“Having a complete financial ecosystem in our community is essential. Growing up my mom’s mortgage was with the local credit union and if it hadn’t been, if our mortgage had been with a big bank, we would have been on the streets. We were able to stay in our house because the gentleman who ran the credit union went to church with us. He lived downstairs from us. He knew us. He was from our community.
We must sacrifice ourselves and think about what lies ahead, because those who came before us were not thinking only of themselves. They were thinking of all of us and we are truly the by-product of their sacrifice.
–Greg Cunningham, vice president for global inclusion at US Bank.
“My mom always told me to be careful what you pray for,” says Damon Jenkins, as he makes banking history as the leader of the first full-service bank owned and controlled by blacks in Minnesota. Jenkins joined First Independence Bank of Detroit to lead the financial institution’s expansion in Minnesota this fall.
The banking business is in part a response to the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. And because the incident took place in the neighborhood where he grew up, Jenkins says the tragedy hit him hard.
“My mother is a 32 year old resident of the community of Minneapolis where Floyd was murdered. I grew up in this community. And so I read this story of black men’s lives being taken by the hands of the people who are supposed to protect us. And so it just hit home, ”he said.
“And coming out of the pandemic, I prayed that the next chapter of my life would put me in a position where I can be of service to other people.”
“We were out there on my mom’s porch watching the buildings burn, watching people come down the block looting and come back the next day, trying to sell us the same things,” Jenkins said in an exclusive interview on Conversations. with Al McFarlane.
“I prayed to be put in a position where I can use my connections, influence and banking experience, but also be a servant of the community I grew up in because of it. He knocked at home.
Jenkins’ prayers and preparation earned him his new role as Senior Vice President of First Independence Bank and regional consultant for the Twin Cities. In this role, he will lead all facets of operations for retail branches in the Minneapolis area. Jenkins defines the sales and service initiatives for the region. It develops objectives and measurement standards and monitors the performance of the branch. He ensures that branch administration teams lead the operations and deliver the service and product offerings that meet the needs of customers in the Minneapolis area.
Jenkins has worked in the banking industry for 14 years. Prior to joining First Independence Bank, Jenkins was Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank and District Manager for the Downtown Minneapolis District of Wells Fargo. He was also vice president and district manager of US banks in Minneapolis. He is skilled in employee development coaching. He is a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion and was co-chair of Wells Fargo, an African American employee resource group. Jenkins graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology.
“Shortly after the George Floyd murder, I saw a need at Wells Fargo to really help foster these difficult conversations within my own district, in my own region and within the company. What was different about the George Floyd incident is that it really revealed a lack of attention. You couldn’t make the excuses that were made for previous situations, because you really saw this: that for eight minutes and 46 seconds there was a lack of attention. I realized that I needed to help my employees and the communities we serve to have these conversations. And so it just started there. We started discussing why this happened, not that people were looting, ”Jenkins said.
“We said to talk about all the disparities our communities face,” he said. From there, Wells Fargo struck up conversations with other banks and asked, “How can we do something together that we can’t do on our own?” “
“I understand why this work is important. And I think I’ve been blessed with the platform and also with the relationship building skills to be that buffer between what I would call business America and the community, ”he said. he declares.
Jenkins was born in Kansas City, Missouri. The youngest of seven, five boys and two girls, Jenkins notes that his mother raised them alone. “You think about what the average urban household goes through, I’ve been through that. My mother put us here to give us a better life.
“We first moved to the Phillip area and rented there for about a year and a half. And then my mom got her credit approved through ACORN. They helped her out and she bought this house in 1991 just off Chicago and Lake Street where she has been for over 30 years.
“My mother made us join the local Boys and Girls Club. I realize now that what she was doing was giving us a place different from the hangout, giving us a place to go and connect with more resources. So, I got into basketball. As a result of this. I started to speak in public. After that, my brother started singing. And we met a community leader at the club named John Hardiman. I remember when he was 12 he taught me how to tie my first double Windsor knot. Jenkins said.
“What he said to me was, ‘I’m preparing you for the future,’” he said.
Tracing her formative years, Jenkins said, “I went to Anderson Elementary School, Sanford Middle School and graduated from Minneapolis South and went to the United States. So I’m a guy from Minneapolis. I am grown at home. One thing I’m going to tell you is that what we’re creating here with this ecosystem will ensure that we really play more in the equity space. Because that’s what it’s all about at this point in the game. We’ve been grappling with the space of diversity and inclusion for far too long. Now is the time to start building equity. And I’m just excited because it’s going to be something that definitely puts us on that path. “