From serving on Capitol Hill to working at Wells Fargo, Erica Miles’ career has had a consistent focus: expanding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the financial sector.
Miles, who is now Senior Consultant, SVP, Diverse Segments, Representation and Inclusion at Wells Fargo (No. 29 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), started her career in government as an auditor at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She went on to serve as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and led work for the first-ever subcommittee focused on diversity and inclusion in Congress.
Recently, Miles was honored with the Access to Capital award from the Minority Business Development Agency for her dedication to this work, which she said was an honor to be recognized for.
Miles added that the award provides a sense of pride for her firm, but more than that, she said “it’s an affirmation that Wells Fargo is really committed to bringing people in who are committed to the work.”
Miles’ Capitol Hill Career
During her time on Capitol Hill, Miles supported House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters. As one of her first assignments, she was responsible for requesting and compiling workforce diversity data from large banks. She later produced the first-ever, diversity and inclusion accountability report, and the findings of the report were discussed during a hearing.
“For Capitol Hill to put that emphasis there, I’m glad I was playing a role in building relationships with the industry so that we could make the real change,” she said. “You can’t just call it out and stop there. You’ve got to continue to go deeper and the only way to do that is to have conversations.”
Miles was introduced to Wells Fargo through these conversations. She said Waters “wagged her finger at Wells Fargo and still does,” which was one reason why Miles wanted to work there.
“When I made the decision to transition my career back out to the private sector, where else would I go? The place that people said needed the most help,” she said. “What I’ve found here at Wells Fargo is a group of people who really want to effect change. I found a group of people who want to do this work and I was called in to be a diversity and inclusion consultant.”
Miles’ Role at Wells Fargo
In her role at Wells Fargo, Miles has two major responsibilities. The first is managing strategic partnerships in the Black segment with the NAACP, the National Urban League and other organizations with broad reach into the Black community from an advocacy or social economic justice perspective.
She said she also consults on diversity and financial policy within the company on topics such as small business lending, the Community Reinvestment Act reform or talking with the mortgage team on increasing Black home ownership.
DEI Challenges in the Financial Sector
While Miles and others are doing their best to change the industry, she said there’s more work to be done, and the No. 1 challenge is the financial industry’s engagement with diverse-owned businesses.
“We need to be spending more dollars, investing more dollars, engaging more of our monetary as well as our resource investments with diverse-owned businesses, and I think that’s across the board,” she said. “The problem is we don’t have the relationships because relationships and resources are two things that are needed to advance diverse communities.”
Diverse-owned businesses often have resources, but they don’t have relationships, which is why diverse trade organizations are important “to be the voice of the industry” and to make recommendations. That’s also why legislation that was created and enacted during her time on Capitol Hill to increase access to capital, markets and technical assistance for minority enterprises is important.
Miles said she loves that she is “part of the solution” to building better relationships with diverse-owned businesses and in DEI at Wells Fargo.
“I love that I can introduce Wells Fargo to Black and other diverse talent. I love that I can introduce them to these diverse-owned firms who have already been in business and doing great work, it’s just that no one had given them an opportunity and a relationship with Wells,” she said. “That to me is the No. 1 challenge and it’s the No. 1 thing I work on, and they let me do that all day long.”
“I think that if we continue on this path, we’re going to be the firm we really want to be,” Miles added.
Miles’ Relationship with DiversityInc
Miles was first introduced to DiversityInc when Founder and Chairman Luke Visconti served as a witness at a full committee hearing on board diversity. She later met CEO Carolynn Johnson when she served as a witness at a hearing on diversity data and accountability.
“I have engaged DiversityInc in my prior role on Capitol Hill because of the expertise that the organization brings and the credibility of the data that you all create,” she said. “And then now inside Wells Fargo, I also get to engage the organization because Wells Fargo participates in the survey.”
In 2022, Wells Fargo ranked No. 1 on the list of Top Companies for LGBTQ Employees.
“We’re very excited about [being No. 1 on the list of Top Companies for LGBTQ Employees] and we continue to remain in the Top 50. The fact that we are one of the largest financial services firms to participate, I think that says a lot about our company,” she added.