Hi there, my name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist hanging out on Planet Earth. Today I’m back in New York City to talk to Jake Clark, a Senior Strategy Associate at JPMorgan Chase. Jake is working hard to expand the role of corporate responsibility and inspire others to do the same. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, Jake! Let’s jump right in. Can you talk to me about the challenges you’re addressing?
Jake: Sounds good, Spiffy! I work in Corporate Responsibility at JPMorgan Chase where I help allocate $350 million in grants to non-profits around the world—helping people get good jobs, start and grow businesses, save for their futures, and secure stable housing. We think these four pillars are essential for individuals and families to build prosperous futures, but we also know that every community has different needs and therefore requires different solutions. We work with leading organizations to identify those needs and provide resources that help them innovate and solve problems for their communities. In addition to JPMorgan Chase’s (JPMC) philanthropy, I work on making JPMC's operations, products, and services more socially responsible.
Spiffy: Social responsibility is such an important thing, Jake. Can you tell me what motivated you to focus your attention here?
Jake: Well, Spiffy, I know that business companies—and especially financial service companies—have contributed to problems like the racial wealth gap and neighborhood disinvestment, but I also think they're a critical part of the solution. I'm excited to work at JPMC because of the incredible impact we can make by pushing the firm to be even more inclusive, to make ever greater investments in communities of color, and to show other companies that advancing equity can be good for society and good for business.
Spiffy: would you say you’re helping to create a more equitable world?
Jake: Advancing equity is my team's primary objective. We do this by investing grant capital into communities of color and focusing on supporting Black and Latinx led-nonprofits that advance equity within their communities. This year, we're operating an open competition providing $5 million grants to non-profits that are helping Black and Latinx women build wealth and secure economic prosperity. Internationally, we work with local experts to understand who is most marginalized in a community—often migrants, women, young adults, and people of color—and tailoring programs that meet their needs and help them take the next step up the economic ladder.
Spiffy: This is stellar, Jake! Can you talk about a recent milestone you have achieved through your work? What impact do you think it will have?
Jake: JPMC recently made a $30 billion commitment to reduce the racial wealth gap—the biggest commitment of any private company in the world—and helping Black and Latinx communities grow and prosper. This is a major step in distributing critical resources back to Black and Latinx-led non-profits and companies, and investing in Black and Latinx communities. I'm particularly excited about this commitment because it's mostly driven by our lines of business, meaning that this isn't a side charity effort, but a fundamental part of our company's mission. This type of corporate responsibility is necessary for businesses to stop being the problem and to start being the solution.
Spiffy: Well said, Jake. Being the solution is of utmost importance! Can you tell us about a project you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make?
Jake: I recently worked on a large grant to support StartOut—an organization that helps LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Despite our gains, all queer people receive lower levels of investment in their companies and often face more roadblocks accessing customers or expanding their organizations. This is especially true, and more severe, for femme-identifying and queer people of color. StartOut works directly with entrepreneurs to help them overcome these barriers—as well as researches this problem—to prove how LGBTQ+ people face discrimination and greater challenges than our straight counterparts. Research and data are critical to changing the policies, investment practices, and other systems that our society more unequal.
Spiffy: And we will have to leave that for another conversation, Jake! Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me about your work. It’s been an honor!
Jake Clark is a Senior Strategy Associate for Corporate Responsibility and Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. In this role, he focuses on identifying emerging insights, measuring impact, testing alternative capital structures including grants debt and equity, scaling innovative non-profit programs, and operationalizing JPMC’s corporate responsibility commitments. (First published on the Ladderworks website on June 25, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.