duckett, 47, will become chief executive and president of TIAA on May 1, succeeding Roger Ferguson Jr. -- who had previously announced his plans to retire -- the New York-based firm said in a statement.

She will arrive at a firm, whose roots date back more than a century, that faces unprecedented competitive pressures. While her predecessor led the organization through the 2008 financial crisis, Duckett is taking the top role at a time of different uncertainty: Price-cutting and consolidation are rife among asset managers, with companies feeling the strain amid rising scrutiny over their performance.

“She achieved a great amount of success with her business,” said Alison Williams, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. Both the consumer business and asset management “are businesses where you want to build a sustainable base, as opposed to trading, where it’s more transactional in nature,” she said.

Duckett will be TIAA’s first female chief, and its third Black CEO ever, after Ferguson and Clifton Wharton. It’s extremely rare at major firms for one Black leader to be succeeded by another.

After Merck & Co. CEO Kevin Frazier retires in June, Duckett will be one of only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, alongside Marv Ellison at Lowe’s Cos. and Rene Jones at M&T Bank Corp. There will be just five Black CEOs in the S&P 500 after Frazier’s departure, including Roz Brewer, who takes over at Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. on March 15, the only Black woman in that group.

Bank Builder

After joining JPMorgan in 2004, Duckett helped the company expand its banking network to more than $800 billion in deposits and 4,900 branches, serving 25 million households across the country, according to a memo to JPMorgan staff from Co-President Gordon Smith.

“As a passionate advocate for financial health, Thasunda also worked hard to put more under-served Americans on a path to financial health and resilience,” Smith wrote. “She was a driving force behind the development and launch of Advancing Black Pathways, helping more Black Americans achieve sustained economic success.”

CEO Jamie Dimon congratulated Duckett on her move, saying in a statement that she’s “an outstanding leader and role model, and we will miss her.”

Ferguson, 69, whose retirement was announced last year, had planned to stay at TIAA through March, but will extend his tenure. He spent 13 years at the helm, and was previously vice chairman of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

He said in November he was leaving after completing initiatives to grow TIAA and diversify its assets and revenue, according to an internal email. During his tenure, the business expanded from its roots in investing for teacher retirement to become one of the few money managers with more than $1 trillion in assets.

Under Ferguson TIAA, which managed about $1.3 trillion as of Dec. 31, was an early participant in a wave of industry dealmaking, acquiring Nuveen Investments in 2014.

“Thasunda is widely recognized as an exceptionally dynamic and inspirational leader,” Ronald L. Thompson, chairman of TIAA’s board of trustees, said in the statement. “She brings invaluable experience leading and growing large, complex businesses, setting and executing strategy, improving client experience and attracting and developing talent.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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