Leadership spotlight: Victor Branch, Bank of America & Community Foundation
In honor of Black History Month, this February we will be featuring conversations with African-American leaders and changemakers in the Richmond community.
Victor Branch is the Richmond Market Manager & Richmond Market President with Bank of America, where he has worked for 35 years. He also holds numerous board positions with organizations throughout Central Virginia, including the Community Foundation. Victor was a first-generation college student and is a lifelong resident of Central Virginia.
What part of your work deals directly with philanthropy?
I oversee our philanthropic budget, which exceeds over $1 million a year in Richmond, as well as the volunteer efforts of our employees. We have almost 2,000 employees that do over 20,000 volunteer hours a year. We also come to the table with thought leadership: serving on boards, bringing our expertise to the community and working with our nonprofit and government partners is a big part of what I get to do every day.
Why is it important for companies to engage in philanthropy?
We are a part of our community. We work here, we play here, and we worship here, so we want to make sure it’s a vibrant, strong, growing community. A bank benefits tremendously from a thriving community — when we are burning on all those cylinders, it directly affects our bottom line. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
Why did you start getting involved in board service?
My parents raised me with the idea that to whom much is given, much is required. I feel like I’ve been richly blessed with so many gifts that I could not sit and just serve myself, and serving organizations that work with the underserved is absolutely the best way to do that. I got started early in my career with serving on a board, and I just got more and more involved because I get as much from it as I’m able to give to it.
What has been one of your proudest achievements in service?
One organization whose board I’ve served on intermittently for the past dozen years is Housing Opportunities Made Equal. Their work isn’t glamorous, but it’s so necessary. It’s about leveling a playing field and giving people access to housing who have been historically shut out of housing as a result of institutional racism and society not valuing equal access to that opportunity. I really felt like if there was an organization I made a difference with, it was that one.
Who has inspired you along your career journey?
I’ve had many great leaders and mentors who have guided and shaped me.
Mary DePillars was one of the first African-American women in the Bank of America management program in the early ‘70s. She came out of Virginia Union University and she made sure she reached back and grabbed others to come along. She set such high standards, and I learned so much from her, and she’s a dear friend of mine today.
Another manager like her is Sandy Slaughter Fitz-Hugh, who hired me into the role I’m in now. He trusted my judgment and abilities, and he saw in me things I didn’t know I had in myself. He retired in 2005, but his legacy and his impact in my life still is felt today.
What makes a good leader?
A person who inspires, motivates, and validates. When you can emotionally connect with people, help them realize what they contribute to the mission, and then continue to reinforce that and validate them along the way, then people really know that you’re invested in them and care about them. That makes them that much more committed to helping the team get where it’s supposed to be.