A New Direction for the USHCC
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According to Alice Rodríguez, when Latino entrepreneurs do well, so does the rest of the country. That’s why she joined the board of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), which represents the 4.37 million Hispanic-owned businesses.
Rodriguez is a Managing Director and Head of Community and Business Development at JPMorgan Chase, responsible for a portfolio of more than $2 billion in revenue. She is not just one of the highest-ranking Hispanics at the firm, but in her field as well. A native of Brownsville, Texas, she was the first in her family to graduate from college – the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Now, with more than 30 years of experience in the banking profession, first and foremost on her mind is helping clients be financially successful, regardless of their income and assets. You don’t have to be rich to save and be financially healthy, she tells LATINO.
“In my current role, I promote the health and wellness for a segment of our customers that really need help, and think of tools and services that would be beneficial to these clients. How do we really help and encourage our clients to be financially healthy? Many people don’t have savings, many don’t have a rainy day fund,” she says, adding, “I feel very passionate about it because people often talk about the wealth divide in our country.”
Rodríguez also credits JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as one of the main reasons she has stayed with the firm and pursued a variety of opportunities within the company, as she’s moved up the corporate ladder through the years. “We have always had a very strong focus on diversity at the firm. People ask me why I have stayed here so long, since I’ve had many opportunities to look elsewhere. The reason I stay is because diversity and inclusion is the cornerstone of our culture [at JPMorgan Chase]. It’s in our DNA and that’s very impactful to me. And as we mark Hispanic Heritage Month, I think it’s very fitting to have this conversation with the backdrop of recognizing all the contributions of the Hispanic community.”
Rodríguez often tells young Latinos and Latinas to be their own best advocate:
“Take the initiative to reach out. Latinas in particular don’t necessarily do that. Reach out to the decision makers. It’s not like you’re going to take up a lot of their time. Go prepared and show who you are and what you are capable of. The more you do that, the more they will remember you. Be very intentional about your career. Be confident in what you’ve accomplished.”
Even with more than three decades at the bank, Rodríguez says being an entrepreneur has been an intriguing idea and something she may pursue in the future. “I would love to figure out how to help more Latinos build wealth. How can I provide advice on how people grow their money and save money and how to do it in a very cost effective way. It’s not that people don’t want to save or intentionally make bad decisions. There are a lot of resources out there. It’s our responsibility to help people understand the process and what questions they should be asking when they’re getting a loan or saving money. I want to make an impact in ensuring that everyone does financial planning regardless of how much money they earn.”
It was this desire to make an impact that led Rodriguez to join the board of the USHCC, the largest Hispanic business organization, with over 200 Hispanic chambers around the country. “I have the utmost respect for entrepreneurs because they are 50 percent of the GDP of this country and they hire a significant percentage of the workforce in this country and they represent a very important segment of the economy. When they do well, the whole economy does well. They risk everything every day to be successful. Joining the USHCC board felt natural,” she says.
Rodríguez begins her third year on the USHCC board as the organization transitions into a new era. After a search that extended for several months, Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC), was selected to be the new President and CEO, effective October 1.
“I am grateful to the Board of Directors for selecting me to lead the USHCC, an organization that I have admired and supported for many years,” Cavazos said. “It is an honor to have been given this opportunity to lead such a valuable and important American institution that positively impacts our nation’s economy and strengthens our fast-growing Latino business community.”
Cavazos is a well-liked and respected figure in the nonprofit, academic, and corporate worlds. Before joining the SAHCC, he was Director of Research and Economic Development for the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and was also Director of Economic Development for the City of San Antonio. Previously, he was Global Public Affairs Manager for the Levi Strauss Foundation in Texas, Mexico, and Latin America.
“I think Ramiro is a first class individual,” said Rodríguez. “He’s done a phenomenal job at the SAHCC, and given his background on economic development and the success that he’s had in San Antonio, we’ll be able to use a lot of that great strategy in accomplishing the goals that we have.” Rodríguez adds that she is looking forward to the chamber’s new leadership and the direction it is taking: “We’ll be a little more focused on the local chambers, how to support them, and help them build capacity. It’s an important role the USHCC plays. The goal is to be the premier business organization, and to look at programming, using social media to enhance our programs, providing access to capital and attracting new customers. I’m excited to see where the organization is heading.”
Cavazos replaces Fernand Fernández, former Vice President Global Marketing for American Airlines, who became interim President and CEO after the departure of Javier Palomárez earlier this year. According to Fernandez, “Ramiro shares our desire to build stronger relationships between the USHCC and the local chambers, our corporate partners, and members of Congress. I am confident that he will be a strong advocate for the resources needed to provide services and programs that will ensure the success of Hispanic businesses.”
Fernández told LATINO he intends to remain involved with the organization: “I have a strong interest in the legacy of this organization and to have a strong organization. I’m really excited about the direction of the USHCC, rebuilding this organization and focusing on the constituency served, advocating for Hispanic entrepreneurs, equality for Latina businesswomen, improving education and resources for Hispanic business owners.”
Fernandez’ contribution was recognized by Carmen Castillo, co-chair of the USHCC board of directors: “We extend our utmost appreciation to Fernand Fernandez, our colleague and fellow board member, who generously stepped up to lead USHCC as Interim President and CEO. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the commitment, stability, and leadership he brought to the USHCC over the past months.”
“We’re confident that the USHCC is coming back as a stronger organization,” said Jackie Puente, Executive Director for External Affairs at Comcast, the USHCC’s Corporate Chair at its recent national convention in Philadelphia. “Given the importance of the Hispanic community and of the Hispanic business community, there is a very important role for the USHCC.”
The convention brought together the largest gathering of Latino entrepreneurs in the country, as well as corporate executives and other stakeholders. The agenda included workshops on lending opportunities, business “matchmaking” with procurement officers, and key trends in technology, among many other topics. It also showcased the fast-growing Latino business community in Philadelphia.
“The Latino population in this region has doubled in the last ten years it’s 15 percent of the population in Philadelphia and there are places in the region where the Latino population has more than doubled. It is a place that really is becoming more and more influential when it comes to the Latino community,” said Jennifer Rodríguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“Philadelphia is the cradle of democracy. This is where our nation was built. It’s a place where we really believe in tolerance and diversity and it’s a moment in our country’s history where our community is being looked at very closely. It’s a city where there are many important conversations about immigration and diversity, and I think it was a fantastic place to convene the largest gathering of Latino entrepreneurs in the country,” she said.