Growing up in Atlanta, veteran banking executive Milton Jones Jr. found mentors in legendary entrepreneur Herman J. Russell, former Mayor Maynard Jackson, business and civic icon Jessie Hill Jr. and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young.
“I happened to be in the right city at the right time,” Jones said during an interview in his Midtown office overlooking the Woodruff Arts Center and the stately Ansley Park neighborhood where he lives.
“I was able to see what could be,” said Jones, 70. “You could own a business and be Black. The history was such that was understood. All these people were there.”
He was raised along Simpson Road, now Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, by blue-collar parents who were “hellbent” he would go to college.
Jones would study accounting at the University of Notre Dame, but quickly pivoted to banking after school.
“It certainly wasn’t the typical domain for African-Americans,” he said. “I worked really, really hard. I began to grow and take on more and more responsibility.”
Jones would go on to build a career that the Atlanta Business League called “history making” when he was inducted into its Legends Hall of Fame in 2021. He spent more than three decades climbing the ranks of Bank of America and its predecessor companies, eventually holding the title of Georgia market president.
Later, Jones would go on to help start CertusBank, a nationally chartered bank that was the largest ever founded by African-Americans. Today, he is the founder of Peachtree Providence Partners Holding Company, a private investment and consulting firm.
In Atlanta, which has the highest percentage of Black-owned businesses in the nation, leaders like Jones are critical to pushing the city forward. Especially considering a study from the Atlanta Fed that found 93% of Black-owned firms in Georgia saw financial challenges in 2021.
“We are a city that can demonstrate that there can be new ways of investing in companies, there can recognition of the importance of diversity, and it can not only be the right thing to do, but it will be the smart thing to do,” Jones said.
Here are some lessons from Jones and other financial leaders’ on how they view the racial wealth gap.