Sandra Pierce: Investing in the community is top priority
After growing up the youngest of 10 children in a flat above her parents' bar in Detroit, Sandra Pierce became the first in her family to graduate from college thanks to support from her parents and older siblings.
Pierce, now a senior executive vice president and chair of Michigan for Huntington Bancshares, has carried that experience with her through her decades in the banking industry and in civic and philanthropic life in Metro Detroit.
"It's just become part of my DNA," she said. "I feel personally responsible and accountable to do as much as I can. My company feels the same way."
Most recently, Pierce has acted on this by helping to orchestrate a new $20 billion, five-year lending initiative across Huntington's seven-state footprint. The bank's 2020 community plan will bring $5 billion in philanthropy, lending and investments to Michigan, where it has more than 280 bank branches.
The program will target three focus areas: access to capital, with an emphasis on businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans; affordable housing and home ownership; and community lending to support initiatives around affordable housing, food security, social equity, and workforce development. The program, which includes educational components, will also prioritize lending and investments in low- and moderate-income communities.
The specifics of the initiative, which will be developed at the local level and announced in the coming months, were shaped based on conversations with business owners and community members about what support they need amid the challenges brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"What the global health pandemic has taught us, is that we need to do more," said Pierce. "Between COVID-19, and the economic fallout because of it, and the social unrest, and the political divisiveness all coming together around the same timeframe, we just knew that we needed to live our purpose more than ever, which is looking out for people. We have to do more, and now is the time."
The initiative, which includes $4 billion more than Huntington's previous community plan, was hailed by state government officials as well as the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
"This is an opportunity to take a more deliberate approach toward investing in the people and businesses that will have the greatest impact in our communities,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said at the time of the announcement. “I’m excited to see how we can build upon this partnership with Huntington Bank to advance equity in economic growth to ensure that new doors are open to a more diverse group of entrepreneurs at every stage of their business.”
Pierce began her banking career at National Bank of Detroit; she remained at NBD and its successors for 27 years. She joined Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington in 2016 following the bank's merger with FirstMerit.
She enjoys giving back in her personal life, too. One example: she has a tradition of gathering community leaders and friends during the week of Thanksgiving to fill 500 pie shells she makes from scratch throughout the year to give to those in need.
"When my siblings helped me to go to college," she said, "I just felt that my life should be paying it back and helping the community that helped raised me."
Occupation: Huntington Bancshares chair of Michigan and senior executive vice president, private banking and regional banking director
Education: Bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration, Wayne State University
Family: Husband, Tom; three children; six grandchildren
Why nominated: Pierce helped orchestrate Huntington's 2020 Community Plan, which includes a $5 billion lending initiative in Michigan that will support access to capital, home ownership and affordable housing, and community development.