Wells Fargo, chairman of the Bank of America, has apologized for comments that the bank’s lack of diversity in top positions is to blame for the shortage of qualified minority candidates.
The remarks, made in a call with staff in June and re-emphasized in a note, drew widespread criticism after it was announced on Tuesday.
Charles Sharf, the bank’s chairman, said he had “expressed an emotion that reflected my own unconscious tendencies”.
“I apologize,” he said.
Sorry, In a message to the staff Shared by the bank, following an earlier statement, Mr Sharf said “sorry” and his comments were misunderstood.
“There are so many talented diverse people working in Wells Fargo and the financial services sector, otherwise I would never have meant it,” Mr Sharf said in a Wednesday message.
“Throughout the industry, we have not done enough to promote diversity, especially at the senior leadership levels.”
Mr Sharfin’s comments come as the corporate world faces research into dealing with diversity issues.
Wells Fargo’s own record on race has also attracted attention because the company has paid millions to settle inquiries into discriminatory loans and hiring.
In June, the bank announced diversification efforts, following global protests against police brutality and racism.
In a memo announcing the plans announced by Reuters, Mr Sharf said: “While this may seem like an excuse, the unfortunate fact is that there is a very limited pool of recruitment from black talent.”
The idea also drew criticism from Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez, a female member of the Liberal New York Congress, and business leaders.
“Wells Fargo’s CEO is incapable of recruiting black workers,” Ms Okasio-Cortes said in a tweet.
Mr Sharf, who launched in Wells Fargo last year, listed a number of recent appointments the bank has made – including the addition of two black employees to its executive committee – as a testament to its commitment to diversity.
He also promised to double the number of black leaders in the next five years, and linked administrative changes with other changes to achieve diversity goals.
“Anyone who is open to re-evaluating their position and their perspective, if you take note of a new fact, you should give him the benefit of the doubt,” critics of Mr Sharp, a former manager of United Parcel Service, told Reuters.
“The Wells Fargo team should use it as an opportunity to move forward,” he added.