Thasunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett

President and CEO at TIAA

Thasunda Brown Duckett
By September 16, 2023 5:20 PM

In 2021, Thasunda Brown Duckett, a veteran of the finance industry, took over as head of TIAA, a company with about $1.4 trillion in assets under management, including a hefty amount of real estate in addition to its retirement and insurance businesses.

Since 2021, the economy has continued to suffer the aftershocks of the pandemic, with stubborn inflation, nonstop interest rate hikes, banking shakeups and recessionary scares. 

But TIAA’s sprawling real estate empire, much of it owned by its subsidiary Nuveen, is not too bothered by all that. 

In Los Angeles, the company owns a variety of asset types including shopping centers, office buildings and studios. In a recent transaction, mall owner Centennial paid $199 million for the Westfield-owned Valencia mall, where TIAA was a 50 percent partner. 

As one of the industry’s most powerful Black women, Duckett has used her platform to advocate for a finance industry that benefits society more widely. Duckett has described TIAA as a company that “exists to ensure that millions of Americans have a secure retirement” and therefore views the economy not only from her executive vantage but also from that of individual Americans making choices about their financial futures. It’s an unusual perspective within the financial industry, and one Duckett is not shy to hammer home on a variety of platforms. In 2023, Duckett gave the commencement speech at Penn’s elite Wharton business school. 

“What I know today, as a leader, is that I rent my title, but I own my character,” she told the MBA graduates. Character is an “ownable asset” and one worth investing in. 

Before joining TIAA, Duckett was CEO of Chase Consumer Banking for almost five years, overseeing the bank’s five-year plan to open 400 branches in new markets in the U.S. Duckett joined Chase in 2004, after starting her career at Fannie Mae, and worked her way up the ranks, through various departments that included emerging markets, home lending, and a stint as CEO of auto finance. 

TIAA, and Nuveen in particular, have taken the lead on ESG initiatives, and Duckett has been outspoken about their importance. “It’s core to long-term growth and understanding and mitigating risk,” she said in a recent Bloomberg interview. “We also understand the important role that it can play in society.”

And having a positive effect on society is, for Duckett, part of being a business leader. She is a frequent speaker on issues concerning the finance industry, and sits on more than 10 boards, including the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Business Council, and the Business Roundtable.

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