The Financial Journey is a unique series focused on financial education and opportunities. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between Wells Fargo and Word In Black.

WIB: Can you describe your role at Wells Fargo?

Jacks: I am the head of Diverse Segments for Commercial Banking. Ultimately, our mission is to make Wells Fargo the bank of choice for diverse and women-owned and led businesses. I will help this segment of entrepreneurs and leaders achieve their financial objectives by providing access to Wells Fargo’s capital, network, and resources.

I was named to my current role in February 2023, previously leading Wells Fargo’s Data, Transformation, and Sales Enablement for Commercial Banking.

WIB: What would you say is the best part of the work you get to do?

Jacks:  I’m new in the role, but a significant factor in accepting the position was knowing that I would have the honor of serving diverse and women-owned and led businesses. I’ve spent the last 20 years in the financial industry. I’ve successfully developed strategies, provided market and performance analytics, and implemented tools and training that enabled sales organizations to meet or exceed their clients’ expectations. I am now able to harness all my experience and prior successes to power the growth and profitability of this often-underserved segment.

By being laser-focused on understanding their needs, Wells Fargo can develop the solutions and provide the services that meet their sometimes complex and unique situations. In doing so, we will not only help these companies grow but will also help improve economic equity in their broader communities.

WIB: What does diversity and inclusion mean for you?

Jacks: To me, it means that individuals from diverse backgrounds can bring their whole selves to work and still feel welcomed, valued, and respected without judgement. It’s also creating a culture where our differences are celebrated. We know that when our company and leadership reflect the communities we serve, the diversity of thought fostered makes our work environment a healthier, happier place, and we show up in the best way for our clients and colleagues.

“We know that when our company and leadership reflect the communities we serve, the diversity of thought fostered makes our work environment a healthier, happier place, and we show up in the best way for our clients and colleagues.”

Ruth jacks, head of Diverse Segments for Commercial Banking

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is one of our core values at Wells Fargo. We have a strong DE&I strategy with clear objectives that we implement across all of  our businesses. For our employees, we’ve built a culture of inclusive policies, benefits, programs, and affinity networks, such as our Employee Resource Networks and DE&I Councils. In the marketplace, we seek to work with diverse vendors and launch programs to support underserved communities, such as our $50 million investment in capital for African American minority depository institutions. We also launched our Open for Business Fund, which was a $420 million relief effort focused on small businesses hardest hit by COVID-19, including businesses owned by Black, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and women entrepreneurs.

WIB: What is one piece of career advice you can give to our readers?

Jacks: My biggest piece of advice would be to build strong, in-demand skills and build even stronger relationships. Learning should be continuous. Core skills like effective communication, leadership, and talent development along with technical, results-oriented skills in-demand in your industry are table stakes. However, they can often go unnoticed without strong relationships built on integrity and trust. Having mutual trust and respect from colleagues, mentors, and sponsors is paramount for reaching your full potential as a professional. You can teach technical skills, but it’s hard to teach work ethic and integrity, and you need all aspects.

I would also advise readers to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The highest earning positions of today and tomorrow will be in the sales, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), technology, and digital domains.

WIB: Having a role in banking can seem daunting at times, what do you enjoy most outside of work?

Jacks: I enjoy traveling, photography, and spending time with my kids and grandkids. If I can take a family trip where I will inevitably take a ton of photos, that’s the big trifecta for me. I’m also an avid learner. On any given evening, you will find me listening to podcasts, reading articles, watching technical “how to” videos, or taking a self-paced class.

WIB: Describe your proudest moment to date.

Jacks: Professionally, I am most proud of being the first diverse, LGBTQ+ woman on Wells Fargo’s Commercial Banking leadership team. 

Personally, it would be seeing my son come home from serving in the Middle East. I was so proud that he served in the Army – he followed me as the sixth generation in our family to serve – and I was even more proud that he made it home safely. Seeing him coming off that plane will stick with me forever, and I still get emotional thinking about it. Without a doubt, my biggest achievement in life is being a mom and all that comes with it.

WIB: What would you say is the most important lesson about finances?

Jacks: The number one thing I tell people is to start saving and investing as soon as you can. At a minimum, open a savings account with your very first job, and as soon as you can do more, begin investing. Contribute to a 401(k) offer by your employer as soon as you can, hopefully with a company match; look for that option when you apply for roles so you can earn more compounding interest and build wealth sooner.

WIB: Can you describe a pivotal moment in your career?

Jacks: When I was at GE, I worked in healthcare systems, teaching the first Master Black Belt programs using process management and change management methodology. One project I was extremely grateful to work on focused on reducing unnecessary deaths (sentinel events) in ICUs. We developed a solution that changed how ICUs were managed across the country, which directly led to reducing deaths in those hospitals. Not only did this work earn us Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) awards and land me in the GE Hall of First in Crotonville, but it also showed me how you can change a business landscape with process improvement, and directly affect lives. I’ve been using this skillset ever since. I feel so thankful for the opportunity to have worked on a project that actually contributed to saving lives.

WIB: What does having an “authentic voice” mean for you?

Jacks: I think there are a couple of dimensions to having an authentic voice. First, it’s showing up as your unique self, however you identify. Second, it’s being comfortable sharing your ideas and thoughts. Having an authentic voice is being true to who you are and being transparent about how you feel.