The CEO of Wells Fargo offered a groveling apology for his “unconscious bias” and promised more diversity at one of the largest US banks, after a quote from an internal memo caused outrage even some members of Congress joined in.
“I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias,” Charlie Scharf said in a statement released on Wednesday. “There are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise.”
The San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is now “requiring diverse candidate slates for key roles with compensation of more than $100,000 and increasing business with diverse suppliers,” the statement said. Moreover, year-end bonuses for executives will be tied to “progress in improving diverse representation and inclusion in their area of responsibility.”
Scharf’s apology and Wells Fargo’s newly reasserted commitment to diversity follows a storm of criticism, including from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) after a remark in an internal memo was quoted by Reuters.
“While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from,” Scharf had written in a memo dated June 18, which pledged more diversity at the bank, the largest in the US by the number of employees.
Initially, the CEO tried to say his comment had been “misinterpreted,” adding that the financial industry doesn’t “reflect the diversity of our population” and that Wells Fargo was committed to changing that. The explanation was not accepted by the online outrage mob.
This could, & probably should, ruin Charlie Scharf’s career. If you don’t know how to recruit, mentor, & retain Black talent—the problem is you, not the pool.I worked on Wall St trading floors for 16 yrs. Been texting all day w/ friends in finance re: how much mediocrity we saw. https://t.co/GPfxhGhXSj
— Say Her Name! #BreonnaTaylor (@AbeFroman) September 22, 2020
Among the diversity-promoting initiatives Scharf has promised to implement are hiring more people from “historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and Hispanic-serving institutions.” as well as developing “a new live anti-racism training course.”
It was unclear whether such a course would fall afoul of the new executive order, issued by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, which prohibits federal agencies and the military from funding ideologies that “promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating,” including among contractors who wish to do business with the government.
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