African-American Partnership Cabinet Spotlight: Hugh E. Rowden
Senior Vice President, Engagement Initiatives & Mortgage Outreach, Community Relations, Wells Fargo & Company
AAP: Tell us about your role at Wells Fargo and how you impact the company’s strategic goals?
Hugh: As part of Community Relations at Wells Fargo, I lead an Innovation team, a management collaboration team, and a housing outreach team focusing on critical enterprise-wide community engagement initiatives for housing issues, as well as a host of other responsibilities.
I often say “we’re problem solvers” that connect Wells Fargo to some of the communities’ most pressing needs.
AAP: What advice could you give to someone pursuing a career in the financial industry?
Hugh:No matter what industry you’re in it’s important to understand your strengths, and what you do well. Become an expert at what you do. Become the person that people go to when they need to know about your role and how it can make a difference.
My passion for solving problems, coaching and teaching, coupled with my management experience, became the foundation of my work life here at the bank. Many people are good at a job but can’t teach others. It’s important to find a way to develop your skills and use them often, especially in engaging teams and in developing talent. You’ll get a lot of pleasure out of your work if you view it as an opportunity to bring others along on the journey.
AAP: How do you use your role at Wells Fargo to improve economic empowerment in our community?
Hugh: My team helps customers who are having payment challenges through Outreach, addresses housing issues for cities through examining barriers and coalition-building, and we create innovative solutions that bring together the power of Wells Fargo’s lending and philanthropy to produce outcomes that solve issues identified by community stakeholders.
I personally understand what it’s like to be homeless because I was at one time in my life, and I know what it’s like to own a home. Those feelings will always be top of mind for me and understanding the full spectrum of housing challenges and opportunities influences the way I bring ideas forward and how I create programs that can benefit underserved individuals and communities. In my role, I work across Wells Fargo to pull in experts from our lines of business and our community relations team to create impact. In particular, we focus on affordable housing, small business growth, job skills and financial health as pathways to economic advancement.
AAP: Why is philanthropy important to you? What other community organizations are you apart of?
Hugh: Philanthropy is critical to help address the inequities that exist in today’s society. Minorities and women have a different starting line than others. For society to succeed, I believe we all need to play a part in addressing diversity, equity and inclusion. Our philanthropy allows us to collaborate with nonprofits and expert local leaders to create greater access to safe and affordable housing, more assistance with homeownership for families and critical support for small businesses to grow and thrive. In turn, many of these families and businesses go on to giving back to the community in their own way so it’s a positive ripple effect.
What’s unique about my job at Wells Fargo is that I get to help hundreds of community organizations and bring people together who care about making life better for others.
Outside of the volunteer work I do with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s – African-American Partnership, I’m on the Georgia Gwinnett College – School of Business Board of Visitors, and support activities at my church.
AAP: Who is your favorite African-American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?
Hugh: My source of inspiration is my family and friends. Most people think about individual trailblazers they don’t know. I focus on all my family has done to create the platform for me to do what I love, “being a provider”. That’s inspirational!
During my developmental years a lot of people did a lot of praying and the best they could with what they knew, and the small resources they had. It reminds me of a quote, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.”