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7 People Who Are Changing the Face of Power

In a nation undergoing generational and cultural transformation, here are seven men and women helping to shape a future in which power is sure to look strikingly different.

Changing the Faces of Power

Worth Power 100The political commentator Joe Scarborough recently pointed out that the people running this country are old: President Trump is 73, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is 77, House speaker Nancy Pelosi is 79, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is 76. To get a sense of how old that is, Scarborough pointed out, most of those folks could have been high school classmates of Buddy Holly. The phenomenon is somewhat less ubiquitous in the worlds of business and finance, and in tech it’s particularly scarce, but it’s still a meaningful presence: Warren Buffett is pushing 90, while Jamie Dimon clocks in at a practically youthful 63.

But youth has a habit of pushing its way to the surface, and power is never static; one generation invariably succumbs to the next. Power also changes its forms. Twenty years ago, who would have predicted the rise of the influencers?

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As the men and women on the list below demonstrate, the powerful don’t fit into any single profession or demographic. A child can humble world leaders; an academic can spark a political movement; a tech enthusiast can teach himself how to teach others. Meet seven of the new faces of power. Chances are, you’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the years to come.

Changing the face of Power Thusunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett. Photo by Erik Tanner

The Dreamer: Thasunda Brown Duckett

CEO, Consumer Banking, JPMorgan Chase

Duckett— “T” to her friends and colleagues—knows that her ascendance at JPMorgan is something that wouldn’t have happened until recent years. “I am on the shoulders of giants,” she has said. “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

In 2016, Duckett became the first African American CEO of the consumer banking division at JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest bank. Under her watch, the bank is undergoing a massive retail expansion, with plans for 90 new branches and new hires of up to 700 people in 2019 alone. (A recent press release touts a starting pay of $15 per hour.)

Duckett grew up on the financial edge—her father was a truck driver, her mother a teacher—in Texas. Her experience with financial insecurity sparked a career-long interest in how banks can make home ownership possible for low-income families. While in college, Duckett interned with Fannie Mae, and she later helped her parents buy their first home. She would go on to run home lending for JPMorgan in the Northeast, then became CEO of Chase Auto Finance.

It must be said that Duckett’s employer does not have an inspiring track record on diversity. Even at a time when corporations are facing growing pressure to diversify, the number of black employees at JPMorgan actually fell for six consecutive years, from 16 percent in 2011 to 13.4 percent in 2017. (Sadly, according to Bloomberg, that still left the bank ahead of its U.S. rivals.) Nonetheless, Duckett has praised bank head Jamie Dimon as a “phenomenal leader” who has “prioritized and advanced the cause of diversity within the company’s operations.”

Changing the face of Power Angela Aldrich

Angela Aldrich. Photo by Gregg Delman

The Ceiling Smasher: Angela Aldrich

Founder, Bayberry Capital

When it comes to managers of hedge fund portfolios, the gender balance is decidedly dismal. Women-led firms managed only 3 percent of the assets in American funds that launched between 2013 and 2017, according to Hedge Fund Intelligence. This year, the Financial Times dubbed the hedge fund industry “the most lopsided in all of finance.”

But there are some recent indications of a shift in the right direction, and Aldrich, 33, is one of them. Earlier this year, she founded New York–based Bayberry Capital, a long-short equities fund of which she is both managing partner and portfolio manager. The small fund has a few hundred million in assets and is still raising capital.

Aldrich, who manages a team of three, studied at Duke and Stanford, and has held jobs at Goldman Sachs, BDT Capital Partners, Scout Capital Management and Blue Ridge Capital. At Blue Ridge, she earned the moniker “Tiger grandcub” while working under Julian Robertson protégé John Griffin. It’s not an easy time to be starting hedge funds, but if Bayberry succeeds, Aldrich would be making a toehold of diversity in perhaps the most segregated profession in the country.

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Katie Porter

Katie Porter. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The Truth Seeker: Katie Porter

Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-California)

Since winning a traditionally GOP seat in the 2018 midterms, the freshman representative and former University of California–Irvine law professor has used her position on the House Financial Services committee to grill corporate power brokers on evasions, hypocrisies and greed.

In February, Porter asked Equifax CEO Mark Begor, whose company had recently suffered the theft of 150 million customers’ private data, if he would publicly share his address, birth date and Social Security number. When Begor declined on the basis that it would expose him to identity theft, Porter promptly asked him why, if that was true, were Equifax attorneys arguing in court that there was “no harm” from the data breach?

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In March, Porter eviscerated Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan. After Sloan defended his use of language that struck Porter as “obscure, empty promises,” Porter pulled out a board containing quotes from Wells’ own lawyers, who described Sloan’s words as “paradigmatic examples of nonactionable corporate puffery.” Sloan resigned his position about two weeks later.

And in April, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon sat stone-faced as Porter spoke of a single mother, unable to pay her bills while working full time as a teller for the financial behemoth. (The woman was actually a composite character.) Noting that Dimon’s compensation was $31 million, Porter asked, “How should she manage this budget shortfall while she’s working full time at your bank?” Porter’s questions may be tough, but they’re not unfair; they speak to what kind of capitalist society we want to live in. It’s the answers that should be easier.

Gabriel Zucman

Gabriel Zucman. Photo by Antoine Doyen/Contour by Getty Images

The Money Hunter: Gabriel Zucman

Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have all turned to one 32-year-old assistant professor at UC Berkeley for advice on their visions for the American economy. That’s because Zucman has, to quote tough-guy Liam Neeson, a very particular set of skills; as Bloomberg recently put it, Zucman is a “wealth detective,” “the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money.” He began in that role as a researcher for Thomas Piketty’s 2014 sleeper smash book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which examined systematic economic inequity. A 2016 paper, with research partner Emmanuel Saez, showed that 0.1 percent of Americans control 20 percent of the country’s wealth. And a forthcoming book, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, is likely to cement Zucman’s status as the left-wing economist to the Democratic stars.

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Cline Thomas

Rudy Cline-Thomas. Photo by Robyn Twomey/Redux

The Game Changer: Rudy Cline-Thomas

Founder, Mastry

Cline-Thomas has heard all the stereotypes about athletes and money: They burn through it, buying bling for themselves and a new house for mom, supporting a posse of hangers-on and enablers. To the extent that it was ever widely true, says Cline-Thomas, that cliché is less and less so. He should know: Cline-Thomas is the founder of venture capital firm Mastry, which specializes in connecting professional athletes, mostly African American ones, to the world of tech investing.

For Cline-Thomas, the current generation of professional athletes has the economic power to transition from small-time investors in restaurants and car washes to power players in Silicon Valley. A former sports agent and financial advisor, he aims to promote the long-term security of pro athletes by helping them build an identity as investors and owners even during their playing careers.

It’s a project, Cline-Thomas emphasizes, that takes work on both sides. “Venture isn’t for everyone,” he says. “There is a certain level of understanding you have to have with these companies to become an investor.”

To help get athletes up to speed, in 2017 Cline-Thomas founded the Players Technology Summit along with his business partner, Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, and fellow Warriors star Steph Curry. The third annual summit took place in June and featured executives from footwear startup Allbirds and the yet-to-launch mobile video platform Quibi, as well as a panel called “What to Know About the Cannabis Industry.”

Frank Cooper

Frank Cooper III. Photo by Gregg Delman

The Brand Builder: Frank Cooper III

Global Chief Marketing Officer, BlackRock

Cooper is in charge of brand strategy for the largest asset manager in the world. It’s a strategy increasingly focused on figuring out how millennials and Gen Zers want to invest, and Cooper happens to know a thing or two about what young people want. Before coming to BlackRock in early 2017, Cooper was the chief marketing officer and chief creative officer for BuzzFeed. There, “I learned the power of deep empathy,” he says. People share values that are more meaningful, from a marketing perspective, than “blunt” demographics like age, gender and income.

Cooper’s resume also includes stints at PepsiCo, where he served as CEO of global consumer engagement. He launched his marketing career at iconic record labels Def Jam and Motown. Now, under the direction of CEO Larry Fink, BlackRock aims to enlist a younger generation of investors through accessible investing processes. To that end, the company has partnered with Acorns, a startup that lets users automatically invest small amounts of money in BlackRock-traded funds. “Given the looming retirement crisis around the world, the need for expanding access to investing is now a social imperative,” Cooper says. 

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg. Photo by Michael Campanella

The Conscience: Greta Thunberg

Citizen Activist

Thunberg was maybe 8 years old when she first learned about climate change. She remembers this moment distinctly because it precipitated a daunting depression—she couldn’t believe how little adults were doing to address the threat—in which she stopped going to school. Seven years later, inspired by the activism of America’s Parkland school-shooting survivors, she started an improbable hunger strike to raise awareness of climate change and succeeded in capturing the world’s attention.

Now 16, Thunberg has sparked a global movement of young people demanding that corporations, politicians and entire nations of adults finally act on their claim that they care about the next generation. Prove it, she says: Prove that you sincerely want us to have a future. In March, more than 1 million students around the world followed Thunberg’s example and walked out of school in protest. Unflinchingly, Thunberg has directed her critique at the most powerful actors in global business. “It seems money and growth are our only main concerns,” she said during a Davos speech—yes, a Davos speech—in January. “The bigger your carbon footprint,” she added, “the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.”

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