Local Executive Brings Public Policy, Finance, and Social Leadership Experience to the Premier Technology Professional Association
SAN JOSE, Calif. – July 23, 2020 – The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is proud to announce that it has selected Ahmad Thomas as its new CEO effective August 10, 2020. He succeeds Carl Guardino, who served the group as CEO for more than 23 years.
Thomas, who is a California native and investment banking executive with deep experience in infrastructure finance, public policy, and social leadership, brings a compelling vision to the Leadership Group to drive innovative, measurable public policy outcomes coupled with market-driven private sector solutions. His priorities include initiatives that address the region’s long-standing challenges of housing, transportation and education, as well as catalyzing the most effective racial justice and equity platform in the nation to bring more diversity to Silicon Valley at every level of the workforce through to the c-suites, and the corporate boardrooms.
“We are thrilled to gain Ahmad as our next CEO and look forward to bringing his bold vision to life here in Silicon Valley and beyond,” said Stephen Milligan, chair of the Leadership Group’s board of directors. “Ahmad embraces our organization’s nearly half-century of history in advocating for innovators. And he brings both the vision and the legislative and business experience needed to lead our team into a new decade of new challenges and opportunities.”
The announcement of Thomas’s appointment drew wide praise and support:
- U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein:
“I’ve known Ahmad Thomas since 2005 when he served as my senior advisor for economics and business issues. Ahmad showed a keen understanding of complex subjects, insight that has only grown over the years. His work at Barclays, where he focused on financial matters and public policy across the Silicon Valley, will be of great value in his role as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Ahmad’s practical understanding of how businesses interact with the community will be invaluable as he carries on the work of Carl Guardino, who made transportation, housing and career development cornerstone issues for the SVLG. I look forward to working with Ahmad in his new role and thank Carl for his many years of partnership.”
- San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo:
“Ahmad Thomas is the right leader to keep moving the organization forward, building on the great work and tremendous legacy of Carl Guardino and the SVLG team. Our Valley needs someone with Ahmad’s extensive experience in the private and public sectors, his collaborative spirit, and his creative intellect.”
- Kim Polese, Chairman of CrowdSmart:
“Ahmad’s breadth of experience across policy, finance and his proven leadership clearly established him as the best choice for the CEO role. What really stands out is the depth of his vision of inclusive prosperity and his ability to build collaborative partnerships to lead our member companies in solving the serious issues our region faces related to affordable housing, transportation, education and equity.”
Thomas intends to partner with the Leadership Group’s member company executives, elected officials, and community leaders to make a more equitable Silicon Valley that leaves no community behind. Some of Thomas’s early priorities include addressing transportation infrastructure funding shortfalls, rededication to community college programming that connects two-year degree candidates with good jobs in technology and leveraging member company investments to support more than $1 billion in affordable housing, renewable energy, and social impact infrastructure projects annually. As part of the organization’s mission toward racial justice, Thomas advocates for a strong platform focused on the dual goals of helping member companies to identify and hire more underrepresented minorities while also outlining concrete solutions to fund more Black-owned and Latinx-owned startups.
“Ahmad understands the primary concerns faced by workers and residents in the Bay Area including cost of housing, economic dislocation and the racial disparities that exist in the tech industry,” said Jed York, incoming chair of the Leadership Group’s board of directors. “As a leader who has made strides in bettering the community throughout his career, we are very excited by the impact he will make with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.”
Carl Guardino, outgoing CEO of the Leadership Group, said he is excited by the selection of Thomas. “Running track in school, we learned how to successfully pass the baton on to the next runner,” said Guardino. “After nearly 24 years, I am excited to pass the baton of leadership to someone I have known and respected for 16 years, who’s collaboration, courage and creativity will well-serve our 340 Member Companies, our employees and the communities in which we live and conduct business.”
Thomas brings deep expertise in banking, public policy and social leadership that inform his strategy to advance projects that create measurable and sustained impact in the Silicon Valley community. Prior to joining the Leadership Group, Thomas worked for a decade as an investment banker at Barclays where he specialized in structuring and financing public infrastructure, social impact, and development projects across multiple sectors. He held a variety of important roles during his tenure, including leading Barclays’ state of California and Silicon Valley regional municipal banking teams, as well as leading the firm’s public sector coverage of social impact engagements in the 13 western U.S. states.
Thomas has served as a lead banker on transactions totaling nearly $15 billion including several innovative financings, most notably leading the first ever Social Bonds issue for a non-profit in the U.S. municipal bond market. The Social Bonds were issued on behalf of HealthRIGHT 360 – a statewide non-profit healthcare organization providing care for underserved groups including homeless people, and those battling addiction. This successful transaction was recognized as the “Social Project Bond of the Year” by Environmental Finance and ultimately gave second-life to HealthRIGHT 360, to support their critically important work in the Bay Area. He also served as a senior aide to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington, D.C. It was in that capacity where he first worked with the Leadership Group on a variety of economic and tax issues relevant to sustaining the competitive edge that makes Silicon Valley the world’s technology capital – and saw firsthand the importance of the work the Leadership Group does in strengthening its communities through impactful initiatives.
As the Senator’s advisor on finance and economic policy, he was responsible for tax, financial services, critical infrastructure, federal budget, and labor issues. There he helped to develop five bills signed into law at the height of the Great Recession, including housing-focused legislation that reformed mortgaging industry lending practices (the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act) and standardized FDIC procedures on foreclosure prevention. Thomas also represented the Senator in hundreds of meetings with municipalities, elected officials, entrepreneurs, and business executives where he prioritized open communication and developed a solutions-oriented approach to resolving challenges.
He will be just the fourth CEO in Leadership Group’s 43-year history, and its first African-American CEO after an exhaustive executive search process that emphasized experience, proven leadership capacity, creativity and access to a diverse field of candidates from which to find its next leader.
“As the economic capital of California, Silicon Valley is looked to as a leader in economic growth, innovation, public policy and now, more than ever social issues,” said Thomas. “Our community has always had serious issues to tackle, but with unprecedented economic challenges brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and reckoning with systemic racism, we need to lead with industry-wide initiatives that drive both the national dialogue and bring about real, measurable change. My vision for the Leadership Group is to face these issues head-on as an industry and community.”
Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, Master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He serves on the Board of Directors of HealthRIGHT 360 and volunteers time in advisory roles at several start-up companies, including a healthcare-related venture that was recently selected for Y Combinator. Thomas was recognized as a 2018 “Rising Star” by The Bond Buyer, the leading municipal bond market publication. He has also received a prestigious Barclays Global Citizenship and Diversity Award for his transaction work as a banking deal team lead in enabling sustainable growth.
Thomas lives in Menlo Park with his wife, Dr. Reena Thomas, and two sons. Dr. Thomas is a practicing neurologist at Stanford Hospital; in addition to serving on the medical faculty she leads diversity pipeline efforts in medical education at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Thomas is an avid football and Bay Area sports fan, and enjoys active outdoor pursuits having participated in a National Outdoor Leadership School expedition trekking across a glacier in Alaska.
About Silicon Valley Leadership Group
The Leadership Group, founded in 1978 by David Packard of Hewlett-Packard, represents more than 340 of Silicon Valley’s most respected employers on issues and campaigns that affect the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley, including education, energy, environment, health, housing, tax policies, tech and innovation and transportation. Leadership Group members collectively provide nearly one of every three private sector jobs in Silicon Valley. For more information, visit svlg.org.
Kyle McGuire, AMF Media Group