Retirement and investment management firm TIAA said Thursday that JPMorgan Chase executive Thasunda Brown Duckett would become its new chief executive and president on May 1, marking the first time a Fortune 500 company has handed the reins directly from one Black chief executive to another.
Duckett becomes the second Black woman to earn a major corner office job this year after Walgreens Boots Alliance in January named Starbucks executive Rosalind “Roz”Brewer as its next CEO.
Duckett will succeed Roger Ferguson Jr., one of just four current Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, who had previously announced his retirement. In early February, Merck said CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of those four, would be retiring from the pharmaceutical giant.
The handoff from one Black CEO to another within the Fortune 500 is a notable first that may signal the market is recognizing the number of experienced Black executives who have run operational business units of their own.
As CEO of Chase’s Consumer Banking, Duckett has overseen more than 40,000 employees and $600 billion in deposits.
“This is a major moment,” Michael Hyter, incoming president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, an advocacy group for Black executives, said in an interview. “A new norm can form when things like this occur.”
Hyter said Duckett is a “really well-qualified, ready, proven executive” and, like Starbucks’ Brewer, “represents the embodiment” of the kind of executives who’ve managed large operational businesses that are seen as necessary steppingstones to the chief executive’s job.
The Executive Leadership Council said Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson, who died in 2019, was succeeded by another Black CEO, Greg Adams. But because Kaiser is not a Fortune 500 corporation, TIAA’s succession “is the only Black CEO to Black CEO transition of this magnitude of which we are aware,” a spokeswoman said in an email.
In February, an analysis by Fortune found that just 19 of the 1,800 CEOs that have led Fortune 500 companies since 1955, when the list was first published, have been Black. Three of those 19 only held the job on an interim basis, and only one company appears on the list twice. Back in 1987, Clifton Wharton became the CEO of TIAA, which at the time was included on a “service companies” list that was kept separate from the primary Fortune500 ranking. TIAA is now part of the Fortune 500 list.
Hyter also noted that TIAA and Ferguson have been focused on developing and providing opportunities for diverse talent, something Ferguson, TIAA’s outgoing CEO, discussed last summer amid the expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ferguson, who started out in a segregated elementary school in the District of Columbia, has spoken openly about his experience as a Black executive, noting he has been mistaken as a waiter and had trouble hailing a taxi in New York.
Asked in a Fortune interview last summer how he would advise CEOs who want to create diverse teams, he said, “I would tell them, frankly, to get on with it, so to speak, and be very, very intentional about it.”
He pointed to his boardroom being 50% female and having a larger percentage of underrepresented minorities. “That’s not an accident. It was very intentional.”