Well-known companies, throughout the United States, often recruit a good portion of workers from top-tier universities. This often leads to an under-representation of people of color in the workplace, as many colleges have a higher proportion of white students compared to minority students. Companies, like JPMorgan Chase, bring their recruitment efforts to not only the Harvards, Princetons, and Yales of the world, but also to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to ensure they are getting the best talent from all groups.
Racquel Oden, a Long Island native who graduated with her MBA from Hampton University, an HBCU, has led many efforts to improve the access for HBCU students at leading corporations across many industries. As Head of National Sales for JPMorgan Chase’s Consumer Bank, Oden believes deeply in her firm’s initiatives that help recruit underrepresented groups.
Through their Advancing Black Pathways program, JPMorgan Chase is working with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the 49 public HBCUs to provide greater access to African-American students for internships. Beyond internship opportunities, the firm collaborates with HBCUs to provide leadership development classes and workshops by bringing industry experts to speak with their students. JPMorgan Chase also participates in a Leadership Summit that provides students with mentorship opportunities and information about careers on Wall Street.
Oden shared that her university provided her and others like her “the opportunity to really thrive in an environment that focused on us”. Years later and as a board member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, she helps to host a Leadership Summit that brings together leaders from across all sectors, not only financial services, to talk with students about different career paths, experiences, and resources.
Oden’s work reaches far beyond HBCUs. In her current role, she is responsible for sales across all of Chase with its 40,000 employees across 4,700 branches in 48 states. Together with the National Sales team, Oden ensures customers are getting the products and services they need.
Her work extends to the bank’s youngest customers through a program called Chase First Banking, where they provide a bank account for children six years and older. Parents can add money to their children’s accounts as a way of rewarding them for completing chores or other tasks. The children can then learn what it is like to earn money and manage a budget.
To further educate customers and increase their financial literacy, the bank hosts “Chase Chats”, where employees invite customers to have one-on-one virtual chats about topics such as budgeting, home buying, and retirement. On the digital side, customers can receive alerts from the “Credit Journey” feature on Chase’s mobile app with tips on how to improve their credit. Their goal is to provide responsible and safe products and help customers become financially fit through financial education.
Like the HBCU students JPMorgan Chase recruits, Oden’s journey to reach her current position was challenging, especially as an African-American woman. One of her most important success factors is her diverse portfolio of experiences and roles. Before she entered the Consumer Banking world, Oden worked in Investment Banking, Asset Management, and Wealth Management, which enabled her to bring together a collection of skills she needed to advance and succeed.
On Wall Street, Oden found numerous mentors and sponsors who advocated on her behalf and taught her what it meant to be a part of the banking business. As a result of her experiences as a mentee, she truly believes in the mentorship process.
“ It’s your job to make sure you’re bringing as many along with you as you can,” she emphasized.
In addition to her Thurgood Marshall board seat, Oden is a member of the Apollo Theater board. As any Harlemite knows, this institution is a special place for members of the community. What makes the Apollo special to Oden is not only its historical significance but its ability to uplift young community members and provide affordable access to the arts.
“ The Apollo provides a true stage that is committed to the Black community; it is a place where their music can be heard, and also a place that continues to welcome the next generation of artists,” she added.
Many concert venues are oftentimes expensive, and many members of the community cannot afford to attend. In contrast, the Apollo has a commitment to providing a reasonable price range that allows individuals in the Harlem community to always have access to music and to the stage.
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