It’s hard to imagine Mandy Tenner being more perfectly suited for her job.
The senior vice president and deputy general counsel for socially responsible, New York City-based Amalgamated Bank works in an unusual space. The ninety-seven-year-old financial institution was chartered by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union, and remains largely owned by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International United (SEIU). Over time, the mission of the bank, which is publicly traded and a Certified B-Corporation, has broadened to advance socially responsible causes such as sustainability, social justice, political organizations, and other social-impact enterprises.
Tenner’s own background might not have been a sure path to financial services law, but relative to Amalgamated, it makes a lot of sense. She is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and learned at home about selfless acts that saved lives during and after World War II. “My grandfather placed surviving children in homes after the war, and my grandmother was always grateful for the people who helped her survive,” she says. “I felt the need to pass that on.”
After undergraduate and graduate study in history, political science, French, and finance, she worked for the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services prior to interning for Amnesty International during her time in Paris. When she returned to the US, she joined Guggenheim Partners as a paralegal. There, her boss offered to pay the expense for Tenner to take the LSAT, after which she continued working while going to Brooklyn Law School. Clerking and internships led to her work for a global power company, ContourGlobal, which included legal responsibilities in Rwanda.
Since coming to Amalgamated in 2016, Tenner has fully embraced the ethos and business of values-based banking. “It’s in our lending, our employee policies, and in the support we provide to clients,” she says. The bank has more than $40 billion in custody and investment assets under management.
So how does a bank maximize shareholder value while serving other, nonfinancial objectives?
Tenner explains that Amalgamated’s investors understand long-term value and Amalgamated’s unique position as a values-based bank. “There is a type of investor who looks for what we do,” she says. “We say we are ‘values-aligned.’” She also recognizes that all federal and state banking regulations on safety and soundness apply to them as any other bank.
But the bank’s status as a certified B-Corporation, and its commitment to align with the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, speak to an even higher standard for its charter. Tenner oversees the related filings for this, which she reports were extensive. “As a B-Corp, we are accountable and transparent about sustainability, employee ownership, staff diversity, and other impacts on society and the environment,” she says. In these designations Tenner and others forged new paths: Amalgamated is the biggest B-Corp bank in the US, and the first American bank to sign on to the UN Principles.
In addition to fulfilling the extensive reporting requirements to maintain the B-Corp certification, she holds multiple responsibilities at the bank, including engagement with the bank’s governance structure. By sitting in on key decision-making committees, including company board meetings, she observes how deep the values-based banking mission goes at Amalgamated. “For example, when discussing new products someone will ask, ‘How does this impact low-income communities?’” she says. “That’s true even behind closed doors.”
But perhaps her favorite work at Amalgamated are her roles with the bank’s foundation and in her own pro bono work.
Amalgamated Foundation, a 501(c)(3), is a donor-advised fund that took a stand in 2019 by initiating a campaign to prevent funding of groups that run at odds with the bank’s mission and ethos. According to Tenner, some organizations operate legally as charities while promoting discrimination—they intend to avoid them and are calling on others follow suit. “We have policies to screen out groups that are identified by organizations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, as hate groups.”
Tenner’s pro bono engagements are typically with individuals who need legal assistance. In a recent case from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, she helped a transgender man change his name. Tenner also worked with Immigration Equality to help a bisexual man from Mauritania find asylum in the US, and he is now gainfully employed.
“The bank was generous in the time I had to give to him, and in covering court fees,” says Tenner, who recently took on a case from Immigration Equality for a gay man from Venezuela. “Others on the management team do lots of things like this. It’s the culture of Amalgamated Bank. Community is important to us.”
Nelson Mullins is pleased to recognize the accomplishments of Mandy Tenner and Amalgamated Bank. Amalgamated Bank is America’s most socially responsible bank, and Mandy is a key member of the bank’s legal team and a pleasure to work with. Nelson Mullins has a leading financial services practice, combining industry experience, a command of the regulatory environment, business-focused transactions advice, and creativity to achieve results. We are particularly proud to work with Mandy and Amalgamated and to share their vision of helping those who do good, do better. Visit www.nelsonmullins.com to learn more about our firm and our financial services practice.