Astra Interview: Peter Lee, Supplier Diversity Manager, Wells Fargo
March 31, 2017
One of Astra’s board members, Peter Lee, was recognized by both PSWMSDC and Astra as “2016 Advocate of the Year,” for his support and inclusion of minority and woman-owned business. Peter brings a unique set of experiences and a valuable perspective to the Astra board. Barbara Wichmann, President, CEO of Artémia Communications Inc. and Chair of the Astra Leadership Forum, sat down with him recently to learn more.
Barbara: Tell us a bit about your background?
Peter: I was born in Taiwan and came to the U.S. when I was six. My family first settled in Louisiana, where I learned to appreciate Southern cooking — fried chicken and the like! Eventually, we settled in Chicago. After college, I worked as a consultant for government contracts, under the strategy, finance, and economics group. Then I was a strategy and operations consultant – before moving to strategic sourcing consulting. After receiving my MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I headed out to the West Coast where I started my career in supplier diversity.
B: What drew you to the supplier diversity field?
P: As an immigrant, I understand the importance of inclusion. When this opportunity came up at Wells Fargo, I believed my background in consulting and procurement – as well as my passion for the field – would help make an impact.
B: Tell us about your current role with Wells Fargo?
P: I have been a supplier diversity manager for six years. In this role, I support Wells Fargo’s strategic outreach initiative, which includes our relationship with Astra and other organizations. I also work with lines of business to help set strategy for supplier diversity. As our Community Banking group’s primary contact for the West Region , I lead some of our signature outreach initiatives such as the CEO Academy and global supplier diversity efforts in India and the Philippines. I also headed the second-tier spend growth initiative, partnering with the bank’s prime suppliers to increase their subcontracting with certified diverse suppliers.
B: Can you describe Wells Fargo’s supplier diversity program?
P: The focus of Wells Fargo’s supplier diversity strategy is three fold: 1. Growing spend with certified diverse suppliers; 2. Building diverse supplier capacity through supplier development; and, 3. Impacting our communities through strategic outreach. In 2016, we spent $1.1 billion with certified diverse suppliers in the minority, women, LGBT, veteran, disability and small business community. We have a commitment to diversity and inclusion that’s a part of our corporate values. We partner with many organizations across the U.S. that focus on developing viable diverse businesses.
One activity I’d like to highlight is our focus on supplier development, such as the WBENC Executive Education Program and the CEO Academy. We created these two executive leadership programs to provide diverse small business leaders with training, mentorship, and support to help increase capabilities, grow capacity, and develop stronger teams. We fully launched these programs last year and will continue to build on them for years to come. Additionally, in California, we work with a supplier diversity advisory group — one that includes Astra — which has a mission to grow diverse businesses in the state. In 2016, we graduated 90 diverse businesses from our CEO Academy. Some of the businesses reported as much as 10% revenue growth after attending the Wells Fargo sponsored CEO Academy program.
B: How do you see your role on the Astra board?
P: I see my role on the board as leveraging my industry experience and corporate perspective to help shape Astra’s mission. I’m there to act in the best interest of the organization and its members, so that its mission can be fulfilled.
B: What is your vision for the future direction and efforts of Astra?
P: My vision for Astra is for it to become the gold standard for supplier diversity promotion and advocacy. When people think of advocacy for women-owned businesses, I want them to think of Astra.
B: How do you see Astra’s role evolving for Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs)?
P: While we plan to keep the overall vision for Astra, the organization is going to have to continue to adapt and evolve based on changing trends – economic and otherwise. Even as Astra transforms, it’s also going to need to help WBEs adapt. The world is changing. We all need to go along with it, or risk being left behind. Astra will be there to support WBEs through the process.
B: What general trends do you see affecting WBEs and supplier diversity?
P: There are many different influencers right now and much uncertainty because of the changing political scene. Regulations are being rewritten; various agendas are being pushed down the line.
Still, from a corporate standpoint, I find that there are certain qualities that always count: innovation and efficiency. I urge WBEs to focus on both of these. When corporations see that you are innovative and efficient, they want to do business with you. It’s as simple as that. They know that you bring value that sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
Peter Lee is a Supplier Diversity Manager on the Program and Strategic Outreach team for Supplier Diversity at Wells Fargo. Born in Taiwan, Peter is a longtime advocate for Asian-owned business growth and development. In addition to his work for Astra, he serves on the board of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC) West Region and as treasurer for the Northwest Mountain MSDC.
Peter received a B.S. degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
By Barbara Wichmann
Founder and CEO, ARTÉMIA Communications Inc.
Barbara is the Chair of Astra’s Northern California Leadership Forum and a recipient of the 2014 WBENC Star Award.