Innovating for Social Change with Matt Johanson of Discover

December 5, 2023

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In his 25 years at Discover, Matt Johanson has held leadership roles across Information Technology, Discover’s global Payments’ business, Lean Management, Human Resources and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I).

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast and I’m John Shegerian, and I’m so honored to have with us today, Matt Johanson. He’s the Senior Vice President of Social Impact and Chief ESG Officer at Discover. Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Matt.

Matt Johanson: Thank you, John, it’s awesome to be here.

John: Matt, I’m in Francesco, California today and you’re in Chicago land. It’s just wonderful to have you on. We’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before or having you on the show nor Discover. So it’s your first turn on. We’ve had brands on 5, 6, 7 times, so hopefully it’s not your last. But before we get talking about all the important things you’re doing and impact in Impact and ESG at Discover, can you share with our listeners and viewers a little bit of the Matt Johanson story? Where’d you grow up and how’d you get on this journey of Impact and ESG and all the other great and important things that you’re now doing at Discover?

Matt: Sure. That’s awesome, John. Thanks again for the invitation and the opportunity to be on, and I do. I hope I do well enough that this is not our last time. So let’s see. Matt Johanson, I was born at a very young age, always my very favorite line to start with, but lifelong Chicago. You mentioned I’m in Chicago, so lifelong, actually all four of my grandparents emigrated and we were in the kind of far western, about 40 miles outside of Chicago, farmers and grew up in a kind of very blue collar environment.

Have been at Discover now for 27 years, hard to imagine, but 27 years in one spot. Prior to Discover, I worked at Eastman Kodak. Again, love to tell people, remember when there were film cameras, right? There is actually just updating myself. Caterpillar and Consulting and then to Discover. My educational background is in IT. So my first seven years here at Discover were in our IT shop and then moved into 14 years or so in our global payments business. I’ve led business transformation there. Our business model change there.

Came out of that line to run a lean transformation for the company. So talk about impact, kind of focus on continuous improvement and quality, always doing better by our customers and then to HR and to lead diversity, equity, and inclusion when we really wanted to put some emphasis there and then just last year, so February 22 kind of built on the DEI work that I had when we fully embraced ESG and wanted to start a full ESG program. So it’s been quite a circuitous route, but one that has allowed me to see literally everything. I used to say everything but the plumbing, but I’ve actually had meetings on the plumbing. So I’ve had a chance to work on everything and Discover over the last 27 years and well positioned to see how the company can fully embrace our duties, if you will, to society, so in this role of head of ESG.

John: I love it. Before we got start in the interview, we discussed, we shared with each other, our backgrounds a little bit, and you had shared how much you traveled in some of your previous roles at Discover and that kind of travel really, although you’re a citizen in the United States and a denizen of Chicagoland, it creates this sort of global citizen feel and I think it’s wonderful that a person with your now background and travel experience and exposure to so much of the world gets to sit in this very, very important role that gives you even, I think, informs you even greater your background. So it makes total sense. You’ve been there 27 years, which is nowadays with how much people change jobs so fast, especially the generations behind us. I just have to mention that when I got married to my wife, Tammy, Discover was the first card we ever got, and this is that…

Matt: Oh, look at this. I love that.

John: I’m looking at the back, I turn it around, but of course it gives your whole number. But I see here member since 86, so this has been in my wallet since 86. It’s at the top of my deck of credit cards and I’m a proud carrier and it’s a comfort brand because it was such a great thing to get my first credit card as a married couple, and I’m never giving it up and I use it all the time. Just want to say.

Matt: Well, who knows is to you and Tammy. So you were right on the cusp. It was January, 1986 when the Bears were in the Super Bowl, Great Super Bowl 20 that we ran our very first commercial as a company. So Discover the brand was started out of Sears, and it was the dawn of Discover. That was the commercial, and you were right there, one of our first customers,

John: Huge Bears fan, huge obviously Walter Payton and Refrigerator and McMahon, but what made me apply for the credit card from that commercial was the fact that we were newly married couple, this is our first credit card and back then in your advertising you said, “You get points back, you get the money back.”” So it was a whole circular feeling that wow, as we spend, we earn and it was just awesome.

Matt: Well, it was revolutionary at the time. It’s hard to, especially younger generations to realize Discover was the very first with cash back rewards with 24 hour service with no fees. That was unheard of in financial services at the time, so really, 10 out of 10.

John: Like you said, unheard of but also it was coming from Sears, which was such a trusted brand in our lifetimes that it was like, we can’t go wrong. This is coming out of Sears. We got to get involved. I just remember when they approved me, they told me it was a big feeling. So I keep this card at the top of my deck because it’s like a comfort brand in our household because you don’t ever want to lose that feeling of the first one and what it feels like and I use it all the time,

Matt: Just like if you were to call 1-800-Discover John, they would say thank you for being a loyal customer this long. So thank you very much. That’s awesome.

John: It’s wonderful and it’s wonderful to have you today, Matt, it’s really important that we’re doing this interview now because Discover, just released its first comprehensive ESG report and as we know, ESG can mean a lot of things to a lot of brands and brands focus sometimes on the E, on the G, all three of the ESG. Discover focuses a lot on the S both internally and externally. Can you explain, A, the why behind that and then what that really looks like?

Matt: Yeah for sure. I like that point, and I like that you saw that in the report, John. That is one of the key things we would want to jump out. One of the very first things when we decided we wanted to create an ESG program, I joined, I think it was a World 50, Sustainability 50. One of the very first conversations that I had with somebody, wise gentleman, kind of a board member level had said, the most important thing is that companies find what is meaningful to their business, what is meaningful to their employees, to their customers, to their shareholders.

What about, how does ESG fit? It’s not a bull time, it’s not this other thing, it is what you do. And so if you think about Discover and who we are and what our business is, first is we are a digital bank, entirely digital. So we do not have corner branches on every corner for our consumer branding. We are entirely digital. We have a tiny, tiny physical footprint in the world. So E, the environmental side, not that we’re not committed and not that we’re not going to do our part, but the fact of the matter is if you look at any measure of our environmental impact, it is tiny compared to anyone else. So even if we went net zero tomorrow and completely eradicated all of our waste, et cetera, it would have little absolute impact in the world.

So we will do our part, and it is important to us. It’s just not going to be a differentiator or something you see us talk about a lot. On the G side, we are a highly regulated financial institution. The federal Reserve, the FDIC, CFPB, the OCC, right? So the discretion we have in how we govern ourselves and how well we govern ourselves is fairly limited. So again, we are committed to good governance and we are working hard to always be as good as we possibly can be there, but it’s just not going to be a differentiator. What we do see though, especially in financial services, if you think of historically how much harm banks have done and financial policies, redlining and so forth have done, banks really need to step up in that S and that is the place that we can differentiate ourselves and in so it’s the area that we’re going to talk about most in our ESG program as well.

John: Got it. I know you opened a customer care center in the south side of Chicago and are planning another one in a diverse suburb outside of Columbus, Ohio. Talk a little bit about how many jobs does this create in the historically marginalized and much forgotten south side of Chicago, and how do you take an important initiative like that and bring it from drawing board to implemented strategy that actually is working in the real world?

Matt: Sure, there’s a lot in there. So happy to have more of a conversation here, but I’ll certainly give you the… I think always good to start with the origin story, right? Because I don’t think we spent a lot of time talking to others in Chicago, other companies encouraging them to think about doing business unusual, right? Things that are not typical business decisions and this certainly wasn’t one, and I love to always give credit to our former CEO Roger Hoss Childs, who at the time just kind of had a simple concept of, hey, why do we have our jobs where they are? So again, we’re a digital bank, and so consumer interaction is not at a branch. They are typically out of our frontline call centers. We’re proud, we think we do it better than anybody.

We compete for JD power, customer service and credit card year after year. But those jobs have sat in customer care centers in Delaware and Columbus, Ohio and Phoenix, Arizona and Salt Lake City, Utah. But in all of those, Roger had said, if we have 10,000, 11,000 of those jobs, why are they where they are? What is the historical bias that’s in site selection where we put our jobs, I don’t want to go to a black or brown community. It is I want to go where there’s good schools and good transportation and good housing stock and et cetera, et cetera, and we all end up in the same places. These jobs end up clustered over and over again. So it was just this idea of let’s break the bias that’s in historical[?] site selection.

Let’s put these jobs somewhere that they’re going to have greater economic impact. So there are some that tell the story. It was thoughts of Appalachia, other where fossil fuel industry has left, and entire towns have been decimated. Then more recently, and I think the first time I heard it was 2019 was, well, why not our hometown? If you look at Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the United States, of the 77 neighborhoods of Chicago, yet when you put a map of race and ethnicity and you see the segregation, then you overlay that with equity issues, income equity, wealth inequities, health inequities, it maps exactly along those lines. The south and the west side of Chicago really is a tale of two Chicago’s, the south and the west side and then the rest of the city.

So why not in our own hometown, if we’re a Chicago company, why not in our hometown? Why don’t we put some of those jobs? We’re already going to hire several thousand of these jobs every year, why not put some of them where they will have more economic impact? It was that simple notion and then… so it was mid-2020, that Roger finally said, ”Okay, we’ve talked about this a long time, let’s just go.” So we started out on our search across the south and the west side and quite honestly, it was a notion of what would be enough jobs that it would have material impact wherever we end up? We really could have economic impact, but we’re not trying to alter our business strategy or our talent strategies, we’re trying to do this hand.

So a 1000 seemed like the right numbers. So we started looking for a 100,000 square foot space that we could put a 1000 jobs, searched across south and west side and by November we had signed a lease to go into an abandoned big box retail store. So there was a big box retailer who had abandoned two stores on the south side of Chicago. In Chatham, where we are, in the neighborhood of Chatham and one in Morgan Park, which is about 10 miles south of us and the story goes, and it was at a time they were also taking public money to build five other stores kind of in northern more white communities. So big protests, our Congressman Bobby Rush at the time lead protest trying to convince this retailer not to leave. So it really was a true embodiment of corporate de-investment in a community in a 96% black community. You said it earlier, the way you described it, historically, underserved, under invested, de-invested community.

So going in there and choosing that site kind of even had some symbolic meeting. This was a sign, a blight in that community of like, hey, here is more abandonment and now here we’re bringing a 1000 jobs there. So that was announced publicly, March of 2021. We did a press conference there, went immediately to work and we took the inventory in the back of the retailer and converted that into a kind of temporary space where we could get up and running as quickly as possible. So if you can put yourself here, and I know I’ve talked for a long time, so feel free to jump in.

If you think of you are March of 2021, we’re still just a year into, wasn’t even a thing yet. We’re still pre-Delta I think at that point. But this was still unsure of how to proceed with anything. But we knew that the south and west side communities had been impacted more by COVID than anywhere else in Chicago, unemployment was spiking. The best thing that we possibly could do as a company if we were going to do this, was get hiring as quickly as we could. So we just did 20,000 square foot while we knew it would take a year or so to convert the big box, we could get going in a temporary.

So 77 days later, on June 7th, we welcomed our first class of new Discover employees into the center and then started kind of hiring in our schedule. We hired by classes, and now here we are in 2023. Just about a year ago now, we opened the other a hundred thousand square foot of the site, which includes a 13,000 square foot community center. Space that obviously we use for our internal needs but if community groups think any kind of nonprofit that needs a boardroom, they’re meeting in a church basement for their board meeting. They now have kind of a state-of-the-art boardroom that they can meet in our building. They can have their galas, they can have all kinds of different events there. That space is available. We have enough room, obviously for a 1000 folks, and we are a little over 500 folks in at this point. So about halfway, our goal is to reach a 1000. We’re tracking to meet 1000 jobs by the end of next year.

John: Has this been named the Chatham Customer Care center?

Matt: It’s a Chatham Customer Care center.

John: Got it. So talk about now, you did a couple of things interesting. First of all, you turned the paradigm on its head instead of going into a classic neighborhood with services, cool coffee shops, restaurants, all the amenities that we’re all used to in our very soft and cushy lives, you put the people there. So talk about lessons learned and is now a neighborhood starting to grow up around the care center that you’ve now created and now have you created a domino effect of goodness and other businesses that are starting to sprout up around it to support that customer care center?

Matt: Yes, certainly at this point, and when I get invited back next year or whenever they’d be good, we’re actually… one of the things we’re launching now with a local Higher Education Institute is kind of an economic impact study. So to really try to answer that question you’re asking more succinctly. I certainly have anecdotes, one of the things that was very important to us was making sure you think about business diversity going here. One of the things that we can impact a community is the way we hire for our construction, the way we hire for facilities management.

So if you do public work in Chicago, if you do a public, a big construction project, it’s 26, 26% minority owned businesses, 6% women-owned businesses, so 32% total. We reached at or just over or just under 80% total MWBE. But most importantly, within that 26% of our spend or 28% of our spend went to local black-owned contractors, as we were reminded when we didn’t get off to the best start with that, despite our best efforts, and we had to learn how to do that well, this isn’t a minority community. This is a black community. It’s a ninety-six percent black community. So if you’re really going to represent the community and your work, you need to focus not just on MWBE, but you need to focus on black-owned as well. So super proud that through learning efforts and the tough work it took to get there, we did that vast majority of our facility spend. So if you think pest control and landscaping and cleaning, et cetera are all local, black-owned companies as well.

Then probably one of the coolest, again, kind of transformation I guess as we went in, we thought, well, we’ll just put a full-service cafeteria there like we do in all of our sites. Sodexo is our national cafeteria provider. They’ll set up shop in there. As we started in that little temporary spot and I’ll talk about how we started quickly. Out of necessity, we started bringing in lunch and dinner that we were working in two shifts. We were working 6:30 to 2:30 or 6 AM to 2:30, and then 3:30 to midnight. There’s the two shifts, cleaning, wiping everything down in between. So each shift we would bring in a meal from a local restaurant or a local caterer and it occurred to us over time like, hey, as we grew from the first class to 50, to a 100, to 200 people, this is becoming material income to these local restaurants and caters.

So we completely changed our design for the primary space, the big space, and went from a full-service cafeteria, more to a vendor area. So roll up windows and food warmers, and still to this day bring in food from outside. So forty-nine different local restaurants and caters that support our employees, support all the events that we have in the center and last year, again, we just opened in August, I think the number was about 1.8 million that we spent with local restaurants and caters in that. But again, something we had no clue that we were going to do when we started, it wasn’t like on our list, it just occurred once we were there, you also can do this. So I have anecdotes like that. I don’t necessarily have the full impact study, but next time we’ll talk.

John: We will and so now you have lessons learned, anecdotal, Imperial and others. Talk a little bit about now starting the same process in the verse suburb outside of Columbus.

Matt: White Hall. Yes.

John: So now, how does the journey begin there with the lessons, anecdotes that you’ve learned from South side of Chicago?

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Matt: So I’ll tell you, I think the good business story that’s there, because this is in my mind, hopefully in the book of Discover when it’s written, there’s this moment when this went from a thing we did once to a thing we do and that it is my hope that it has proven that this can be a winning talent strategy. Something I would love and we try to share over and over again with other local companies and so forth is that again, if you had come in the fall of 20 when corporations are all doing their annual planning for the next year, remember we announced this in March of 21, but we all knew it was coming. We had done all the leg work in 2020. Into my embarrassment leading this project is that if you looked at business plans, it was Project White Sox, that was kind of our secret squirrel name. Internal project, no one knows what you’re working on.

Project White Sox, if you looked at operations or talent acquisition or operations facilities, et cetera, if you looked at the business plans, it was Project White Sox is going to be a headwind. It’s going to be a risk. Everybody looks at their plan and says, here’s what I think will happen next year. Here are risks to that plan, here are opportunities in that plan. We said like, hey, it’s going to be harder to hire, it’s going to harder to retain, it’s going to be harder because we’ve never done this, et cetera and quite honestly, we started in June of 21 and by the end of 21 we were upping upping our hiring plans. As it turned out, this was the most fertile ground possibly that we could hire from. We had the stats now that I think kind of current are for the 500 or so that we have, we’ve had 18,000 qualified applicants. Over 80% of those folks live within five miles of our center.

So we know those paychecks are staying in the local community. The voluntary attrition numbers have been lower. The customer satisfaction scores and so forth have been as good or better across the board. So all of a sudden, we have a place where really good folks, essentially, it’s proving the fact that talent exists everywhere and its opportunity that has not existed everywhere and if we as companies, and we’ll get to this a little bit more in a minute, is this is what we can offer, is opportunity. When we do, we’re justly rewarded for that. And so what Whitehall represents, Columbus represents to me is this notion that this is not just a good social impact story. This is a good business story, and we get good business results out of doing that and so good that hey, we should think also about doing it in one of our legacy sites. So we have 2000 employees in Columbus area already.

In fact, our very first operation center was in the second story of a Sears store in the Eastland Mall in Columbus, Ohio. Then we had gone out to a fancy-Patsy suburb for 20 years. But now post-COVID, a lot of these jobs, 90-something percent for us anyway are fully remote. So we don’t need a 5000-seat center anymore. We need a smaller space. We need early tenure on-site training, we need team collaboration, et cetera. So we are on a search for a new site, and we thought, well, why not use some of those same criteria that led us to Chatham in Chicago? Is there a way we can replicate that model and become an employer of choice and a community where opportunity has not always existed within the Columbus area?

We found the town of Whitehall, which is actually fully surrounded by Columbus, so we call it a suburb, but it is out of downtown. It is just south of the airport but its own municipality and found a very diverse but differently diverse community than Chatham. So there it is, while Chatham 96% black is kind of monolithic it’s diverse to us, it is diverse to discover in Whitehall in the local school system, there are twenty-three different languages spoken in the K through 12. So it’s a huge new American population and so we’re super excited and it’s going to be just another learning process for us. It’s not that it is diverse, but it’s differently diverse for us. So really stretch our muscles of how inclusive actually are we, right? How well do we operate in different environments?

John: What’s the projected or estimated time of opening that location?

Matt: Yeah, I was just in Whitehall the end of July for their big summer food truck festival, and I walked through our building. We were then about halfway done with our demolition and we’re on track to be there by April 1st next year we’ll open the doors there.

John: Perfect. For our listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us, we’ve got Matt Johanson, he’s the SVP of Social Impact and Chief ESG officer at Discover. To find Matt and his colleagues and all the important work they’re doing in Social Impact and ESG work, please go to or you could go to You know, Matt, we know that the World, we are all stakeholders and in both the construction of good things that happen in this World and the destruction of things that also happen, and all stakeholders have to get aligned to make good things happen.

The good government exists. Look at what the IRA has been doing the last year or so in the United States, but unfortunately under many circumstances and recent times, corporations, especially big corporations, instead of focusing on all the great things they’ve done, they’ve been casted by the bigger media or bigger institutions as sort of the boogeyman of society. I want to disavow our listeners and viewers of that notion. I want you to share why do you think at Discover or why does Discover think that businesses can really play an agent changer in society and the good businesses like Discover can invest in under invested communities or historically marginalized communities like the south side of Chicago, like Whitehall and make great things happen, make a huge impact that has a domino effect outside of just the strict employer employee relationship. Talk a little bit about good companies like Discover doing great things.

Matt: I’ll certainly talk about how we talk about it and you mentioned our inaugural ESG report, which if you go to and look on our ESG tab, hope folks will take a look at, we’re very proud of it and especially our transparency, trying to really drive a new level of transparency around diversity, equity, inclusion stats. So we really show how we are moving as cooperation at all different levels, what’s working and what’s not working and trying to really just create a safe space for those conversations. But for us as we look at it, and I don’t know that I say we can create change, we can offer, we can use our platform, all these amazing things that corporations have, our jobs, our business diversity, our supplier spend, our philanthropy, our volunteerism hours, our employees desire to make impact in the World.

We can use all of these things and of course our financial services company, our financial services products or our financial products to affect change to again be more sustainable and a more equitable World. So the way we look at this is our mission, like literally, if you go to, you’ll see our mission is to help people have brighter financial futures. It’s hard to think about anybody having a brighter financial future in a World that is also inequitable, maybe some people but not all people.

For all corporations, I think a way I would challenge anyone to look at it is eventually, whether you’re B to B or you B to C, even if you’re B to B, you are one step away from B to C. The way the entire economy grows is when everybody gets to participate in. Again, we go back to that kind of map of Chicago and it’s again, the town I love and I am dedicated to helping and improve. But there are two different Chicago, there are two different economic realities in Chicago. If you’re a Chicago-based business, you should be invested selfishly in ensuring that all 77 neighborhoods in Chicago are experiencing economic growth. So your business can grow, this isn’t an point of altruism. It is a point of expanding your total addressable market, is getting every American to participate fully in our economy. So for us, it is a mesh with our mission. It helps us do our job better, it helps us meet our mission, it helps us be a more successful company when we focus on those things that are important to all of our stakeholders.

John: Well, like you said, the Chatham Customer Care Center, it’s just good business and I bet you Whitehall is going to turn out to be just good business for Discover. Talk to me a…

Matt: I tend to ensure that is true, John.

John: You’re going to come back on and we’re going to talk about the success of Whitehall. Talk a little bit about how Discover uses your products for a purpose such as your Discover IT secured card, your Discover cash back, heavy card, love that cash back. Talk a little bit about purpose and products and how you interrelated to and the importance of that Nexus.

Matt: Yeah, I think I’m more excited about what is to come even more so than what we, what we have done, but what is to come there because I do think that that is an even deeper commitment to using our products is a natural outgrowth of the success we’ve seen. Again, in an employment strategy we see what could happen. One of the key learnings for me is to talk to folks about, one of the things that work in Chatham is we’re going to do this anyway, it’s not a bulletin, it’s just finding a way to do what we’re already going to do anyway but do it in a way that advanced equity.

So I think we have incredible opportunity to do that with our products. We are a kind of prime lender, that is our business model and we’re not changing our business model. So you’re not going to see Discover dive into new areas that we haven’t been because of a focus on ESG or Impact, but we do have a great platform like you said, so we have a secured card, that really does help folks graduate who have had credit troubles to be able to get that secured card and be able to graduate and we think we receive the same level of customer service of all of our products.

We have a cash back debit and one that we’re doing a new national launch on a revamped cash back debit starting in a month or so, really focused on having your debit product look like giving you the same rewards that your credit product, one of the very few debit products that will give rewards. So again, that are more mass market available than maybe some of our other lending products. So I think we have a great platform to build on and one of the things that we’ve been inspired to do this year is to set our first ever financial inclusion goal because we never as a company had a goal for what are we trying to do in terms of financial inclusion. So when our 2023 ESG report is released next May, you’ll be able to see that. That will be where we stake out what our commitment is, not just in the community development, what we’re doing with our jobs, but also with our products as well.

John: Matt, besides the hats that you wear at Discover with regards to social impact and ESG, which makes you not only diverse by title, but it forces you to be diverse in your thinking and how you see not only what your work at Discover, but the World at large. This is more than just a professional issue with you. This is a DNA issue with regards to your personal life as well. You sit on the board of directors of Little Friends in Chicagoland, a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with autism. Talk a little bit about why that’s important, why giving back your time specifically in autism and if you want to share why you chose that but giving back more of your time to invest in your community and the people in your community that have historically also been left behind and forgotten in terms of the last 50, 60 years of American history.

Matt: Sure. No, thanks, John. I appreciate the offer to talk about that. It’s funny because again, if you think, so 2019, I had DEI as part of my portfolio at Discover, but historically, and because I have been involved for a very long time outside in my professional life with autism inclusion and autism employment, autism support, education, my younger brother, Nate, who’s about five years younger than me, was born with autism. So think back to the late 60s, early 70s, we didn’t have the word. I can still remember my parents seeking help and what is wrong and not being able to get clear diagnosis of what was happening.

It was until they discovered this agency nearby where I live in the western suburbs, that they found Little Friends who was able to give them hope and help. So I could see that as kind of a real-life visceral experience for me. Even as a seven-year-old, an eight-year-old, seeing this happen, it was clearly making an imprint on me that it’s not about, everybody deserves the right to live to their fullest capacity. There is so much in the World that is designed for a very narrow band of what we look like, what we act like, what we think like et cetera, and what can happen in the lives of individuals, in the lives of family when they are given the support they need to fully live out their lives.

So for me, even internal to discover, I still had largely champion disability inclusion. So I had been the executive sponsor when we started our first disability-based employee resource group and I was always a champion there and I could see that our D&I team, it was two people in a company of 20,000 or whatever, and they’re like, yeah. It felt like not a real effort. So that was part of my negotiation, going to HR, you have to give me that and let me invest and grow that. But quite honestly, that was an amazing part of my life is just seeing not just… that is how I entered the World of D&I and I know we’ve renamed it here, DE&I, knowing that equity is such an important part in all aspects of diversity and really understanding and embracing intersectionality.

So I just feel like, so if that was 2019, the last four years of my life have been this amazing learning curve and amazing growth curve in seeing and taking as much passion as I’ve historically had around disability with all aspects of diversity and truly trying to make a World and helping Discover, be a company that internally and externally who we are for the folks who come here and give their lives to help us be a great company and those who we serve externally, our customers, that we are making the World just a little bit better for everybody and more accessible. More people can meet their full capacity and again, then as a result, we can all benefit from a World in which that’s true.

John: I love that. If I’m not mistaken, Matt, there’s about 63 million people who are legally disabled in the United States and to leave them behind and like you said, not allow them to meet their potential, just not right. There’s nothing right about that.

Matt: Now go through, take that and put it through all kinds of lenses of diversity and groups that have a marginalized, and groups that have, where there are systemic issues, preventing them from having the same level of access and opportunity that we’ve enjoyed and just think of what the world could look like if we even have any incremental gains in that. Again, corporations like Discover have an important part of it. We are the only ones that can bring jobs at scale. So we have a real opportunity to make an impact, to do what we’re already going to do to be a great company with great culture, great products, really proud of who we are as a company and also be more sustainable and make the World more sustainable and more equitable for all as well.

John: I love it. How’s Nate doing now?

Matt: He’s good. It was a big week. The agency moved his… they bought a new building and so they moved his… he works in a kind of supported employment workshop. So, change is tough. So now you imagine you aggregate up a couple 100 folks who change adverse and we’re going to move you.

John: I think human nature is change averse. I think we’re all change is averse. So for anybody I think change is difficult. So…

Matt: That’s right. But he’s doing good. We get to see him this weekend.

John: Great. That’s awesome. You’ve been there 27 years, Matt, but you’re still… Warren Buffett turned 93 yesterday. You’re still relatively young.

Matt: I’m a baby. Yeah.

John: He turned 93 and he’s as sharp as ever and working away. So it’s a different model than when- I’m 60. So when I was a kid it was 62, when you’re out and you’re out of gesture and obviously all that paradigm has been shattered and the opportunity to keep on going and living with a passion and a purpose and working with a passion and purpose is not now limited by age. So you have a lot of blue sky in front of you. Talk about what’s next at Discover and what gets you out of bed besides Whitehall and what are you excited about, because I know you said you’re even more… when we’re talking about products and purpose, you’re really excited about what’s to come. So give a little bit of what’s to come. So prepare us for the next interview this time next year.

Matt: Yeah. So I think ensuring that both Chatham and Whitehall do meet their full potential is clearly high on the agenda and again, the notion of having an economic impact study so we can really understand and really even make that case stronger for other companies, right? This idea we have just like any kind of marketing funnel, I inspire and motivate, where we are sharing our story, and again, I appreciate the opportunity here. Who are we inviting down to tour the center with us and see and just talk about what others could do.

So seeing more and more corporations in Chicago and across the country being focused on not just doing what they do and not just being great at what they do, but being more sustainable and more equitable through that work is important to inspire and motivate others to do that. Then, yeah, so I think getting that financial inclusion goal and getting on a path in which it’s not, again, just kind of one aspect of who we are or one thing that we’ve done, but something that continues to be part of our DNA is super important.

John: Wonderful, Matt, seriously, we’re going to have you back on after Whitehall opens, and I want you to continue to share your journey and Discover’s journey in sustainability, in ESG, Social Impact and all the great things that you represent and Discover represents. For our listeners and viewers to find Matt, please go to or You can find this ESG report. You can find all his colleagues that are also empowering all this important work at Discover. Matt Johansson, thank you for making the World not only a better place, a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place to live in and for that, I’m super grateful.

Matt: Awesome. Thanks John.

John: This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the World. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit