Managing a reasonable work-life balance appears easier for Caroline Brown than it does for most people. The reason may be because she immensely enjoys her professional career and gains equal fulfillment through her volunteer activities.
Brown is the director of Global Trade and Supply Chain Solutions for Bank of America and her job is just as intense as her title implies. Based in Los Angeles, her responsibilities range from serving large corporate clients in California and states west of the Ohio River to assisting middle-market customers in the Pacific North and South West region with annual revenues starting at $50 million.
Locally, Brown and her top-notch global trade staff make direct positive impacts on the business communities in South Los Angeles and throughout L.A. County. Their expertise helps companies navigate the international trade landscape and develop tailored finance solutions to address their firm’s needs.
“Whether it’s exporting finished goods, selling imported goods or relying on a vast international supply chain to secure the materials they need to build or assemble their products, local enterprises rely on a banking partner that understands trade finance,” said Brown.
“This can range from lining up financing for a local supplier of a large overseas manufacturing firm to arranging short-term loans for a local retailer waiting for orders while holding large amounts of floor inventory in its showroom,” she explained.
Brown’s extensive knowledge about global banking is strengthened by her 15 years of experience in the international trade space. Previously, she served as director of California’s Export Finance Department under the state Trade and Commerce Agency. Her leadership in the field led to her appointment as chair of the 2015 World Trade Week, an initiative of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to highlight the positive impacts of international trade.
Considering her background, it’s no surprise that Bank of America would tap Brown to head their global trade division. In fact, the bank had been attuned to her impressive skills for many years, especially since she started as a part-time teller in her last year of high school and continued in the job while attending USC. Following her college graduation, she joined B of A full-time and promoted to increasingly, responsible positions throughout her career.
But, Brown does more than just work at the bank. The Los Angeles native also devotes time to serve pro bono on the board of Pacific Coast Regional, which provides assistance, training, loans and mentoring to small, underserved businesses. In addition, she co-chairs Bank of America’s Southern California Black Professional Group and mentors women of color employed by the bank.
“We recently had an event at the bank called “Multicultural Women Ready to Lead” and it’s based on a study that was done by the Center of Innovation. It started out talking about Black women being ready to lead because so many Black women are already experienced,” noted Brown, who cited Black women’s long history of successfully managing families, household affairs and jobs.
“It is not that we aren’t prepared or well-educated, it’s just that the opportunity is not there to network with people who are decision-makers. So, we are focused on helping women and women of color get those opportunities to interact with senior managers so that they get to know them. We think that if we can get that kind of exposure, it will certainly help us advance because most of the time we are successful if you give us the opportunity,” she said.
To Brown, being successful includes giving back to the community, a practice that she incorporates in her mentoring instruction. For example, she’s a part of the Power of Ten group, which is comprised of 10 women at the bank who regularly schedule outings to donate their time and talents.
“Last week, we volunteered at the L.A. Regional Food Bank for a couple of hours. Although it sounds like something extra that I am adding to the schedule, being able to give back like that is so rejuvenating and will fuel me to go forward,” insisted Brown.
She gets even more refreshed when volunteering with her sorority, the Alpha Kappa Alpha – Alpha Mu Lambda Omega Chapter. Brown actively participates in the organization’s community clothes drives, backpack and food drives, and scholarships and financial education outreach activities.
Earlier this year, Brown and the sorority members presented a free financial literacy seminar in the Kaiser Permanente – Baldwin Hills medical complex to share savings and investment techniques and strategies, such as home ownership to increase Black wealth in families and communities.
“It was a very well received program and we hope to do more in the future. I think that is a nice dovetail between what I do in the financial world and having opportunities to help with some of the challenges that people are experiencing,” she said.
Another outlet for Brown to help others, as well as herself, is through Black Girls Run in Los Angeles, a group that promotes health and wellness among African American women.
“I got involved with Black Girls Run for health and wellness,” Brown said. “I really appreciated a comfortable environment where women of all ages could support each other and strive to become in good shape. Our motto is ‘no women left behind.’ One of my greatest personal achievements was training and completing a half marathon in Miami. From there, I learned to hike and enjoy yoga, Pilates and gardening.”
Despite her executive duties, love of volunteering and being a wife and mother, Brown shows no sign of cutting back on any of her aforementioned roles and will likely approach them with even more enthusiasm.
“I do believe that to whom much is given, much is required. Service is our responsibility and we have to give back. I really believe in that!”