As part of KeyBank’s ambitious community benefits plan, Kawanza Humphrey has been appointed corporate responsibility officer and will lead the way for implementation of community banking efforts.
The plan, a $16.5 billion endeavor first unveiled in March 2016, constitutes 12 percent of the bank’s assets. The aim is to inject funds into underrepresented communities through a mix of loans to small businesses, charitable endeavors and other means to spur economic development.
Following Key’s 2016 acquisition of First Niagara Bank, the banking giant has beefed up its presence in western and central New York, pledging $20 million over five years for the charitable First Niagara Foundation.
Additionally, the 18-member national board for the community benefits plan, announced in August, features two Rochesterians: Hubert Van Tol of the community development nonprofit PathStone, and Ruhi Maker of the Empire Justice Center.
Formerly a retail leader in Buffalo, Humphrey will lead the way in implementing the plan over the next five years.
“One of my first priorities is not only to work closely with the local market leadership, but the community as a whole,” Humphrey said. “To get feedback from the community and figure out what the needs are here in Rochester.”
In the arsenal of tools to assist community growth, she points to small business lending, mortgage lending and community investment as keys vital to the plan.
“There’s also a philanthropic arm, which we’ll be making investments into local charities with,” Humphrey said.
As for stimulating growth in a city with both steady development and lackluster job growth, Humphrey sees workforce development as one of the arms of the community development plan critical to the region.
“It’s one of our critical pillars,” she said. “One of the things that we’ll be focusing on in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany is a program that will work with local startups. We’re in the process of putting that partnership together, and we’ll be reaching out to local leaders in the Rochester region to find out who those critical partners are for us to work with to reach those small businesses and enterprises that are starting up and need some of that technical assistance.”
For that mission of reaching the workforce at the most local level, Jim Barger, president of KeyBank’s Rochester market, said that he could not imagine anyone more fit for the job than Humphrey.
“We’re just thrilled to have Kawanza leading our community benefits plan here,” Barger said. “She’s coming in with a wealth of experience and the right skill-set for the job, and I’m sure she’s going to do excellent.”
With a bachelor’s degree in English and African-American studies from the University of Buffalo and a master’s in Executive Leadership and Change from Daemen College, Humphrey led a storied career prior to joining Key in 2012 when the bank acquired a portion of HSBC.
Humphrey had worked for HSBC since 2001 and, prior to that, served as account executive for WGRZ-TV and WIVB-TV in Buffalo. During her career, she’s been the recipient of accolades that include Black Achiever in Industry, Buffalo’s Business First 40 under 40 and the HSBC Way Award.
Outside of her professional life, she works closely with the community, serving on the board of directors for Sisters Hospital Foundation in Buffalo and leading the Key partnership with the Eastside Innovation Zone in Buffalo.
“Throughout her career at KeyBank, Kawanza forged strong relationships throughout the Upstate New York communities we serve,” said Catherine Braniecki, Key’s regional corporate responsibility officer for New York and New England. “Her extensive banking and community development experience, and specifically her deep understanding of the needs of our clients, will be immensely valuable as we make significant investments in those communities through our five-year community benefits plan.”
Humphrey, with a new position on the horizon and the potential to make a true difference in the evolving Rochester market, approaches the task at hand with ambition and eagerness.
“I am very excited about this position here in Rochester,” Humphrey said. “I used to live out here a couple years ago, so I’m very passionate about this community and excited about this renaissance that’s occurring in the city, and really looking forward to working with the local business leaders to effectively implement the community benefits plan, and making sure Rochester benefits from the plan in an impactful way.”