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Priscilla Sims Brown, the current CEO of Amalgamated Bank, owes her success in part to her unique background. Born to Ethiopian parents in New Mexico in 1957, she grew up in Germany with an American military family and later relocated to the United States after her parents fled a coup in Ethiopia in the 1970s. This unique upbringing equipped her with the resilience and self-assuredness that helped her navigate and succeed in the financial sector. More on Priscilla Sims Brown’s journey and her work at Amalgamated Bank can be found in this comprehensive New York Times article.

From Journalism to Investment Banking

Ms. Brown’s journey in the finance industry was an unconventional one, beginning in journalism. After earning her journalism degree from San Francisco State University, she landed a job at KQED, a local public radio and television station in the Bay Area. She found herself drawn to the stories of small businesses, which prompted a shift in her career direction.

Following her early career in journalism, she moved on to the investment world, starting as a broker at the investment bank Paine Webber. After climbing the ranks at multiple financial institutions, she eventually became a group executive at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia before joining Amalgamated in 2021. An in-depth exploration of her career transition is available in this insightful American Banker feature.

Leading Amalgamated Bank with a Purpose

Ms. Brown found her niche at Amalgamated Bank, a union-owned institution founded by Eastern European textile workers who sought to create a bank that served individuals like them. Brown resonated with the bank’s mission to responsibly invest outside their needs and uphold certain social issues such as workers’ and immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and gun safety.

Among the initiatives she led at Amalgamated Bank was the successful petition to the International Organization for Standardization to create a new merchant category code for gun stores. This move, aimed at making it easier to flag suspicious activities, was adopted by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

Despite drawing criticism and even death threats, Brown remained undeterred. Another of her initiatives was the bank’s announcement that it would cover costs for employees needing to travel out of state to receive an abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Health Organization decision.

Brown continues to strive for environmental, social, and corporate governance (E.S.G.) standards at Amalgamated, exemplified by the bank dedicating one-third of its lending portfolio to climate- or sustainability-related projects in 2021. More on her purpose-led initiatives can be found in this Bloomberg article.

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