Duchess’ Women of Distinction 2022: Thasunda Brown Duckett – powerful woman in finance

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Thasunda Brown Duckett took over as CEO of TIAA in May 2021, bringing with her a wealth of experience as a powerful and well-known African American woman in the financial industry. Prior to joining TIAA, Duckett spent five years as the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, a unit with over $600 billion in deposits, 40,000 employees, and nearly 5,000 branches. Duckett launched a five-year plan to open 400 branches in new markets across the US during her tenure at Chase.

At TIAA, Duckett leads a company with approximately $1.4 trillion in assets under management, offering investment, banking, and retirement services. She has taken this opportunity to focus on advancing financial inclusion and opportunity for all, regardless of income. Duckett grew up in Texas with parents who struggled to provide for their family, and her own father was unable to save for retirement despite working hard in a warehouse and as a truck driver. This personal experience has motivated her to ensure that TIAA is effectively reaching and serving all of its clients.

To this end, Duckett has emphasized TIAA’s mission of financial inclusion and opportunity, and has strengthened the company’s use of qualified default investment accounts (QDIAs). QDIAs are default investments that are used when an employee contributes to a retirement savings plan but does not make an investment election. These accounts ensure that savings are put to work, even when account owners do not actively make investment choices, resulting in more income in retirement.

In addition to her focus on financial inclusion, Duckett has also made TIAA more visible through her participation in 154 internal and external events, where she has spoken about the importance of secure retirement income, leadership, ESG investing, and maximizing value for TIAA customers. Under her leadership, TIAA has achieved a record high operating margin and all revenue categories have exceeded expectations, with assets under management nearing $1.6 trillion. TIAA’s investing arm, Nuveen, has also reached record highs in operating margin, revenues, return on capital, net flows, and dividends paid to TIAA members.

As an executive of color, Duckett is committed to helping communities of color close the gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes, and career success. She is also focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, including antiracism initiatives. Duckett has increased TIAA’s commitment to “Be the Change,” a platform launched in 2020 to combat systemic racism and promote equitable opportunities and inclusive representation throughout TIAA’s supply chain, among its employees, and in its investments. Under her leadership, TIAA has received numerous awards for corporate inclusion and diversity.

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