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Photo of Keith Mestrich

Keith Mestrich

Former President & CEO

Dear Colleagues, Clients, and Stakeholders,

Last week, Amalgamated Bank issued a public statement on our support for Black Lives Matter and promised that tangible actions would be forthcoming. I am sharing with you where we are now, just a little over a week later, and where I believe we can head in the future. Given our 97-year heritage of fighting for justice and serving clients who are on the frontlines of social change, I believe that we have an obligation to set an example to meaningfully respond in this moment.

I have spent many hours over the last few weeks deeply listening to the voices of our employees, customers, and social justice leaders about what I should be considering in this moment and how the Bank should act. Nearly 60% of the people who work at Amalgamated Bank are People of Color. I know these issues are having a significant impact on them and that their feedback to me is vital in deciding how we move forward. I also talked to our employee resource groups at length asking hard questions about our current organizational structure, the way Black employees are treated, and where we are falling short. Our clients also provided guidance as to how we could use our corporate voice and our financial resources to help respond. I continue to evaluate our operations, lending, investments, and charitable giving.

This time spent listening has allowed me to reflect on questions of how I can use my personal voice and the platform of the Bank to stand against racism in this moment and beyond. I’ve spent time thinking about my own journey and learnings on issues of race and racism. I’ve had tough conversations with family and friends. Needless to say, it has been a time of growth and learning.

A few of my learnings include:

  • Actions speak louder than words. We can no longer ignore the racism embedded in our society, including in the private sector. Leaders must act to dismantle bias and racism in their institutions.
  • The pain of racism is deep throughout our country, but most especially for Black people. Justice can’t come soon enough.
  • The work to change systems and structures is not just for Black people, but also for white people, like me, to embrace my role as an ally.

From the feedback and reflection I’ve gathered, Amalgamated will be taking a number of immediate actions and launch others that will yield results over time.

Immediate Commitments and Actions

  1. We commit to adding equity as a core value of the Bank and updating our vision to now explicitly name racial justice, along with economic and environmental justice.  These updates will send a prominent signal of the Bank’s overall trajectory.
  2. I am establishing an employee-led task force to provide a review of our current internal culture and policies, along with providing best-practice recommendations on to how address racial equity within our institution.
  3. More than 75% of the Amalgamated Foundation’s grants have already gone to work led by People of Color and we are now formally instituting that as an explicit criteria in the grantmaking.

Efforts Over Time

I believe these are good first steps, but they don’t fully meet the challenges that our country and company face in this moment. Meaningful, systemic change requires deep thought and broad participation. We will be embarking on a journey to fully understand where we stand today and how we can be an even better version of ourselves in the future. That process will take some time, but we will be serious on keeping it at the forefront of our work.

As of today, we will begin a process to:

  1. Enact a no tolerance policy for racism by our employees
  2. Provide anti-racism training for all employees
  3. Bolster our Diversity and Inclusion Office to address issues of racial equity within the organization including talent recruitment, and executive management and board of director composition
  4. Conduct a wage equity review led by our Human Resources Department to affirm that there are no inequities in pay based on race or gender and to make adjustments if necessary
  5. Develop our own public policy platform on police funding and reform so that we can continue our 97 year legacy of corporate activism
  6. Bolster our mentorship program and employee resource groups to support our leaders of Color as they are promoted and grow into the next steps of their careers
  7. Expand our commitment to lend to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color through the exploration of an investment fund supporting organizations and companies led by and serving those communities. We will invest in expanding our impact measurement to include racial equity issues.  This will be part of our overall effort to create new ESG investment alternatives for our clients.

We believe that our actions will continue to evolve and strengthen over time. Amalgamated Bank is proud to stand up for racial justice and even prouder that we have the voice and resources to do something about it. We plan to report out on these initiatives as they evolve. I look forward to your continued feedback and partnership as we take these steps.