Q&A: Why Businesses Should Be Investing in their Communities

Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase, shares insights into what businesses can be doing in their communities to invigorate the area and drive growth.

What can businesses be doing in their communities to invigorate the area and drive growth? 

The future of business and the health of our communities is inextricably linked. Businesses need to invest in communities the same way they invest in their companies. The way we see it at JPMorgan Chase, by working to grow the economies of the communities we serve and play a more active role in the future of the people who live there, we will lay the foundation for inclusive and sustainable growth and the long-term future of our firm.  The private sector has a critically important contribution to make in addressing big societal challenges by leveraging its full range of capabilities – human capital, data, technology – and by collaborating with leaders across sectors around sustainable solutions. 

What has been JPMorgan Chase’s urban economic development strategy? 

Through our work, we have seen that while the economy is growing, too many people are being left behind. Over the past five years, we have refined our strategy to focus on areas where we can leverage our core business expertise to help more people share in the rewards of a growing economy. Our approach includes a data-driven, strategic focus on what we have identified as four key drivers of inclusive growth: jobs and skills, neighborhood revitalization, small business expansion and financial health. To create change at the scale and pace needed, we’re leveraging the full suite of our firm’s resources and expertise – capital, data, analytics, expertise and relationships – and deploying them to maximize returns for our communities around the world. And we’re approaching these efforts with the same long-term investor mindset we apply in our own business, making data driven investments and evaluating, learning and adjusting as we go. 

Our efforts are yielding real results so over the past year, we have focused on scaling innovative models that are making an impact and have increased our philanthropic investments by 40 percent. This means we will target $1.75 billion in philanthropic capital toward driving inclusive growth in communities around the world by 2023.

How has JPMorgan Chase helped revitalization efforts in Detroit? 

JPMorgan Chase is combining the best of our business and philanthropy to address some of Detroit’s biggest economic challenges, from catalyzing development, boosting minority-owned small businesses, revitalizing neighborhoods and preparing Detroiters with the skills to secure well-paying jobs. Since 2014, JPMorgan Chase has invested nearly $150 million and put the expertise of hundreds of our most talented people from across the world to strengthen the capacity of nonprofit organizations and the underlying systems needed to deliver and sustain positive change. 

Our work in Detroit has yielded a host of important lessons, which we’re applying to other communities. For example, we first launched the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund in Detroit in 2015 to provide underserved entrepreneurs with greater access to capital and assistance needed to grow and thrive. Seeing the impact this Fund has had in Detroit, we have since expanded it to Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C, and the South Bronx in New York City. 

Insights from our investment in Detroit also inspired the development of our AdvancingCities initiative, a $500 million, five-year commitment to invest in solutions that bolster the economies of the world’s cities and lift the people and communities within them. 

Peter Scher is head of corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase.