3 Strategies To Keep You In The Lead After Your Company Goes Public

Photo: Getty Images

These days there are few opportunities to take a private company public. However, there is no time like the present to prepare yourself for the day – probably in a few years – when the IPO market will get started again.

If you are leading a startup, there is a good chance you have a long-term vision for building a company that scales enough to make the world a better place. Your odds of doing that are much better if you can remain as CEO after the company goes public.

Sadly, many CEOs can grow their company to the verge of an IPO but cannot run it well afterwards. Indeed, according to The Founder’s Dilemmas some 60 percent of founders do not remain CEOs following their company’s Series D investment round.

I recently spoke with an entrepreneur who has overcome that common hurdle. The CEO in question is Shlomi Ben Haim, who runs “liquid software” provider JFrog. Despite the slowing economy, JFrog – which went public in 2020 — has been growing surprisingly quickly – at 34 percent in the most recent quarter.

Here are the three strategies that have contributed to his success and that you should consider following if you aspire to lead your company to an IPO and beyond. In my book, Scaling Your Startup, I called this fourth stage of scaling Running the Marathon.

1. Partner with a strategist CFO.

When a startup begins raising capital from venture investors, it needs a chief financial officer (CFO) with experience taking a company public and communicating with investors after the IPO. While every CEO has different skills and areas where they need help, I think many of them are better off if they can collaborate with a CFO who can do that and be a business strategist.

Such a partnership is contributing to JFrog’s success. Ben Haim, a visionary CEO, and Jacob Shulman, a risk-managing CFO work effectively to strike the right balance between ambition and realism. Ben Haim told me that he is happy that Shulman — who joined JFrog as CFO in May 2018 after serving as CFO of Mellanox Technologies — is his “partner in crime.”

Ben Haim hired Shulman to collaborate on business strategy. “I was not looking for an accountant,” says Ben Haim. “I wanted someone who could read and understand the data and have credibility. I needed a partner to read the market waters, listen to analysts and peers, and help us take a controlled approach to risk.”

2. Maintain a long-term focus.

To scale a company to the point where it can go public, a leader must balance the short- and long-term. Public company CEOs must report to investors every quarter and that makes it hard to resist the temptation to focus too much on those reports.

What’s more, these days many CEOs are scrambling to deal with short-term pressures brought on by high inflation and rising interest rates. Current macroeconomic headwinds are not deterring Ben Haim. “I have experience with rapidly changing headwinds and tailwinds. I started two companies during such times — one in 2001 and JFrog in 2008 — three months before a global crisis in both cases,” he told me.

This experience focuses him on aiming at long-term goals while preserving cash. “I can identify [the beginning of an economic downturn] and did not wait for the analysts to tell the world. With $500 million in cash, we have built in resiliency. We know the market will recover,” he said.

3. Stay ahead of potential disruptors.

A founder who is running a public company must invest in the future. Ben Haim and Shulman have collaborated to keep JFrog stay ahead of potential disruptors. As Ben Haim said, “I could see the evolution years ahead of time. Every company was going to be a DevOps company. Security would be a task that developers would have to face. The next stage was IoT and connected devices.”

To realize his vision, JFrog made acquisitions. For example, in September 2021, it acquired Upswift, a connected-device management software provider, and in June 2021 JFrog acquired Vdoo, a product security firm, for about $300 million, according to Calcalist.

Ben Haim credits Shulman with helping with M&A strategies. As Shulman told me, “I am an agent of change and controlled risk. We discussed the IoT business model and set milestones we needed to achieve. [We addressed questions such as] ‘How much should we invest? How could we achieve a return on investment?'”

Follow these three strategies and you can boost your odds of taking your company public and continuing to lead it to higher ground.

By: Peter Cohan, Founder, Peter S. Cohan & Associates

Source: 3 Strategies To Keep You In The Lead After Your Company Goes Public | Inc.com

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The FTX Problem Lurking In Your Business

Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of FTX... Photo: Getty Images

The financial collapse of FTX may seem like a distant concern since the mostly unregulated industry is different from software, e-commerce, manufacturing, or services. But the heart of FTX’s strategic error – using customer funds to pay for risky business bets – exists throughout the small business community.

Many entrepreneurs do not even realize they are doing it. The strategy lurks in the working capital section of balance sheets and cash flow statements, where many managers do not know to look. As a fractional CFO, I see it all the time, usually when a new client comes to me in a state of financial distress. FTX is now accused of ethical violations. Are you at risk of committing the same ethical errors?

Customer financing in business

FTX used their customer’s deposits to place risky bets for profit. That strategy works when everything goes according to plan, but it’s a house of cards when something unexpected happens.

Using customer deposits and prepayments to fuel business bets exists in nearly every industry. Here are some scenarios:

  • SaaS deferred revenue

A SaaS company offers a 20% discount to pay for the year up-front. The SaaS company uses these deferred revenues to invest in advertising and sales but fails to generate a healthy return. Seven months later, the company goes bankrupt and can not refund its customers.

  • E-commerce backorders

A celebrity releases a limited-edition gym shoe. One reputable online store offers pre-orders for $1,500 each and sells out quickly. Several months pass, and the customers have yet to receive their shoes. Some apply for refunds only to discover the company’s cancelation policy is punitive and unreasonable. Eventually the company declares bankruptcy without giving any customers their money back. (Inspired by this true story.)

  • General construction mis-bid

A general contractor (GC) bids on a big construction job that pays 50% upfront for materials. Supply chain constraints and a tight labor market crush the GC’s budget, creating delays and cost overruns. Faced with a financial impossibility, the GC walks off the job, leaving the customer with a half-completed project.

All three small businesses used customer deposits (a liability) to fund some risky bet – a construction job, a rare new sneaker, or growing the core business. To be clear, these are not bad business strategies. In fact, the GC, crushed by macroeconomic forces, was mainly just unlucky. Nonetheless, each was a betrayal to the customers who did not explicitly consent to the risks taken with their money.

The Ethics of Customer Deposits

If you are taking deposits or prepayments from customers, you have an ethical responsibility to soundly manage your business’ financials. Here are my top 3 tips to make sure you are behaving ethically.

Know your working capital structure: You must know your working capital risk by knowing your balance sheet. Consult a financial advisor if you have doubts about your working capital knowledge.

Know your regulations: Real estate, title, finance, and attorneys must maintain separate accounts for customer deposits. Take time to know which regulations apply to you and invest in accounting resources to maintain accurate records.

Forecast monthly: Use an operating forecast to project cash flow, test scenarios, and avoid crashing the business. I recommend running through “disaster planning” once a year so you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of a downturn and can respond accordingly.

Do not kill the golden goose: Successful entrepreneurs often chase new ideas with zeal at the expense of existing and profitable businesses. Never bet the house on a new product, service, or market. For a bootstrapping company, avoid investing more than 20% of your revenue into R&D or growing a new market.

Prepare backup capital: Be prepared for emergency funding if needed. You cannot secure new financing during distress, so you should prepare capital sources during the good times. Options for small businesses include:

  • Business lines of credit
  • Owner personal funds and contributions
  • Assets that can be sold quickly

Know when to pull the plug: Sometimes the most responsible thing you can do is fold the business before the damage becomes too great. Set clear limits with your management team about when the game is lost. Examples include:

  • We will not incur more than $x in debt
  • We will close the division if volume drops below X units per month
  • We will quit that project if we cannot hit the deadline by xx/xx/xxxx

Keep your stakeholders in mind: Remember that your business has more stakeholders than shareholders. Financial management is an ethical responsibility for all entrepreneurs. If your business is running out of cash or you are unsure how to manage working capital responsibly, ask for help now. It is your ethical duty.

By LJ Suzuki, Fractional CFO

Source: The FTX Problem Lurking in Your Business | Inc.com

.

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The CEO’s Role Is Changing. What It Takes To Get The Top Job Now

gradyreese/Getty Images

Recruiters, leadership experts and board directors say the path to the top job, and the skills needed to succeed in it, has changed.

The mission of a CEO used to be fairly straightforward. Set the vision and strategy of your company and make sure the right people are in the right roles. Be sensitive to the needs of employees, customers, suppliers and others in your orbit but make shareholders your top priority. Above all else, grow as fast and as big as you can.

But as the world has changed, so have the demands of the CEO job— and the skills needed to succeed in it. Between the pandemic and polarization, climate change and cancel culture, the role has evolved in ways that few would have imagined a few years ago. CEO contenders lack a clear grasp on how the jobs they’re pursuing will change while those at the helm can offer only limited guidance.

What many CEOs increasingly realize is that the change has to start from within. Dick Patton, who co-leads the global CEO practice for recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, detected a mood of deep reflection among the 972 global CEOs they surveyed in a study last year. Nearly 80% of CEO participants said they needed to transform themselves as well as their organizations, and be more adaptive and self-aware.

Part of what’s fueling a new mindset is the recognition that trust and transparency have become vital to business success. Stephen Miles, an executive coach and founder of the Miles Group, argues that the CEO has gone from being the leader who runs the company to the person who must also promote the company’s purpose, impact and credentials as an employer of choice. In short, they must defend the company’s license to operate.

That requires “more influence-building, team-building, people-related skills,” says Miles, not to mention the courage to initiate change on weak signals and be open about their own struggles to connect with people. Emotional intelligence becomes more critical as the demands for CEOs to engage in political hot-button topics mount.

“You have to anticipate whether someone will have the instincts and the intestinal fortitude,” says Jane Stevenson, a vice chair at Korn Ferry who leads its global CEO succession practice. “The expectation of CEOs to take a stand—and to know when to take the stand and when to be quiet—is huge. It’s always been about who the person is. Now it’s who the person is, squared.”

A Need For Bolder Boards

Boards are starting—slowly—to think more broadly about the skills and profile needed to succeed as a CEO in this environment. Experience in operating and running a business is still essential—but a wider range of resumes and roles is under consideration. Diversity candidates are in higher demand, as are traits such as agility, resilience and political judgment.

“Boards are bucking conventional wisdom a bit more,” says Tim Conti, managing partner of executive search firm ON Partners. “The best boards recognize a CEO is just one member of an executive team, and if complemented properly, can come from a lot of new backgrounds.”

That doesn’t mean directors are rushing to take risks. CEO turnover dropped during the pandemic, as many boards put a premium on stability and familiarity to get through the crisis. While CEO openings among Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies have picked up, most of those slots are filled through internal promotions, according to the latest Crist Kolder Volatility Report of America’s Leading Companies. Only 18.9% of new CEO hires through July were external candidates, versus 30.7% in 2019.

That could indicate more robust succession planning and leadership development—or a lack of imagination at a time when companies need it most. Jim Citrin, who leads Spencer Stuart’s CEO practice, argues that many boards are being too conservative at a time when they need the courage to make bold choices. “Some of the best-performing CEOs were not the obvious choices,” says Citrin.

“Boards basically define success as an internal promotion; failure as having to go outside. In this moment of change and dramatic stakes, all of us need to be creative and courageous.” While the usual route to the CEO’s office is through the president’s or COO’s job, that is not always the best path. A recent report from Spencer Stuart found that over the past 20 years, 85 percent of S&P 500 CEOs have come from one of four “last mile” roles: chief operating officer, a division-level CEO role, chief financial officer and “leapfrog” leaders who held executive jobs another rung or two from the top.

The most successful CEOs were those promoted from a few levels down; the least were CEOs who came from the CFO function. While the latter group knew how to turn a profit, the study found they weren’t as strong at driving top-line growth.

“Some of the best-performing CEOs were not the obvious choices … In this moment of change and dramatic stakes, all of us need to be creative and courageous.”

Jim Citrin, Spencer Stuart

The message is not to discount the value of leading the finance function but rather to supplement it with other responsibilities and C-suite roles. Bonnie Gwin, co-managing partner of the global CEO and board practice at Heidrick & Struggles, says there is demand “for CFOs who are strategic and have played really strategic thought partner roles with their CEO.”

There’s a growing appreciation for experience in other C-suite roles, too. A stint as a chief marketing officer or chief customer officer can be essential for running consumer-facing companies. The chief product officer is also gaining ground as a stepping stone to the CEO job, according to Mark Oppenheimer, CEO of Modern Executive Solutions, as it often “brings together sales, product, strategy and operational responsibilities.” Jeff Christian, who leads the search firm Christian & Timbers, agrees, adding that “product people are becoming the next generation CEOs.”

Perhaps the most common resume builder that indicates a CEO could be destined for the corner office is experience on a high-profile public board of directors. “Getting on some of these major boards is a very interesting corollary to someone getting CEO calls,” says Jana Rich, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based Rich Talent Group. “You’re networked in a different way. You’re getting incredible exposure to people in the boardroom.”

A Premium—But Limited Progress—On Diversity

Whatever their background, one promising sign is that new CEOs are more likely to be women or people of color. Of the 682 CEOs tracked in the Crist Kolder report, 7.3% were women as of July 31 – up from 6.9% last year and 1.9% in 2010. Heidrick & Struggles took an even broader look at 1,095 CEOs in 24 countries and found women accounted for 13% of new CEOs during the first half of last year, about double from six months earlier.

Racial diversity is a slower climb, although Indian-born leaders continue to ascend to CEO roles, most recently at companies like Starbucks and FedEx. When it comes to the skills in demand for CEOs, some measures of potential remain constant. After studying data from thousands of CEO assessments, Elena Botelho, a partner at leadership advisory ghSMART, distilled the core behaviors for success to the acronym DARE – decisive, adaptable, reliable and engaging for impact.

While the framework is unchanged, Botelho says “adaptability became really paramount” amid the pandemic, which is less about the ability to spot a shift than to immediately respond to it. Resilience is critical. For current CEOs, the exhaustion of the last two years is real, despite it being a job where the median pay was a record-high $14.5 million last year for S&P 500 CEOs, according to an Equilar/Associated Press study.

The rinse-and-repeat series of crises and the dizzying rate of technological change is shifting how CEOs lead, how quickly they’re ready to pass the baton, and what their ambitions may be. While the current generation of CEO-ready leaders has arguably lived through more booms, busts and industry-shattering innovations than the people who came before them, many still feel unprepared. Faced with the prospect of added stress and scrutiny, some recruiters say a lot of candidates also want the job less and less.

They can earn millions through other C-suite roles without the constant scrutiny and stress. Still, for as long as there have been ambitious people, there have been people ambitious to lead. Increasingly, the brass ring is likely to go to those who are ambitious to learn. As Matthew Smith, an executive coach and former chief learning officer at McKinsey puts it: “Leaders who adapt and pivot with speed in the face of opportunities will outperform those who are over-reliant on the skills and habits that got them to the top.”

I am an assistant managing editor at Forbes, overseeing our editorial team that runs the C-suite communities, careers, ForbesWomen, 30 Under 30, and related coverage.

I am a Senior Editor at Forbes, leading our coverage of the workplace, careers and leadership issues. Before joining Forbes, I wrote for the Washington Post for more than a decade covering

Source: The CEO’s Role Is Changing. What It Takes To Get The Top Job Now

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Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs

For decades the corporate HR department was seen as a back-office function, a cost center focused on mundane administrative tasks such as managing compensation and benefits plans. But over the past 15 years Ellie Filler has noticed a dramatic change. Filler, a senior client partner in the Swiss office of the executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry, specializes in placing chief human resources officers (CHROs) with global companies. For years many of the HR chiefs she recruited reported to the COO or the CFO and complained that they lacked real influence in the C-suite.

Today, she says, they often report directly to the CEO, serve as the CEO’s key adviser, and make frequent presentations to the board. And when companies search for new CHROs, many now focus on higher-level leadership abilities and strategy implementation skills. “This role is gaining importance like never before,” Filler says. “It’s moved away from a support or administrative function to become much more of a game changer and the person who enables the business strategy.”

To investigate the CHRO role within the C-suite, Filler worked with Dave Ulrich, a University of Michigan professor and a leading consultant on organization and talent issues. In looking at several sets of data, they found surprising evidence of the increasing responsibility and potential of CHROs.

First, in order to understand the importance of the CHRO relative to other C-suite positions, including CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, and CIO, Filler and Ulrich looked at salaries. To identify the best performers, they found the top decile of earners in each role. Then they averaged the annual base compensation of each group. No surprise: CEOs and COOs are the highest-paid executives. But CHROs are next, with an average base pay of $574,000—33% more than CMOs, the lowest earners on the list. “Great CHROs are very highly paid because they’re very hard to find,” Ulrich says.

The researchers also studied proprietary assessments administered by Korn Ferry to C-suite candidates over more than a decade. They examined scores on 14 aspects of leadership, grouped into three categories: leadership style, or how executives behave and want to be perceived in group settings; thinking style, or how they approach situations in private; and emotional competency, or how they deal with such things as ambiguity, pressure, and risk taking. The researchers then assessed the prevalence of these traits among the different types of executives and compared the results.

Their conclusion: Except for the COO (whose role and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s), the executive whose traits were most similar to those of the CEO was the CHRO. “This finding is very counterintuitive—nobody would have predicted it,” Ulrich says.

The discovery led Filler and Ulrich to a provocative prescription: More companies should consider CHROs when looking to fill the CEO position. In the modern economy, they say, attracting the right talent, creating the right organizational structure, and building the right culture are essential for driving strategy—and experience as a CHRO makes a leader more likely to succeed at those tasks.

The advice comes with some caveats. First, Filler and Ulrich studied only the best performers, so they’re pointing to a small subset of CHROs as having corner-office potential. They don’t see a path to the top job among people who have spent their careers in HR; instead, they are touting the prospects of executives who have had broad managerial experience (and P&L responsibility) that includes a developmental stint running the HR department. They emphasize that any CHRO who aspires to become a CEO must demonstrate capabilities in a host of skills required of top leaders.

“The challenge for CHROs is to…acquire sufficient technical and financial skills, in early education and in career steps along the way, if succession to CEO is a desired outcome,” they write in a white paper about their research. Indeed, some companies, including Zurich Insurance, Nestlé, Philip Morris, and Deutsche Bank, do put high-potential executives through a developmental rotation in a high-level HR job. (For one view on facilitating such developmental opportunities, see “It’s Time to Split HR,” by Ram Charan, HBR, July–August 2014.)

Filler and Ulrich highlight two examples of prominent CEOs who had developmental stints in HR earlier in their careers. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, served as the carmaker’s vice president of HR for 18 months, and Anne Mulcahy, Xerox’s CEO from 2001 to 2009, ran that company’s HR operations for several years in the early 1990s. It’s no coincidence that both are women: According to the researchers’ data, 42% of high-performing CHROs are female—more than double the share in the CMO position, the next highest (16%). One implication: If more companies envisioned CHROs as potential CEOs, the number of female CEOs could dramatically increase.

In their white paper Ulrich and Filler also report on what CEOs and CHROs have to say about the changing nature of the top HR role. Several CEOs see the CHRO as C-suite consigliere. “It is almost impossible to achieve sustainable success without an outstanding CHRO,” says Thomas Ebeling, the CEO of the German media company ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG and a former CEO of Novartis. “[The CHRO] should be a key sparring partner for a CEO on topics like talent development, team composition, [and] managing culture.”

Peter Goerke, the London-based group director for HR at Prudential, agrees with Filler and Ulrich that although deep skills in marketing or finance might once have given CEO aspirants a significant competitive advantage, today a broader set of people-focused skills can be more useful. “Succession to a CEO role requires a balance of technical and people skills,” he says. “For all C-suite roles, and often at least one level down, there has been a gradual shift in requirements toward business acumen and ‘softer’ leadership skills. Technical skills are merely a starting point.”

In spite of the historic bias against the CHRO function, the rising status of HR leaders is not entirely surprising. Over the past 20 years Jim Collins and other management theorists have focused on talent strategy as the prime determinant of corporate success—an idea Collins popularized in phrases such as “Get the right people on the bus” and “First who, then what.”

In her work recruiting CHROs, Filler has seen a growing recognition that those aphorisms hold true. “If you don’t have the right people in the right places—the right talent strategy, the right team dynamics, the right culture—and if you don’t proactively manage how an organization works from a culture and a people perspective, you’re on a serious path to disaster,” she says. Conversely, a top-notch CHRO can help a company plot a more successful future.

Source: Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs

Critics: by MasterClass staff

A chief human resources officer (CHRO) is an executive-level position that oversees human resources management for a business or organization. The CHRO—sometimes referred to as the chief people officer (CPO) or executive vice president of human resources—directs the HR department and carries out HR policies. Some of the HR functions that CHROs oversee include talent acquisition and retention, performance management, and employee engagement. As the chief HR officer, a CHRO also helps to develop the workplace culture and supports business goals and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

As a leadership role, the CHRO job description includes overseeing the HR directors and HR team carrying out the company’s employee-based initiatives. The CHRO reports directly to members of the top C-suite executive team—often the chief executive officer (CEO) or chief operating officer (COO)—and works to align the HR strategy with the company’s strategic plan and business objectives.

A few of the responsibilities of a CHRO include:

  1. Benefits and labor relations management: A CHRO oversees the implementation of HR software to streamline healthcare and retirement programs, government compliance requirements, and employee relations. They explore partnerships to offer employees new benefits such as wellness programs or professional development opportunities.
  2. Guides company culture: This role in HR leadership includes helping to define and develop company culture for the workforce, executive leadership team, and other stakeholders. Maintaining employee engagement and productivity through incentives, clearly defined career paths and equitable compensation packages, and a commitment to diversity in hiring practices are core components of this human resources function.
  3. Oversees talent recruitment and retention: Talent management is another cornerstone of human capital management and the CHRO role. A CHRO develops and adopts a talent strategy that outlines how to recruit, hire, develop, and retain employees. The talent strategy includes offering equal opportunities to all candidates, employee training initiatives, career development programs, and succession planning, which is a strategy to identify potential leaders when companies change management.

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Citi Pledges $1 Billion To Narrow The Racial Wealth Gap, Confront Wealth Inequality

On Wednesday, Citigroup, the nation’s fourth largest bank by asset size, pledged more than $1 billion over the next three years to address the widening racial wealth gap and increase the economic mobility of Black Americans.

“The pandemic is a health crisis with severe economic implications and it’s led to an unveiling of the systemic racism that has existed in this country for far too long,” says Citi’s CFO Mark Mason, who’s part of a small cadre of prominent Black executives on Wall Street.

Citi’s announcement follows that of Bank of America’s in June pledging $1 billion  to advance racial equality and economic opportunity over a four-year span.

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent demonstrations against the killings of Black people have placed a searing spotlight on existing racial disparities in the U.S., bringing them to the fore of the business world’s conscious.

“It has been a catalyst for many companies to really try and get after this in a substantive way, and for Citi, it’s certainly caused us to take a step back,” Mason says.

“The killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky are reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives.” Mark Mason, Citi CFO

In the wake of Floyd’s death in May, Mason penned a candid and poignant letter to the bank’s corporate blog, wherein he detailed Floyd’s last minutes alive and acknowledged that the latest deaths of Black citizens in police custody were “reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives.”

The letter was widely circulated among business leaders, including Citi’s outgoing CEO Michael Corbat, who encouraged employees in an internal memo to do their part to create a “truly equal and just society.”

As protesters rallied across the country, reigniting a national conversation about race, Corbat challenged his executive reports to conceive a strategic initiative that would address key factors of economic racial injustice and deliver meaningful impact to the Black community.

Those executives swiftly assembled a team of business leaders throughout the firm to devise what would later form Citi’s $1 billion commitment to help advance racial equity and allay the financial drag Black people experience in the U.S.

The funds will be directed toward expanding access to banking and credit building in communities of color, investing more heavily into Black-owned businesses, promoting the growth of Black home ownership and strengthening Citi’s antiracism policies and practices.

Nearly half of the three-year investment will be meted out to boost homeownership for people of color, which has historically been one of the primary drivers of wealth creation in the U.S., and support affordable and workforce housing projects by minority developers. Just under $400 million will go toward procurement opportunities for Black-owned business suppliers while $50 million will go toward additional impact investing capital for Black entrepreneurs.

Citi is allocating $100 million to support the growth and revenue generation of Minority Depository Institutions, which play a critical role in fostering the economic viability of the communities they serve, by supplying them with $50 million in growth capital. The bank’s philanthropic arm, Citi Foundation, will receive the remaining $100 million to provide economic opportunities for young people in underserved communities.

Citi is also scrutinizing some of its own longstanding policies. The bank says it will develop standards for inclusive software design that eliminate bias, expand Citi’s capital market activities with minority-owned broker dealers and increase the representation of people of color on Citi accounts and within their leadership teams.

Mason says that weeding out a company’s underlying and often deeply rooted biases requires a thorough probe and heavy introspection. “It’s not until you take a hard look at those things—the screening processes that exist, the age-old criteria that’s been designed—and are challenged to see who they’re inadvertently leaving out or boxing out, that you can then change them in a way that helps to eliminate those obstacles.” 

The bank’s financial commitment comes on the heels of a new Citi-sanctioned report that puts a numerical figure behind the economic cost of Black inequality in the U.S. Published on Monday, the analysis found that nearly $5 trillion could be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years if four key racial gaps for Black people—wages, education, housing and investment—were closed today, a .4% annual increase to U.S. GDP growth. Closing those key racial gaps 20 years ago could have yielded a $16 trillion gain to the U.S. economy, according to the report.

“Addressing racism and closing the racial wealth gap is the most critical challenge we face in creating a fair and inclusive society,” Corbat, Citi’s CEO, said in a press release announcing the bank’s pledge. “We are bringing together all the capabilities of our institution…like never before to combat the impact of racism in our economy.”

Citi will establish a council of senior leaders from across the company to assess its performance and hold businesses accountable to the bank’s racial equity commitment. Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

Ruth Umoh

 Ruth Umoh

I’m a reporter covering the various aspects of diversity and inclusion in business and society at large. Previously, I was a reporter at CNBC, where I focused on leadership and strategic management. I’ve also dabbled in video journalism, working as a breaking news digital producer for New York Daily News, followed by a yearlong stint as a producer at Rolling Stone. My work has been featured on New York Daily News, Yahoo Finance and Time Out. I’m a proud alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, receiving honors for my investigative thesis on the alarming number of physicians dying by suicide. Tweet me @ruthumohnews or send tips to rumoh@forbes.com.

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Bank of America has announced that it is committing $1 billion to fight racial and economic inequality, pointing to recent civil unrest over racism in the country as its impetus for the major move.

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