Malcolm A. Johnson (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Back in the early 2000’s, Malcolm A. Johnson changed careers from an NFL player to corporate banker. While the job switch appears dramatic, it actually fulfilled Johnson’s vision of giving back to his community in a tangible way.

As executive director of Community Development Banking for JPMorgan Chase, Johnson leads the company’s initiatives to assist residents, businesses, schools and nonprofits in accessing the financial resources to improve their neighborhoods. His responsibilities include heading JPMorgan’s new platform that invests equity into affordable housing projects in South LA and other markets across the country.  He also works closely with Community Development Financial Institutions, which are private institutions focused on community-based lending.

Johnson specializes in real estate finance and after joining JPMorgan in 2012 as the senior coverage banker, he underwrote and arranged $3 billion in secured and unsecured debt financing for publicly traded and privately-held real estate developers and investment firms in Los Angeles. But, it’s South L.A. where Johnson is really focused on making a difference and the bank is fully on board with that emphasis.

“One of the reasons that I decided to come to JPMorgan Chase was because the bank said, ‘we are committed to not just grow our business, but we are committed to growing our community.’ They knew that I had been involved with the South L.A. community since becoming a banker and they wanted to support that scenario as well,” explained Johnson.

“This is a company that literally exists to serve communities and exists for the benefit of its stakeholders. But, its stakeholders are not just our clients. The stakeholders are the communities that we have branches in. The stakeholders are the would-be homebuyers in communities where we want to sell mortgages,” he said.

The stakeholders also include students at View Park, Dorsey, Crenshaw and King-Drew High Schools where JPMorgan conducts The Fellowship Initiative (TFI), added Johnson, who serves as an executive sponsor.

TFI offers intensive academic and leadership training to help young men of color from economically- distressed communities complete their high school education and prepare to excel in colleges and universities. Also, TFI fulfills the bank’s broader mission to provide financial education, skills and resources to aid youth and adults in attaining greater economic mobility.

At View Park, Johnson has assisted in securing JPMorgan’s sponsorship for the school’s basketball team to participate in activities beyond their immediate surroundings. Under the leadership of Coach Deon Coleman and his staff, the team traveled to Palm Springs for a bonding tournament to help the students learn more about themselves, each other, their value and their personal responsibility.

“The kids will remember these life-changing experiences and the people who helped them,” said Coleman. “It is a great partnership with Chase and the people at Chase.”

Coach Deon Coleman, left, and Johnson collaborate on programs for students at View Park High School. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Johnson, one of the “people at Chase,” can definitely relate to Coleman’s assessment of the students’ memories of their opportunities and mentors. In fact, it was Johnson’s first mentor – his father – who inspired him to seek avenues to give back to his community.

A star athlete at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., and the University of Notre Dame, Johnson figured football was the key to his success, and if he majored in elementary education, he could share his skills with young people after his pro career. However, his father redirected those plans.

“My dad said, ‘You grew up in this community, you’ll always be Black and what will you educate students on? You’re going back to school and major in business, so that you will have a skill set that number one, outlasts just sports, and two, you will be able to give back to this community,’” recalled Johnson with a laugh. “He was my original mentor and he gave me the best career advice that I ever got – have a skill set.”

Following his father’s guidance, Johnson changed his major and went on to play as a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. But he also earned a marketing degree from Notre Dame and a MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. Those skills have proven invaluable in his post-football career, both in his previous positions as an internal consultant with PNC Bank and vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as well as in his current job with JPMorgan Chase.

And since he’s ever alert for opportunities to give back, Johnson dedicates quality time to several organizations, including JPMorgan’s Los Angeles Market Leadership Team, the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate Sustaining Board, the Natural History Museum of L.A. County Board of Trustees and the Brotherhood Crusade Corporate Advisory Board.

Of course, his wife and children have the primary place on his full schedule, but next on the list is accomplishing both his and JPMorgan’s commitment to partner with South L.A. to “grow the community.”

“No matter what you are doing in life, if you are doing something that helps another person achieve their dreams, then you will find a level of success. I get to live that every day as a banker because I provide access to capital and by investing in our communities; I see people’s dreams achieved that way,” said Johnson.

“But it also happens when I mentor a young man and when I join with the coaches and principals and business owners in our community who are trying to achieve their dreams as well. That is the manifestation of everything that I live for!”