Thasunda Brown Duckett Will Be the Next CEO of TIAA, Making Her 1 of 2 Black Women to Lead a Fortune 500 Company

Thasunda Brown Duckett arrives at the 2018 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Thasunda Brown Duckett arrives at the 2018 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Photo: Willy Sanjuan/Invision (AP)

January brought big news to the business world, as Starbucks COO Roz Brewer was named the new CEO of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, making her the only Black woman to currently helm a company in the Fortune 500 (and only the third, after former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and Ursula Burns and Bed Bath & Beyond Interim CEO Mary Winston). Less than a month later, it appears Brewer won’t be alone; on Thursday morning, retirement provider and investment company TIAA named Thasunda Brown Duckett its incoming CEO.


Duckett, currently CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, will succeed Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. as President and CEO of TIAA.

“Thasunda is widely recognized as an exceptionally dynamic and inspirational leader,” said Ronald L. Thompson, Chairman of the TIAA Board of Trustees. “She brings invaluable experience leading and growing large, complex businesses, setting and executing strategy, improving client experience and attracting and developing talent. Equally important, she is deeply mission-oriented, with values that reflect those of TIAA, including a passion for financial inclusion and empowerment.”

Per a press release on the announcement, it was noted that at Chase, Duckett led a banking network with more than $600 billion in deposits, 4,900 branches and over 40,000 employees. “With a vision and strategy that recognized retail branches serve as a critical linchpin for successful growth across multiple business lines such as small business, home lending and wealth management, she undertook Chase’s first major branch expansion in 10 years to add 400 new branches in 20 new markets over five years,” the release read, noting Duckett’s investments in “improving the lives of individual customers and local communities.” Additionally, her numerous initiatives reportedly “directly contributed to the bank’s ranking as #1 in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power, #1 for its mobile app and the #1 most visited online portal among U.S. retail banks,” as well as the development of new tools, products and access aimed at improving the financial health of Chase customers.

“Thasunda’s dedication to putting people first—clients and colleagues—ensures that TIAA will continue to create lifetime income for millions of people working in higher education, healthcare, government, the arts and other nonprofit sectors,” said Chairman-Elect of the Board James R. Chambers, who also served as Chair of the CEO search committee, in a statement.

As previously reported by The Root, Duckett was also the executive sponsor of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways program, “an initiative aimed at helping Black Americans close historical achievement gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success,” the release noted, adding: “Ms. Duckett also sat on the steering committee for the bank’s Women on the Move initiative to help women advance their career and business opportunities, and she is committed to financial education for women, who account for a significant portion of the retirement investments TIAA stewards.”


“Thasunda is the right person to lead TIAA at a time when its work has never been more important and when the challenges of fostering financial stability and inclusion have never been greater,” said departing CEO Ferguson, who will continue in an advisory role at TIAA (he was also appointed to the board of Corning earlier this month).


Notably, Ferguson was one of only five Black CEOs in the Fortune 500 as of last June; he will be retiring on March 31, with Duckett to assume the role on May 1 (she will remain CEO of Chase Consumer Banking in the interim). With the addition of Brewer, that will bring the current number of Black Fortune 500 CEOs to six—with a third of those CEOs now women. While both Brewer and Duckett will be CEOs of Fortune 100 companies (Walgreens Boots Alliance is currently No. 19, while TIAA is No. 81), that still places the total percentage of Black representation in top leadership roles well under 2 percent, meaning the 500 best-performing companies are still a long way from even reflecting the demographics of the United States alone, of which 13.4 percent of the current population self-identifies as Black.

As the release reminds us, Duckett began her career leading affordable housing initiatives for people of color at Fannie Mae. Named one of Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women to Watch” in 2019, Duckett was also lauded by American Banker magazine as the 7th Most Powerful Woman in Banking, as well as being recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate America by Black Enterprise.


“Most recently, Ms. Duckett led Chase’s accelerated focus on communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and was the executive sponsor of the bank’s Fellowship Initiative, which offers young men of color academic and social support to help them achieve personal and professional success,” the release states.

“I often think about the day my father asked me to help him plan his retirement, and I had to tell him, ‘Dad, your pension is not enough,’” said Duckett in a statement. “Now, thanks to his work and sacrifices and the support of many others who have guided me throughout my life and career, I am blessed to join TIAA, which has paid out over $500 billion of lifetime income and other benefits since its founding in 1918. I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to lead a company that has helped millions of people retire with ‘enough’ to live in dignity and excited about the opportunity to help TIAA chart its next 100 years.”

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?


SS Fan

There seems to be a seriousness that some black women, more than I feel black men, are pushing towards financial/career excellence that I really enjoy. Rather they are doing hair, owning clothing companies, graduating with advanced degrees, or climbing the corporate ladders, they are getting MONEY. I know a few women who live very modestly, but they are interested in retiring way before 60. Salute.