Diversity is an industry-wide opportunity
By Rafael Romero
Silvana Montenegro is not afraid to take risks.
This quality served her well in developing a 26-year career as at JPMorgan Chase, the leading global financial institution with assets of $3.7 trillion under management. As the Global Head of Advancing Hispanics & Latinos, she leads the firm unified vision and strategy toward our community.
Over breakfast with editors from LATINO Magazine at the storied Harvard Club of New York City, the Brazilian native communicated an infectious enthusiasm for her job as a corporate executive. “Everything I have worked for in my life led me to this role,” she said.
Montenegro credits her father for teaching her the value of hard work and recalled, “He was a small business owner with a very strong work ethic, and a strong role model.” But her grandmother was a social activist, and young Silvana got a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Universidade de Sao Paulo. When asked how that helped her in corporate America, she replied: “By creating a relationship of trust and understanding, we can connect with individuals at a deeper level, offering them the guidance and support they need.”
Montenegro used that talent in the first 17 years of her career to support the Latin American business region for JPMorgan Chase. She advised senior management on diversity, and “how to include more talent in the ecosystem.” During this time, she established the human resources practice in Colombia when it was set up.
Moving to the U.S., she helped develop JPMorgan Chase’s Leadership Center of Excellence and facilitated management and executive programs, including for Chase’s Top 1,000 Executives. Montenegro was promoted to head Commercial Banking Talent, Diversity and Inclusion, where she worked to retain top talent as well as promote an inclusive culture at the bank, founded over 200 years ago and now doing business in more than 100 global markets.
When the Office of Advancing Hispanics & Latinos was created in 2021, she was selected to lead it. It might have given someone else pause to take on this new assignment, but not Montenegro. “I’ve never been afraid to take risks,” she recalled. “First, I jump in. Then I figure it out.”
It’s one of seven Centers of Excellence dedicated to diverse communities both within the bank’s worldwide workforce of 290,000 employees and the communities it serves. Others include Advancing Black Pathways, Women on the Move, Office of Military & Veterans Affairs, Office of Disability & Inclusion, Office of API and the Office of LBGTQ+ Affairs. These Centers are a critical part of JPMorgan Chase’s overall diversity efforts, led by David Miree, Global Head of Diversity, Equity&Inclusion (DEI).
“Our diverse and global workforce is a competitive advantage,” said Miree. “Building diverse teams not only strengthens our business and our culture, but also broadens the range of ideas and solutions we can offer.”
The centerpiece of this strategy is Chase’s $30 Billion Racial Equity Commitment to close the racial wealth gap and crate economic inclusion among Black, Hispanic and Latino communities. This effort was headed by now-retired Alice Rodriguez, featured on the cover of LATINO Magazine in December 2021 for her role as chair of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). Rodriguez was succeeded by another top Latina executive, Carolina Jannicelli, to lead the Office of Community Impact.
Montenegro affirms the firm longstanding commitment to DEI, noting, “I’ve personally experienced that.” But she explained how that commitment has evolved over time. “DEI is a firm-wide imperative and we run it as a business,” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”
The Office of Advancing Hispanics & Latinos supports the community in four different areas: careers and skills; financial health and wealth creation; business growth and entrepreneurship; and community development. This is often done in partnership with Latino organizations such as the USHCC , which represents 4.7 million Hispanic -owned businesses, as well as the Latino Business Action Network (LBAN) at Stanford University. LBAN empowers Latino entrepreneurs through its Business Scaling Program. In 2023, JPMorgan Chase is sponsoring a couple of cohorts of this nine-week course. Montenegro herself sits on the board of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of Latino professionals.
Montenegro is also very committed to the advancement of Latinas. “There is a strong sense of urgency here to increase representation and promote the value that Latinas bring to corporate America. This is an industry-wide opportunity,” she concludes.