U.S. Bank will increase new lending to black-owned businesses and rebuild three Minneapolis branches damaged in riots last week, its parent U.S. Bancorp said Friday as it announced other steps to combat racial inequality.
The Minneapolis-based company, which is the nation’s fifth-largest bank, said it will boost its support for small and minority-owned businesses that create jobs and build social infrastructure, including $100 million annually in higher lending to black-owned and -led businesses.
The company’s foundation also put aside $15 million to award grants to groups that are addressing systemic economic and racial inequities.
U.S. Bank also said it was looking at its own record of hiring and promoting people, saying it would change its “talent management strategy to develop and promote people of color to leadership roles.”
Three of its branches, two along Lake Street and another in north Minneapolis, were closed after being damaged or looted in the violence that erupted from protests about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
“We will not turn our backs or abandon the neighborhoods where so many are hurting right now,” Andy Cecere, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.
The company, which has branches in 25 states, experienced damage at a handful of other branches as protests against police violence stretched across the nation in the past week. Those locations were able to quickly reopen.
On the day after Floyd’s death and before the protests grew huge, Cecere wrote to U.S. Bank employees that he expected to be held personally accountable for U.S. Bank’s “core value of drawing strength from diversity.”
“We talk about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as a society, but it is hard to say progress is being made when these are the headlines dominating the news,” Cecere wrote in the note last week. “We have to do better, and I believe we can start right here at the bank.”
With Friday’s announcement, he tied the new efforts to the injustice of Floyd’s death.
“George Floyd’s life had meaning and purpose. We need to do what we can to give the heartbreak that has followed meaning and purpose, as well,” Cecere said.
Throughout the country, every U.S. Bank staffer will be given a new paid day off to do volunteer work in their communities.
On Wednesday, Greg Cunningham, the company’s chief diversity officer, noted in an essay two ways that large companies can confront racism against black people: by doing more to hire and promote black employees and working more closely with black-owned businesses.
“So many organizations hire for diversity but manage to assimilation, and that is a fundamental problem,” Cunningham wrote. “We need to be more intentional about creating conditions in which all of our employees can develop leadership, demonstrate creativity and advance professionally.”
He also said leaders at all levels of a company “need to be active in denouncing systemic racism and acknowledging privilege.”
Cunningham ended the essay, written as a letter to employees, by noting that he is frequently asked: “What can our company do?”
“To my 70,000 colleagues, you ARE the company,” he wrote. “Be the change you want to see.”