A new on-site counseling service has launched for 6000 Sodexo healthcare employees to help them deal with the pressures of working through the COVID-19 pandemic. The service has been designed to support frontline keyworkers, predominantly based at acute hospitals, and improve their quality of life.
Posted on August 3rd, 2020 | By Neil Nixon
It was launched at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust by an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist in June. A team of dedicated counsellors will be available for face to face sessions with staff who request an appointment.
Stuart Winters, Sodexo Healthcare UK and Ireland CEO, said: “Our staff perform their jobs at the highest level in the face of an unprecedented situation. Our on-site HR and learning and development teams recognised the negative impact COVID-19 was and continues to have on both the psychological and emotional health of our employees. This new service, along with our existing range of health and wellbeing tools, should help to alleviate some of the pressure of working through a global pandemic.”
The counselling approach was developed following a review into the global pandemic response of Sodexo. It has been designed to respond to the needs of frontline, supervisory and management employees. The service will be available at all large and medium acute hospitals, as well as a select number of smaller contracts, alongside Sodexo’s existing suite of wellbeing tools. Initially launching on a three-month trial, the new counselling provision will be evaluated and expanded depending on its success.
On Wall Street, being Black often means being alone, held back, deprived of the best opportunities. Here, Black men and women tell their stories.
Posted August 3rd, 2020 | By Max Abelson, Sonali Basak, Kelsey Butler, Matthew Leising, Jenny Surane, and Gillian Tan. Illustration by Alexis Eke
It might seem impossible to tell the history of Black people on Wall Street. That’s because the finance industry shut African Americans out of its executive suites and banking partnerships and off trading floors for decades. Even now, despite diversity programs and pledges to do better, Wall Street’s highest echelons lack Black faces, with rare exceptions.
Another challenge to telling the story of African Americans in finance is that the people who’ve lived it blazed wildly different paths. There is no one definitive experience.
But all their stories matter. What happens inside this industry ripples out into American wallets, homes, neighborhoods, corporations, and government. Outright racism and institutional failings on Wall Street have limited Black wealth and dreams. But African-American bankers have also sometimes helped pave the way for others to succeed.
This year’s corporate avowals, workplace statistics, and diversity benchmarks have risen in a cacophony that risks drowning out the very voices they’re meant to spotlight.
Some of those voices, edited for brevity and clarity, speak out on these pages. They reflect decades of a Black presence on Wall Street, from just a few years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to today, amid fury over George Floyd’s death at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Some made it to the top, some left disenchanted. Some became rich, some were so marginalized they had to sue.
Some think Wall Street is hopeless, some are more optimistic than ever. —Kelsey Butler and Max Abelson
Racquel Oden, 47, is northeast divisional director for the consumer bank and wealth management business at JPMorgan Chase & Co., overseeing 10,000 employees. She began her career in 1997 as an equity trader at Morgan Stanley and has also held roles at Merrill Lynch and UBS Group AG.
I didn’t have any family who ever worked on Wall Street, so it wasn’t anything I knew. I had an unusual career in that I graduated with my MBA from Hampton University, an HBCU [historically Black college or university], which is very different, and was recruited to Morgan Stanley and joined the equity division, which started my career on Wall Street.
Both my parents were immigrants to this country, and I was the first to attend college and experience life here in the United States. With that, I was definitely taught to have a strong work ethic: Focus on your education. Did I ever feel [I had] to be twice as good? A hundred percent. I was a Black woman on Wall Street, so I knew that was par for the course.
Tessie Petion was an intern at Citigroup Inc. before she took a job at Deutsche Bank AG following graduation. After heading environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research at HSBC Holdings Plc, she left in May to join Amazon.com Inc. as head of ESG engagement.
I was a junior in college [in the late 1990s]. I did an internship with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity [a nonprofit that offers educational and career support to young people from underserved communities]. I went down to New York for the interview. I had interviewed before but had never had a very corporate job before. I expressed a preference for consulting. SEO actually gave me an offer for investment banking. The great thing about SEO is that you had essentially 200 interns who were people of color—Asian, Black, Latino, East Asian, and South Asian, a bunch of kids who were from all over the place.
I never, ever thought that I would be in banking, never considered it. I had an information systems background. Banking seemed very much like, you know, the movie Wall Street. I didn’t see a lot of me in the movie Wall Street.
And so when I got the internship [at Citi] I was like, OK, well, let’s give this a shot. Definitely not a world I considered.
Jared Johnson, 30, is the co-founder of the apparel brand Season Three Inc. He became a JPMorgan Chase & Co. associate in 2015 but decided to leave in 2017. This year he graduated with master’s degrees from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
I’m originally from St. Louis. I went to college at Purdue. I was paying a ton of money to go there, and I was going to have a ton of debt. I took this accounting class that was notorious for being the weed-out class. I did incredibly well in it. And afterward, I felt, maybe this just comes naturally to me. I was hyperdetermined and hyperfocused in a way that I’d be shocked if I could ever get back there again in life. I made everything about landing that job. I read every book. I did everything. So when I finally was placed [through SEO] in JPMorgan, I was very excited. I was like, This is my opportunity.
I had a few suits at the time. I remember having this gray suit, a light gray suit, and then I probably had this black suit. And I remember showing up to JPMorgan, and everyone wears a dark blue suit. I didn’t know that was the Wall Street look. Dark blue suit, white shirt, black shoes.
I’m remembering a room, 10 to 12 people, all the Black interns. This one [older Black colleague] would invite everybody to this meeting. He basically would explain the fact that you were highly visible as a Black employee in the bank. And everything you did, good or bad, would be magnified: “So if you’re really good here, and you shine during the summer, a lot of people will notice it. And if you’re really bad, or you mess up here and there, a lot of people will take notice of that.”
One of the things he would say is that on the private-banking side “your career trajectory was limited as a Black person. And the reason why was at a certain point it becomes about who you know. It’s all personal relationships that matter. If you grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and you just happen to know a lot of people who have money, you could be successful, because you could call on your friends’ parents and hopefully get some of them to become clients.”
His argument was, you don’t have that. You don’t have that luxury. So you probably won’t be able to generate business. You basically have a ceiling on your career in the private bank [and should] find roles in investment management.
I get a phone call from someone in HR. If you were doing a movie, it was one of those highlights. You get the call, and you jump with joy. I made my entire college experience about getting this job. Now I had it.
I invested in a closet full of dark blue suits and white shirts.
Anré Williams, 55, is group president of American Express Co.’s global merchant and network services unit, which handles relationships with banks and merchants that accept AmEx around the world. Williams joined AmEx’s marketing division full time in 1990 after interning at the company.
I was the first person in my family to go to college, so I kind of learned as I went. [At Stanford,] I majored in economics, and I decided when I was an undergrad I wanted to work in business in some capacity. I wasn’t sure what industry. I didn’t know if it would be in accounting or in finance or in marketing or in sales or manufacturing. I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to work in business.
I knew that at some point I may have to get an MBA if I wanted to be able to be equipped to excel at the highest levels of business.
At the time, I would often look for information, for inspiration, or for role models or people who had charted a path. I would look for books, or biographies, or newspaper articles, or magazine articles. One magazine I used to read often—cover to cover—was Black Enterprise, because it highlighted African-American executives or entrepreneurs who were successful in business.
I read about Reginald Lewis, an entrepreneur who did one of the largest leveraged buyouts of the time. Or Barry Rand, who was an executive at Xerox in the late ’80s and ’90s. Or Ken Chenault, who was at American Express. Reading about people to inspire me, to see what their paths were. Where did they go to school? Where did they work before? What industries were they in? What did they major in? Those types of things. To get a sense of how they charted their path.
I ended up working for a couple of years after undergrad and went to business school at Wharton. I majored in marketing when I was there and [minored in] real estate finance. I wasn’t sure what company to join or what industry, but I knew [Wharton] would be great training. I wanted to work in product management and marketing for the summer, and American Express was one of the companies that offered me a summer internship. I joined for the summer and had a fantastic experience and ended up coming back to American Express full time, and I’ve been in the company ever since.
Chris White, 45, has worked for Salomon Smith Barney, MarketAxess, Barclays, and Goldman Sachs Group. He is the chief executive officer of advisory firm Viable Mkts LLC and BondCliQ, a centralized bond trading platform. (Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with BondCliQ in providing bond-price information.)
I often say to people, “I’m the least-educated person in my family.” My parents both have master’s degrees. My father had an MBA from Columbia that he got in the early ’70s, and my mother has probably about four master’s degrees in childhood education and in special education. So really, really well-educated.
I went to [Phillips Academy] Andover for high school, and then I went to Brown University. I played basketball there. I didn’t pursue graduate school or anything like that. I found my way to Wall Street because, you know, there’s sort of a steady pipeline of Wall Street executives who played sports. I [took] the traditional Ivy League route: One of the basketball-playing alumni got me a job at Bear Stearns the summer after my freshman year. I was a horrible employee, because I’d never worked in an office before.
Then my junior year, I got a summer job at Smith Barney. And it was just a magical summer. I really enjoyed the work. I was working in mortgage-backed support. The head of fixed income at that time was a Brown alumnus who’d played basketball and actually remains one of my mentors.
One of the things at the time—it was a huge thing: There was a Black trader working on the trading desk, a guy named Mike Baker. And so to me, it was like, well, if he can become a mortgage trader, then I can. You have to imagine going into an industry where you are so often the only one. That already sends a signal as to what’s possible.
There’s not a person today on Wall Street that is successful because they just came in and rocked it. It’s not the way Wall Street works. You come into Wall Street, and then someone takes a vested interest in your success, and they help you.
Racquel Oden: Women don’t apply for jobs unless they feel like they have every qualification. Being a Black woman, I was committed to ensure there was no box I didn’t check. I could do asset management, I could do wealth management, I could do investment banking, I could do retail, I could lead large organizations, I could run strategy, I could handle a P&L [profit and loss statement], I could focus on product distribution. I was going to have all the licenses, I was going to have all the degrees. And I think that was important to me to feel like I could be successful on Wall Street.
I became chief of staff to the president of a pretty large organization at UBS. It happened based on me presenting at a meeting and someone seeing the work that I did and asking me if I would join their team.
It was just a normal executive update, and that day the president showed up—no one even knew he was going to be in the meeting. So it was never intentionally planned that way. But [I] was prepared for my topic, asked three or four very pointed questions, knew my numbers, knew how to respond, and he had heard about the reputation that I had and got to see it in action based on that meeting.
So does that happen often? No. But I think what’s critical and important was that you had a senior person—a White male—who saw something in some way that said, “I want that person on my team.”
You need to be prepared at all moments, because you never know when “that moment” is. I wouldn’t have known that that meeting was going to be “the moment.” I always bring 110%. I’m always overprepared, and I always want to make sure it’s that level of quality at all times.
[That job] gave me exposure at a very senior level to understanding large organizations and running them at the executive committee level. Today, leading an organization of 10,000 people, I obviously get to leverage [that].
Tessie Petion: At my internship at Citi, the MD [managing director] of the group was a woman, but six months into my career at Deutsche Bank, I moved to London where I worked on the trading floor, and quite consistently, I was the woman of color—rather, I should say, I was the Black woman. To everyone’s credit, no one was blatantly racist to me.
At one of the banks I worked at there was a forum on diversity, and there was a presentation. They pulled together all of the diverse members of the team. It was divisionwide. Literally, I’m not exaggerating when I say it was me made to look like a collage of pictures. You could spot me in the class, several times. There was me, [and] an East Asian woman—she’s actually Brazilian but of East Asian descent—and a South Asian man.
We played “spot each other” [on the] huge collage. I was on it at least three times, if not four. The East Asian woman was on it twice. The South Asian man was on it three times. And we said, “OK, if you’re thinking about putting together a diversity panel and you find yourself having to repeat the picture of someone, take a step back and think, OK, we might have a problem.”
It was like, this is a celebration of diversity? And I just remember thinking, Do you not see the irony here? No. OK, great. Awesome.
[SEO was] very good about putting us in front of senior people on Wall Street. There was a woman [Carla Harris], she works at Morgan Stanley. I think when I first met her, she was a director, and now she’s an MD, and she’s on the board of Walmart. They were very good about showing us that there are people who make it at senior levels. But at my firm, I didn’t see that. I saw that it existed. I didn’t see it every day.
People assume a lot about me because I am Black. I have a friend who has worked on Wall Street for the last 17 years, does very well for himself. But people assume because he’s Black he has a disadvantaged background or he’s from some disadvantaged home in the area. None of that is true, but that’s the assumption that’s made. I think that people assume that they know everything there is to know about me because I’m a Black woman from Brooklyn, and I’m pleasantly surprised when that is not the case.
Part of the moral of the story is that I am very, very, very used to being the only Black woman in places. At my first grad school, I was the only Black woman in my year—actually in both grad schools, I was the only Black woman. That’s something that’s not uncommon for the folks that end up sticking around on Wall Street.
We have to be supercareful about everything, because if it goes badly with me, then maybe the next time they look at a person of color then they’re like, “Well, we tried that one, right?”
The thing that I say all the time to juniors [in the office] is it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a career, but you do have to know that [being supercareful] is the case all the time. I am being candid, but, I guess, to me, being Black on Wall Street is [being] someone who’s a resilient person, who knows that they might get left out of some conversations but will find a way to get in that conversation anyway, right?
Something that I actually thought was weird: You know, on all these [PowerPoint] decks, here’s my picture everywhere. But it probably helped in some ways socialize the idea that I’m the one coming in, that I’m the one that’s leading the meeting, that I’m the one that sets the pace. A big part of that was who I worked with. My bosses at the end at HSBC, if we had a meeting in the U.S., it was my meeting. If someone tried to talk to them because they were men or non-Black, they’d be like, “This is Tessie’s meeting.”
Jared Johnson: I had no connections to Wall Street. I didn’t know anyone who worked for a bank. Outside of TV shows, movies, it really was just a figment of my imagination. When I was in college, I was reading the Wall Street Journal, reading the Financial Times, trying to educate myself as much as I could.
I built this construct in my mind of what it was like to work on Wall Street. That construct really was that all of my colleagues, everybody I worked with, would be exceptionally smart, because the bar to get into the door was so high. I had a concept of all the forces that would work in the opposite direction of that: structural racism, unconscious bias, nepotism in some cases. I think I had a loose idea of how those things factor into a workplace like JPMorgan.
But I still expected a level of excellence and a level of intelligence. I would ask myself, Who interviewed this person? How did they get here? Because frankly they weren’t that bright. Some people wouldn’t even pass the test in my mind that they would be able to convince someone else of their brightness. And that flat-out surprised me.
[But] you can’t skate by at the same level of your White colleagues. You have to be excellent in order to succeed.
My expectation working there the whole time was if I’m going to walk into a room with 10 people, I’m probably going to be the only Black person there.
I moved to a role that was more of a sales support role. I worked mainly with this one guy. He dressed very well, I guess, in a cheesy Wall-Street-guy way. He had nice watches and drove a Porsche. Slicked-back hair. I never liked him. And the feedback he would always give me was to be more vocal or more emotional. I would never have raised my voice, or showed any emotion, or cried at the office. His remark was, “I can’t even tell if you are enjoying what you’re doing, or if you’re happy, or celebrating.”
“Fit” was this subjective idea about what JPMorgan’s culture is currently like. JPMorgan is very proud of the culture it has.
What they were doing was almost training you to learn the language, learn the customs. We were taught and groomed how to operate in a White corporate world. People are very resistant to give up any elements, traditions of the White corporate American culture to make room for something that looks different.
I landed on this team that called on independent investment advisers and ended up having a really great experience. My standing and stature grew, because I was in a position where I was highly valued. I felt I was in a space where I was given a lot of autonomy. I was respected and valued by the members on my team, and felt I was in this zone of growth.
By the time I left, I had a full beard, and my hair was much longer, and I was much more comfortable being closer to what I felt was myself at the office. I felt that was something I had to earn. I certainly felt I carved out more space to be myself and built a reputation with people that gave me more latitude to take risks and bring more of my full self to work. But I don’t think, even at the end, I would be able to tell you that I felt at home.
Anré Williams: Seeing people who you feel are like you or are similar to you—that you feel have done what you aspire to do—shows you that it can happen for you. It’s a physical demonstration that it can be done. And I always say that if you can see it and you believe it, then you can achieve it.
That’s, in a way, what Ken [Chenault, AmEx CEO from 2001 to 2018] was to me.
Just imagine being 19 or 20 years old and reading about people that I didn’t know that I thought did something amazing that I aspired to. Seeing Ken, among others, on the cover of Black Enterprise magazine at that age, it was really inspiring to me, because that told me that it was possible. It was hard. It would be difficult. But it was possible. And that’s what it was.
It just so happens that I was placed in the same business unit as a marketing summer intern where Ken was. And knowing that the senior leaders in our business unit reported up to him and that I was working on PowerPoint presentations that he would ultimately review and decide on with them was something that was inspiring to me.
I wanted to work in a company where I felt that I would get a fair shot. And some of the other companies I interviewed at—they were top-notch companies—but I wasn’t convinced that they had enough diversity within the executive and senior ranks to make me feel that if I was there I would get a fair chance. Having Ken and others like him at American Express made me feel more comfortable joining the firm.
Unfortunately, there have been injustices in the world and racial problems in America for hundreds of years. It’s not anything new. And as someone who’s African American and in the Black community, the way that my generation was taught was don’t let those things get in the way of you trying to produce and excel and succeed. You can’t let outside influences deter you, because it’s a burden to carry. It’s a lot to think about.
And that’s the part that’s difficult, because you’re taught to compartmentalize, to not let outside influences deter you from the path that you had inside of your corporate environment. And because of that, sometimes people don’t bring their whole self to work. Over the years, you might not want to talk about how you truly feel about things going on, because you don’t want to get into a divisive racial conversation with people in the workplace.
You just want to focus on the content—the content of whatever it is that you’re doing. And it’s difficult to do that. It’s who you are and how you were born, and you’re not able to ignore it, but then you’re told to try to minimize it in some ways to try to make sure that you make people feel comfortable, that you’re not consistent with whatever their stereotypes are. So you can try to focus on performance. And that’s really the thing.
So these things come up like, you know, the Rodney King beating [by Los Angeles police in 1991]. It’s not a topic that you look forward to discussing at work at all, because it gets you into a conversation with a lot of people who may not be well-informed, who may ask a lot of questions which are full of bias. It takes your energy away from the positivity you’re trying to keep to excel in your business career.
That sometimes is unavoidable, because you’re in a group discussion, and it comes up, and you have to deal with it. But it’s not something that anybody that I knew, back in the early ’90s, looked forward to discussing at work, because it was just a negative reminder about how unfair things are, and how they work, and unfortunately how they still are in America.
O.J. Simpson and the Bronco chase and his trial—that was another difficult time, when in America every poll said that there was a difference in the way that White Americans saw that whole episode and the way Black Americans saw it. You didn’t really want to talk about it at work in a group of people, unless you had to, because there were very different views about it.
Chris White: There’s a theme here to the problems with being Black on Wall Street. It’s a problem of perception. You’re perceived in ways that are unrecognizable from how you perceive yourself. That’s where the problem really starts.
That manifests itself in two very clear ways: It manifests itself in benefit of the doubt, and it manifests itself in terms of leadership opportunities. Two people could be saying the exact same thing. In one case, someone’s given the benefit of the doubt. They’re believed. They’re trusted. In another case, they’re doubted. They’re not listened to. They’re not heard. And it’s painfully obvious to you when you’re not.
[At Smith Barney] it was all great until there was a merger with Salomon Brothers, and everybody I knew from that mortgage desk got fired. And then they moved me. I wanted to stay in fixed income, so I ended up landing on the municipal side of the business.
By the way, a lot of Black people get put into munis.
It’s the sort of unwritten rule on Wall Street, because there are minority mandates around new deals for munis. That’s always been an area of the market where you have more Black representation.
So that’s where I really started to get my first taste of what it’s like to be Black on Wall Street. I was on the institutional sales desk, and I’m not blameless. I was a young kid. There’s also quite a bit of hazing sometimes, especially when I was coming up in the late ’90s. One day I responded back to someone hazing. I don’t know what I said. I probably snapped back and said something.
I got pulled into a room the next day by the head of the desk, [who] told me that the person I responded to felt physically threatened by me. I’ve never been in a fistfight in my life, so to hear that somebody felt physically threatened—this is what I mean by benefit of the doubt.
Physically threatened? I guess because it was coming from me, the head of the desk deemed it important to actually have a one-on-one conversation with me about it. And the messaging I got from that wasn’t, “Hey, you were physically threatening to someone.” The message I got was, “Watch the way you stand up for yourself.”
It was so shocking for me. It really soured me, too. I left soon after that, because I got a job to trade at a hedge fund. That was sort of short-lived, because the dot-com bubble burst, and Sept. 11 happened, and the market became something totally different.
Electronic trading and innovation in the bond market became something that I was obsessed with. I worked for a startup that then became public, and from there, I ended up moving over to the sell side, going back to traditional Wall Street. But I was going back not as a salesperson or trader. I was going back as someone who was supposed to be leading innovation.
Sometimes you’re in the room, and you might be invisible. One time, I was in the room, and we were talking about a vendor, and the head of sales didn’t like the CEO of this vendor, and he said, “I wouldn’t trust that brown fork-tongued devil farther than I could throw him.” Now, I’m there, so I can’t imagine what’s being said when I’m not in the room. And it just sends a message to you. There’s locker room talk, and we all get it. But it definitely, definitely sends a message.
I was lucky enough to eventually, through another major merger, work for a guy who was really well-respected on Wall Street. The business at the time had asked him to write a plan around modernization of the global credit desk. I ended up writing probably about 80% of that plan. He presented it. He ended up leaving, but before he left, he went to the business, and he said, “Listen, Chris White wrote that plan. I didn’t really write it.”
He did something very kind. He actually validated my contribution. See, that’s something that is very frustrating, that some people don’t recognize about the perception issue. I needed a White guy to validate me with other White guys, because there’s no way I could have been validated just on my contribution alone.
There comes a time in any job when you want to be valued as an employee. You’ve got to take your boss aside, and you’ve got to say, “This is what my expectation is. How do I get there?” So, I took my new boss aside: “This all has to do with perception of value. I wrote the plan. I’m implementing the plan.” My ask isn’t outrageous, and [yet] he’s telling me I should probably look for another job.
If I stay in a place where my boss says something like that to me, whose responsibility is it? Whose problem is it? That’s my fault.
I was incredibly optimistic about the next place I was going to, because here was a big quote-unquote important dealer. They’d hired me to do a job that was on the cutting edge. I was one of the few people in the world that could do it. And I’m sitting there, and I’m saying, This is going to be great. I’m going to have a fantastic career. I’m starting out as a VP, I’ll go to MD, and who knows what’s after that.
I remember saying to my wife, “This new place that I work at, I think they have more Black traders and Black salespeople than all of the other Tier 1 dealers combined.”
We’re not quota people on Wall Street, [but] we are consistently viewed that way.
One time, I had my boss speaking to me, and I just was drifting off because of the way he was speaking to me. I was thinking to myself, “You know what? If we matched résumés right now, in terms of just academic accomplishments and all of those things, I would trump yours. In fact, I bet you if we matched our parents’ résumés, my parents would trump your parents. And I bet you if we matched our grandparents’ résumés—because my grandfather was an appellate court judge—it would probably trump your grandparents. But you’re speaking to me as if somehow, I snuck my way in here.”
There is something really maddening where people seem to judge whether or not you’re worthy of being there without ever looking at you with objectivity. If you wanted to look at me objectively, I was just like all those guys are on the floor. I was a boarding school guy. I was an Ivy League guy. There’s only one thing different [about] me [and] anybody else.
I really hit my stride there. And I ended up building some really cool stuff. Not once was I ever considered for promotion or for leadership.
There was a seminal moment that made me realize that no matter what I did at this bank, I was never going to move forward. This is what happened. Because of what I have built in the bond market, I developed a bit of a name. One day my phone rings, and it’s someone representing the European Union, [from] a regulatory body out of Brussels. They say, “Hey, we’ve heard about you. We know that you are an expert in bond market liquidity. We would love for you to come to Brussels and give a talk on this to our group.”
Can you imagine how hard it is to become recognized to the point where you get a cold call from the head of a f—ing European regulatory body? You’ve got to really be doing some stuff.
Anyway, I bring it to whatever sort of organization internally [is required] to evaluate these things. They’re like, “This is awesome—we love doing favors for regulators, which is always good relationship building. Let’s have a meeting.” In the meeting, I’m explaining what the problem is. I’m leading the meeting. And then it seems that at the end of the meeting, the takeaway is: Chris White, can you please write up the talking points?
At that time, there’s nobody in the bank on this topic of bond market liquidity that would be more informed than me. I don’t care what their title was. I don’t care how long they have been there.
I write the talking points.
They sent someone else. If I can’t represent this bank on a topic that not only in this bank, but probably worldwide I’m a recognized expert in, then when can I represent the bank? But it’s really f—ing hard, man, to explain to me why I didn’t get the look to go.
Wall Street has a problem with Black excellence. And what I mean by Black excellence is most supersuccessful people in Wall Street or in industry are just really excellent at stuff. That’s how they got there, right? That’s how they did it. But when someone’s excellent as a Black person, as a trader, or as a salesperson, or in my role as a strategist, as an inventor, it’s not embraced.
I’m randomly walking on the floor about two weeks later, and one of the few Black partners pulls me aside. I don’t know this guy. I know him by name. But I don’t really know him. And he says, “Chris, your bosses wanted me to speak to you. I actually don’t understand what the problem is. I’ve observed you being a really capable guy. I thought that maybe you would lean on me for how to navigate here as a Black person. You never seem to need me. I’ve actually found that quite refreshing. And I saw that you knew your s—. And I was like, I thought that they would love you. For some reason, they don’t like you.”
Now, that said two things to me. One, it told me that my bosses perceived my issue as being a Black issue. Why? Because they sent a Black guy to randomly talk to me. Why didn’t they send one of the partners in the business that I worked in every day? They sent him. Imagine you were the only Jewish guy at a firm. Imagine you were the only gay person at a firm or the only woman at a firm. And the random person that comes to talk to you about what’s going on happens to be Jewish, or gay, or a woman.
The other thing that it told me—this was a very profound thing—they don’t like me. And what they don’t like about me is the way that I make them feel. The only thing I can imagine is what they did not like from me is the level of confidence I have around my content and my natural desire and leadership abilities. They didn’t like that. Now, what’s amazing about that is like other people, depending on what they look like, those are the intangibles that they make you a partner. And so, again, I’m responsible for my own career, so I know I got to go.
Racquel Oden: I call this moment hopeful. And I am superhopeful. I believe, truly believe, that this is a moment that feels so different this time, and that it can be different. I’m committed to making it real, personally. And I think that’s what we all have to say, right? We’ve got to hope and believe, and then we have to be committed to making it real.
I would probably push a little further on mentors and sponsors. A mentor is that person that you can bounce an idea [off of], get some advocacy from. But what’s really critical is sponsorship—that senior executive that’s going to be your advocate whether you are in the room or not and who is looking at you as the next talent.
If you can’t find yourself in your organization, that’s why outside networks are extremely important. Certainly [that’s the case] in my own personal cabinet of senior executives that look like me, other Black females and Black males. You’ve got to be able to speak to others who understand the things that you’re going through that are specific to what they’re experiencing as well. You can’t look in one place for it. I think you have to have that circle of trust.
If we think about where we were as Blacks on Wall Street, that number hasn’t improved. If you think about where we are as Black females on Wall Street, that number certainly hasn’t improved. So statistically it hasn’t changed.
But is the conversation different, and do we feel this could be a turning point where we can finally change the statistics? I think that’s what’s different. And I think that’s what’s going to be really critical as we think about this moment. How do we make this moment more than a moment, where we actually have what I call sustainable change and real impact, so we’re not repeating statistics again?
I would tell my younger self, “You’re going to find it harder, you’re going to work harder, you’re going to experience more obstacles, but your persistence and drive and faith are going to allow you to have a journey that will make it better for your daughter and girls that are coming behind you.” And I’d end it with, “I see you. I see you.” —Kelsey Butler
Tessie Petion: Wall Street is not doing a good enough job thinking about why people fall out. We expect juniors to fall out, but midcareer? That’s the vulnerability for many people. Why are people falling out midcareer? I think that 100% can be improved. If you’re midcareer, it either means you were a junior and kept at it, or it means you came in post-business school. But either way, that’s the point in your career where you’re likely to stay somewhere for maybe five, six years.
Post-financial crisis, if you are a junior and you have offers from an investment bank and a tech company, I think at this point you’re more likely to pick the tech company. Amazon is 26 years old, and nothing we do is “because we did this 20 years ago.”
The whole point of diversity—the proof case of diversity—is that you have people that come to the table with different experiences. I think about systemic inequality, because maybe it’s something I might have experienced. So I push you to think about it differently. It’s hard, though. I didn’t sense the pushback was because I was a Black woman. I think the pushback is because Wall Street doesn’t historically think deeply.
That’s what ESG tries to change. But 20 years ago, if I tried to have that [ESG] conversation at an investment bank, they would have laughed me out of the room. I don’t think it’s different because of who I am. I think it is because status quo works, right?
Obviously, I got hired at a very senior level at Amazon. Now I am [a mentor]. And to be fair, I was that person for several people at HSBC. I can say that I think that there were lots of juniors who saw me there and thought, OK, maybe I can do this, right? Yes. And so I did think about that a lot when I left. I’m the person, and I’m leaving. What does that mean? How did they interpret that?
The VP of customer fulfillment—obviously that’s a big deal for Amazon—is a Black woman. I looked at the person who does transportation, and that’s a Black man. Anyone who is a VP at Amazon is someone who could be a CEO of a smaller company. I looked and said, Can I see myself on that trajectory? I think I can. But I was really conscious of the fact that by leaving the bank, I was one less person that modeled, “This is how you can do Wall Street at HSBC.”
I was lucky to only sort of bookend my career [in finance]. I was a junior, and then I came back in supersenior. And so that’s really specific to my career. For sure there have been people that have been allies that have been really helpful.
At the bank, there have been people that have said, “I’m looking out for you and making sure that you have all of the [opportunities] possible.” One hundred percent that happened to me at HSBC. It’s what put me into the room. I guess my expertise did it. But also you had people that said, “Hey, I want to make sure you find this person.” You always need that first opportunity in order to get the rest of them. —Gillian Tan
Jared Johnson: The summer at the bank would look different than the winter at the bank, because there were a lot more young Black people [interning]. [But they] didn’t get offers.
I did internalize a lot of those messages to be a nonthreatening Black person to White people. As traditional as they come: That’s the idea. Wear a suit. Present yourself this way, so people don’t feel a sense that this is uncomfortable. You don’t want to look like you’re overindulging.
It was all of these rules. The way I would describe it is “respectability strategy.” It’s this idea of, if you can show up and show proof that you’re more professional, more buttoned-up, more polished, than your peers, then you’ll overcome whatever challenges are thrown your way. Because you don’t fit the stereotypes of what people think about Black people. —Max Abelson
Anré Williams: People still say in the workplace, “Don’t talk about race, don’t talk about religion, don’t talk about politics.” And people try to do that. But I think what’s happened now in [the aftermath of George Floyd’s death] is that we’ve gotten to a point where people know they can’t remain silent.
Remaining silent in a way is almost an implicit acknowledgment that you’re OK with the way things are and you’re just going to ignore it. And people aren’t comfortable ignoring it anymore or allowing it to be ignored. And that’s what’s different right now, I think.
You want people to feel comfortable being who they are at work and being comfortable doing that. I think as the years have gone by, more and more people are encouraged to do that. Whether it’s someone’s sexual preference or orientation, whether it’s gender, whether it’s religion—I mean, people are encouraged to be a little bit more open and forthright about who they are and what their needs or expectations are. And I think that’s a good thing, because that’s a big part of their life. It’s who they are, and that shouldn’t take away from the talent and what they can produce.
Over the years, I was involved in campus recruiting and making sure that—if I wanted the company to have diversity—I should be one of the people to go on campus. With what happened [this year], it just struck a chord with me that things were really, really bad. And I just didn’t feel that I could remain silent. I wanted to be able to say something to all of our Black employees [1,400 or so] in our network in the United States. And I wanted them to hear from me directly.
A few people reached out to me and said they were going through a lot, and they thought it was really difficult. And so I just wanted them to hear from me. I want to share my feelings. I want them to know that I found the recent instance to be horrific, to be inexcusable, and to be maddening.
But I also wanted to share personally that at times I feel terrified about the things that could happen to me or to my friends or to my relatives or to my son in a world which sometimes is completely unpredictable. You just don’t know how things can go sideways sometimes when they shouldn’t. The point I was trying to make to all of them [in an internal video] is that everybody is going through a lot emotionally, but they need to remain positive.
The video ended up being shared internally by other leaders with their teams. I think people were surprised that it was personally coming from me and it was a personal perspective, because usually I stay focused on the business side and this was really how I feel about this personally.
It’s not like this has never happened before, as if there’s no one that’s ever lost their life as a result of law enforcement being too forceful. It happened with Eric Garner here in New York City. It happened with Philando Castile [in Falcon Heights, Minn.]. It’s happened before. But I think the difference this time is that you’re in the middle of a global health crisis, a global pandemic where everyone in most large cities around the world was required to shelter at home.
So, parents are having to be at home with their kids in the house, sheltering, not sure what’s next. In that environment, we have a lot of emotion, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty. Everyone’s watching television, watching the news, on social media and online.
And then we see these incidents that are happening, and they just get people really upset. It just reminds you that there is racial inequality. That was where I think people finally said enough is enough. And the demonstrations and the protests didn’t just happen in Minneapolis where it started. They had gone global. And when you look at the images of the people who were demonstrating, they weren’t just Black Americans, right? That was the key to me.
The key was it wasn’t just Black Americans. It was all races, all ages. And it wasn’t just U.S. It was global. And to me, that’s so different than anything we’ve ever experienced before. This time just felt very, very different. —Jenny Surane
Chris White: It’s 2020, and you’re like, “Wait, how many Black MDs are there at this global investment bank?” And you’re shocked by the number. That’s because during ’08 or ’09—or any year you can pick that wasn’t such a good year—we definitely feel more susceptible to being let go.
I’ll tell you something I observed. One of the biggest accounts on Wall Street for fixed income as a salesperson is an annuity, because they’re just so big in the volume that they do that you always look like a big producer. Most of the people who are running sales desks or are MDs and things like that, they’re people who cover those accounts.
This young African-American guy wasn’t young—he was like 26, 27—he was the backup coverage on this account. The lead coverage got moved to a different desk. And so they hadn’t figured out who the new coverage was going to be. As the backup coverage, he’s doing all of the work.
And here’s the thing: This is what I mean about when the leadership opportunities come. Here, through natural circumstance, [is] a leadership opportunity where this 27-, 28-year-old kid could be covering this account. That would make him the biggest producer on the desk. Do they let him cover the account? No. They pulled [in] some partner, like out of semiretirement, and that partner covers the account with him remaining as the backup.
Here’s how the story would have been different: They let him cover the account. He knocks the cover off the ball. He then gets fast-tracked to MD. He then becomes the head of the desk at 33 or 34, because he looks like such a frickin’ superstar.
It’s a little butterfly effect, things like that. When people ask me, how come there’s so few desk heads or MDs in this space that are Black? It’s stuff like that.
Why everyone’s interested in this topic right now is George Floyd and police brutality. That’s a perception issue, too. That’s perceiving someone as a threat or being violent or as a criminal just on sight.
On Wall Street, it’s being perceived as not being competent or being too aggressive or not being worthy of leadership based on sight, not on any of the other evidence around you. As a Black professional on Wall Street, you have to figure out how to deal with that.
Here’s the last thing: So I’m very happy with my career. I’m not angry about any of this. Are there times where it makes me slightly frustrated hearing some of the bulls—? Yes, of course. But this is not isolated within Wall Street.
So now I’m a tech entrepreneur. Look at my résumé. I worked for one of the most successful fixed-income startups in the history of fixed-income startups. I worked at some of the most prestigious dealers. I have patents in my name for platforms that I’ve built as the lead inventor.
The problems with perception definitely impact my ability to raise money. No question about it. You have to ask yourself a question, and this is a real question: If Mark Zuckerberg was Jamal Zuckerberg, would Facebook exist?
It goes back to that benefit of the doubt. Is it possible that someone could have seen a Black kid who didn’t graduate from Harvard in a hoodie and sneakers and jeans and looked at him and said, “I believe that he’s really onto something here”? —Matthew Leising
Butler covers private credit in New York. Tan, Abelson, Surane, and Basak cover finance in New York. Leising covers market structure in Los Angeles.
(AP) — Who gets to be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine? U.S. health authorities hope by late next month to have some draft guidance on how to ration initial doses, but it’s a vexing decision.
“Not everybody’s going to like the answer,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told one of the advisory groups the government asked to help decide. “There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list.”
Traditionally, first in line for a scarce vaccine are health workers and the people most vulnerable to the targeted infection.
But Collins tossed new ideas into the mix: Consider geography and give priority to people where an outbreak is hitting hardest.
And don’t forget volunteers in the final stage of vaccine testing who get dummy shots, the comparison group needed to tell if the real shots truly work.
“We owe them … some special priority,” Collins said.
Huge studies this summer aim to prove which of several experimental COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. began tests last week that eventually will include 30,000 volunteers each; in the next few months, equally large calls for volunteers will go out to test shots made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. And some vaccines made in China are in smaller late-stage studies in other countries.
For all the promises of the U.S. stockpiling millions of doses, the hard truth: Even if a vaccine is declared safe and effective by year’s end, there won’t be enough for everyone who wants it right away — especially as most potential vaccines require two doses.
It’s a global dilemma. The World Health Organization is grappling with the same who-goes-first question as it tries to ensure vaccines are fairly distributed to poor countries — decisions made even harder as wealthy nations corner the market for the first doses.
In the U.S., the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is supposed to recommend who to vaccinate and when — advice that the government almost always follows.
But a COVID-19 vaccine decision is so tricky that this time around, ethicists and vaccine experts from the National Academy of Medicine, chartered by Congress to advise the government, are being asked to weigh in, too.
Setting priorities will require “creative, moral common sense,” said Bill Foege, who devised the vaccination strategy that led to global eradication of smallpox. Foege is co-leading the academy’s deliberations, calling it “both this opportunity and this burden.”
With vaccine misinformation abounding and fears that politics might intrude, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the public must see vaccine allocation as “equitable, fair and transparent.”
How to decide? The CDC’s opening suggestion: First vaccinate 12 million of the most critical health, national security and other essential workers. Next would be 110 million people at high risk from the coronavirus — those over 65 who live in long-term care facilities, or those of any age who are in poor health — or who also are deemed essential workers. The general population would come later.
CDC’s vaccine advisers wanted to know who’s really essential. “I wouldn’t consider myself a critical health care worker,” admitted Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a pediatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Indeed, the risks for health workers today are far different than in the pandemic’s early days. Now, health workers in COVID-19 treatment units often are the best protected; others may be more at risk, committee members noted.
Beyond the health and security fields, does “essential” mean poultry plant workers or schoolteachers? And what if the vaccine doesn’t work as well among vulnerable populations as among younger, healthier people? It’s a real worry, given that older people’s immune systems don’t rev up as well to flu vaccine.
With Black, Latino and Native American populations disproportionately hit by the coronavirus, failing to address that diversity means “whatever comes out of our group will be looked at very suspiciously,” said ACIP chairman Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas’ interim health secretary.
Consider the urban poor who live in crowded conditions, have less access to health care and can’t work from home like more privileged Americans, added Dr. Sharon Frey of St. Louis University.
And it may be worth vaccinating entire families rather than trying to single out just one high-risk person in a household, said Dr. Henry Bernstein of Northwell Health.
Whoever gets to go first, a mass vaccination campaign while people are supposed to be keeping their distance is a tall order. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, families waited in long lines in parking lots and at health departments when their turn came up, crowding that authorities know they must avoid this time around.
Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed vaccine manufacturing and distribution, is working out how to rapidly transport the right number of doses to wherever vaccinations are set to occur.
Drive-through vaccinations, pop-up clinics and other innovative ideas are all on the table, said CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier.
As soon as a vaccine is declared effective, “we want to be able the next day, frankly, to start these programs,” Messonnier said. “It’s a long road.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
IKEA in Woodbridge donated 100 gift boxes to area senior care centers with residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
More in a press release:
“IKEA Woodbridge is excited to share the “Christmas in July” donation for residence at the Envoy of Woodbridge-Consulate Health Care.
IKEA is committed to being a good neighbor in the community. When we found out that the residence at Envoy of Woodbridge have had a hard time during this COVID 19 pandemic, missing their families, we decided to give them presents and provide the residence with a “Christmas in July” along with Santa’s helpers.
The 100 residence received a plastic container filled with a blanket and slippers to keep them warm. As well as a package of markers to bring out the artist in each of them.
The staff received bags of Swedish chocolates for all that they do to provide a wonderful stay at the Envoy.
For more information, please contact: IKEA Woodbridge, 2901 Potomac Mills Circle, Woodbridge, VA 22192 email@example.com [or by cell] (703)492-1222 x1336.”
If you are looking for ways you can help out your community like IKEA during the pandemic, please check out Potomac Local News’ Call to Action posts where you can find local volunteer organizations looking for your help.
It’s a tough and unprecedented decision for any guardian at this time, deciding if it’s safe for students to return to the classroom despite the virus risk.
Posted on August 2nd, 2020 | By Douglas Jones
WASHINGTON — The decision to return children to school has been a contentious one with state, local and federal levels of government seemingly unsure, and in many cases, in disagreement.
Back-to-school is fast approaching and the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is still a major concern.
An informational tool to try and help the parents and guardians of students weigh their options and prepare to take the safest step forward possible has been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
90% Of parents Have Concerns About Reopening Schools Amid Pandemic
The CDC says expect class sizes to be smaller and the format of teaching to change.
However, there are options for families.
Expect to see many students in virtual learning if there is wariness about in-person study. And many suggest a hybrid of both, so there is at least a mitigation of the risk of coronavirus exposure as students would be going to in-person instruction fewer days per week.
The CDC says parents will need to assess if their child is at increased risk of severe illness. The federal agency warns that there are more cases of COVID-19 among children with intellectual and developmental disabilities than those without. The parents of children with certain underlying medical issues also need to seriously weigh the risks of in-person learning where COVID-19 exposure can be higher.
Parents must review a school’s plan to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The CDC says schools must promote behaviors that reduce the spread, like social distancing.
Cleaning and disinfecting need to be a top priority for schools. They should also be staggering schedules and keeping students in small groups, the agency says. And schools must be prepared in the event that someone gets sick.
Posted on July 22nd, 2020 | By Gov. Tom Ridge and Ted Kennedy Jr.
Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, giving people with disabilities their hard-fought civil rights — the first comprehensive law addressing the needs of people with disabilities. President George H.W. Bush once confided it was among his proudest achievements.
We mark this significant anniversary this Sunday, July 26, but there is a cloud hanging over any celebrating. As we consider the enormous implications of the novel coronavirus on our society, we are worried about how this crisis ends for people with disabilities. We also are concerned there could be a rolling back of the gains we’ve seen since the ADA became law.
We hear the anxiety in their voices when people with disabilities discuss concerns about being on the losing end of COVID-19 medical care rationing or when they can’t keep direct care givers coming to their home as the pandemic continues to spread. And we are deeply troubled by the staggering unemployment rate for people with disabilities that will, without a doubt, rise even higher given the grim economics we now face together.
In early May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report showed that in March and April alone nearly 1 million working-age people with disabilities lost their jobs — a 20 percent reduction. By comparison, 14 percent of working-age people without disabilities lost their jobs in that timeframe. This, however, does not have to be the story that comes out of this crisis. We can make changes now that will profoundly alter its ending.
We can create a difference by being sure hospitals are not using physical and mental challenges as a criterion for who should and should not receive life-saving aid. Doctors make decisions on care based on a myriad of things. One of the main factors should not be whether someone has a disability.
We also can make a difference through bipartisan efforts on COVID-19 relief. One way is through the continuing legislative recovery package that Congress is working on. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) have introduced legislation that would create specific grants for states through Medicaid for the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program to make certain Medicaid funding is used to support individuals with disabilities. The funds would ensure long-term home- and community-based services continue uninterrupted.
Funding for HCBS will ensure that people with disabilities who can work get back on the job quickly as part of our country’s overall recovery efforts, something the National Organization on Disability and the American Association of People with Disabilities, whose boards we chair, wholly support.
Given the enormous issues faced by people with disabilities, Congress should consider creating a task force that can focus on efforts to make sure the 57 million Americans with disabilities are not left behind as our nation’s economy starts moving forward again.
If this pandemic has taught us one thing it is that, with the right accommodations, staff can work remotely, and do so well. It is something people with disabilities have been saying for years: If given the proper equipment at home, they can be productive employees. We hope with the successes they have seen with telework, more business leaders will realize people with disabilities are an untapped resource they should pursue. And adding this kind of diversity positively changes the spirit of a company, not to mention its productivity.
Before the current economic crisis, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities was historically high, even so, it was only at 31 percent. This is compared to 75 percent for working-age people without disabilities. With the last hired, first fired rule that many companies follow, we are seeing people with disabilities are among the first people to lose their jobs.
We can’t let anyone fall behind from the pandemic, let alone some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Three decades ago, the passage of the ADA was celebrated as a way of ending discrimination against anyone with disabilities. The politics at that time allowed a bipartisan group of lawmakers to champion sweeping legislation that has shaped every aspect of society.
The law’s passage should be something we all feel immensely proud about — and want to see strengthened further during the next 30 years.
The political situation today often prevents this from happening, but if we are willing to once again work across party lines, we can come together to make sure people with disabilities have the resources, tools, and — just as important — our empathy, to manage this crisis and prosper in the post-coronavirus era.
Tom Ridge was the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; he serves as board chairman of the National Organization on Disability.
Ted Kennedy Jr., is a disability rights lawyer and partner in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice at Epstein, Becker & Green; he served on President Reagan’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and worked for passage of the ADA. He is board chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
It’s a moment of reckoning for global supply chains. But that doesn’t mean companies are flocking back to the United States.
WASHINGTON — For companies with supply chains that snake around the globe, the crises have just kept coming: First the prolonged and painful U.S.-China trade war, then a pandemic that snarled shipments, stalled international travel and shut factory doors.
President Trump and his advisers have seized on the disruptions to make a familiar case to manufacturers: Come back home.
“The global pandemic has proven once and for all that to be a strong nation, America must be a manufacturing nation,” Mr. Trump said at a Ford factory in Ypsilanti, Mich., on May 21. “We’re bringing it back.”
Mr. Trump has spent much of his presidency trying to cajole manufacturers to return to the United States, through both tough talk and policies like tariffs. His advisers have pointed to both the trade war and the pandemic as evidence that it is just too risky for multinational companies to rely on other countries, particularly China, to make their goods.
But those arguments have yet to result in a wave of factories returning to the United States. Foreign direct investment into the United States — which measures spending from internationally owned companies to start, expand or acquire American businesses — sank drastically last year, to its lowest recorded level since 2006.
Foreign-owned companies invested about half as much in the United States in 2019 as they did in 2016, the year before Mr. Trump took office. After increasing in the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the number of manufacturing jobs flatlined last yearand fell sharply with the pandemic. As of June, there were nearly 300,000 fewer factory jobs in the United States than there were when Mr. Trump was inaugurated.
For all the president’s criticisms of global supply chains, the economic incentive to outsource still prevails. While his trade policy has made doing business abroad, particularly in China, more uncertain and costly, higher wages in the United States and the lure of foreign markets mean that most global businesses are choosing to remain global. Most firms that shifted out of China to avoid the crossfire of the trade war moved to other low-cost countries, like Vietnam and Mexico. Other companies say China is a growth market they cannot afford to lose.
And while the pandemic has prompted a broader reassessment of the risks of global supply chains, it has also brought about the deepest economic contraction in generations, battering companies’ finances and forcing them to cut back on workers. Executives are deeply uncertain what demand for their products will look like in the coming months and years — hardly the environment to encourage big investments in new American factories.
The furniture maker La-Z-Boy is one example. The company shifted its production out of China to Vietnam last year to bypass Mr. Trump’s tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, according to tracking by Panjiva, a research firm. But on a June 24 earnings call, Kurt L. Darrow, La-Z-Boy’s chief executive, announced that the economic effects of the pandemic would force the firm to make steep cuts to its work force, including in the United States.
“While we were pleased to have brought back some 6,000 furloughed workers, we made the decision to permanently close our Newton, Miss., La-Z-Boy branded manufacturing facility and reduce our global work force by approximately 10 percent,” Mr. Darrow said.
There could still be a more significant reordering of global factory activity on the horizon. The one-two punch of the trade war and pandemic has shaken the confidence of executives and investors; led to shortages of toilet paper, meat, laptops and kettle bells; and revealed hidden frailties in many companies’ business models.
As factories struggle to reopen with components still in short supply, some executives are questioning the just-in-time supply chains they use to whisk products around the globe, rather than keeping warehouses stocked — and particularly how much they rely on factories in China, where production moved en masse in previous decades.
Emily J. Blanchard, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College who studies global value chains, said many firms were not thinking “in such broad and apocalyptic terms” before the pandemic.
“Covid has generated this new imagination of worst-case scenarios,” Professor Blanchard said.
Under the pressure of the trade war, some multinational companies have opened new facilities in the United States, including Williams Sonoma and Stanley Black & Decker. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced in May that it would set up a new facility in Arizona, pending funding. And makers of masks and protective gear, like Honeywell and 3M, are expanding American production during the pandemic.
The Trump administration’s newly created U.S. International Development Finance Corporation may offer tens of billions of dollars to help reshore manufacturing of protective equipment and generic drugs. The administration is also considering other tax incentives and “reshoring subsidies,” potentially as part of the next stimulus package, to try to lure factories home.
U.S. factory output declined throughout 2019, as Mr. Trump’s trade war intensified, and it has dropped further this year, suggesting there is no boom in new American factories. Since peaking in mid-2019, corporate investment has declined for three consecutive quarters. Total foreign direct investment in manufacturing was nearly one-third lower in the first three years of Mr. Trump’s tenure than it was in the final three years of President Barack Obama’s.
Some Trump officials and their supporters blame a broader global economic malaise that has dragged down factories around the world. And they point to the fact that imports fell last year and now account for a slightly smaller share of the goods consumed by Americans, as a sign of their success.
Calculations by the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a trade group that supports the administration’s policies, indicate that 30.6 percent of the manufactured goods Americans consumed in 2019 were imported, down slightly from 31.2 percent the previous year. For much of the last two decades, the trend went in the opposite direction.
There are good reasons for some companies to move out of China. Wages are rising, whittling away at one incentive to manufacture there. And deep fissures between the United States and China have opened in areas like security and technology, which could lead to more aggressive action by either side, regardless of who wins the presidential election in November.
Still, more companies leaving China does not necessarily represent a win for American workers. Like La-Z-Boy, many companies that are moving some facilities out of China — including Samsung, Hasbro, Apple, Nintendo and GoPro — are relocating to countries where wages are even lower. While U.S. trade with China fell sharply last year, imports from Vietnam, Taiwan and Mexico swelled.
For many companies, making their supply chains more resilient has actually meant spreading out production around the world, not concentrating it in the United States, said Chris Rogers, a global trade and logistics analyst at Panjiva.
“If you want to hedge your risks, you need to stay global,” he said.
Michael W. Upchurch, the chief financial officer of Kansas City Southern, which runs railroads through Mexico and the United States, said in an earnings call this year that more companies were eyeing Mexico for new facilities because of the tariffs on China and Mexico’s relatively low wages and proximity to American customers.
“There is a real desire to begin to near-shore, and Mexico’s a great place to do business,” Mr. Upchurch said. Constructing new factories would take some time, he said, “but over the next few years, we would certainly expect to see benefit.”
For other companies, China still beckons.
Purveyors of consumer products, fast food and automobiles continue to expand in China, which is home to a rapidly growing consumer market and the world’s greatest concentration of factories. Some firms have struggled to find factory space or skilled workers outside of China. Data from Rhodium Group show that U.S. foreign direct investment in China continued to rise in 2019, despite the trade war.
Some executives insist that, contrary to popular belief, their investments in China allow them to employ more workers in the United States.
Milliken & Company, a textile maker with headquarters in South Carolina that employs 8,000 people, still performs the bulk of its manufacturing in the United States. It resisted a wave of offshoring in the 1980s and ’90s by shifting into niche products, like floor coverings and military uniforms. But it has opened factories in China in recent years to serve that market, enabling it to hire more people back home, said Halsey M. Cook Jr., the company’s chief executive.
“I think you’d hear the same thing” from other major multinational companies, Mr. Cook said, like John Deere. “Global supply chains are complicated. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen one.”
Applied to the entire U.S. population, that equates to more than 16 million Americans, the consultancy estimates. Moreover, nearly 9 in 10 survey respondents said they would be willing to use telehealth again.
Data from other sources paints a similar picture:
The nonprofit claims analysis group FAIR Health reported a dramatic increase in telehealth claims from private insurance — more than 4,300 percent from March 2019 to March 2020, and more than 8,300 percent from April 2019 to April 2020.
Medicare claims for telehealth jumped 11,000 percent from early March 2020 to mid-April 2020, according to federal data.
Despite its quick and often successful growth, telehealth will face new challenges. A Commonwealth Fund analysis suggests that telehealth use started to plateau in May as hospitals reopened, although the service remains far more popular than before.
In addition, relaxed telehealth restrictions during the pandemic — such as interstate licensure, reimbursement rates and limits on which services were covered — may be put back in place when the national public health emergency is lifted.
However, findings from the PwC report indicate that consumer behavior amid the pandemic will impact healthcare organizations in four key ways — and telehealth is positioned to guide the response.
Reduce gaps in care: Nearly 1 in 3 consumers plan to spend less on healthcare services as a result of COVID-19, primarily by skipping visits, PwC found. And more than 1 in 5 consumers plan to spend less on medications, either by skipping doses or not taking medications at all. These actions all have negative health impacts and lead to increased spending on high-acuity care. Virtual visit technology enables consumers to see physicians or nurses from the safety of their homes, while medication adherence tools help consumers stay on track with reminders and refills.
Manage chronic conditions: Of new telehealth users during COVID-19, PwC found that more than two-thirds had chronic conditions. Another 12 percent used telehealth to address their mental health needs, which are closely linked to chronic medical conditions. This shows the value of telehealth and remote monitoring technology in providing consistent care for consumers who often visit the doctor’s office — and must miss work or secure childcare — for routine consultations or vital-sign readings.
Address social determinants of health: Survey respondents said COVID-19 heightened the impact of the nonclinical factors that influence their well-being: mental health, isolation, nutrition, employment, finances, exercise and more. Increased access to care via telehealth, available in part because of looser regulations, can help to address some of these concerns — but health systems should be prepared to invest in outreach and even put technology directly in the hands of consumers.
Share critical information: PwC found that the likelihood of social distancing increases with age: 95 percent of Americans 65 and older were practicing social distancing, compared with only 58 percent of those who are 18 to 24. Social distancing efforts also varied by ethnicity, according to the report. Although one’s employment, financial status and access to broadband internet all can impact social distancing, PwC suggested targeted electronic communications to different consumer segments — such as patient portal messages or app notifications — could help share important information to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
While the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Hispanic Americans is no secret, federal officials have launched studies of the disparity that they hope will better prepare the country for the next great epidemic.
The National Institutes of Health began the ambitious “All of Us” research project in 2018 with the goal of enrolling at least a million people in the world’s most diverse health database. Officials saw it as an antidote to medical research that traditionally has skewed heavily white, well-off and male.
Amid a wavering federal response that has allowed staggering levels of disease to sweep the country, the NIH program is a potential bright spot. About 350,000 people have consented to be part of the project, and more than 270,000 of them have shared their electronic health records and submitted blood or DNA samples. Of the latter, more than half are members of minority groups, and 81% are from traditionally underrepresented groups in terms of socioeconomic background, sexual identity or other categories, according to NIH.
NIH researchers are trying to get a better sense of how socioeconomic factors like income, family structure, diet and access to health care affect COVID infections and outcomes. The hope is to come up with insights that will better prepare the country, especially its Black and Hispanic communities, for the next pandemic.
The participants’ blood and DNA samples, and access to their electronic health records, offer researchers a trove of data about the pandemic’s effect on minorities. As part of the program, NIH has promised to return research results to all participants in plain language.
In a sense, “All of Us was designed for COVID-19,” said Hugo Campos, a program participant and ambassador who lives in Oakland, California. “If we can’t deliver value to participants now, we might as well just forget it.”
The NIH constructed All of Us with the expectation “that something like COVID-19 could come,” said Josh Denny, the project’s chief executive officer.
All of Us, started by NIH Director Francis Collins under President Barack Obama, aims to answer questions that will allow health care to be tailored to individuals based on their unique genetics, environmental exposures, socioeconomics and other determinants of health. Now, scientists are tapping into its database to ask how factors like isolation, mental health, insurance coverage and work status affect COVID-19 infections and outcomes.
The first NIH study employing the database, already underway, will conduct antibody testing on the blood of at least 10,000 program volunteers, starting with those who joined most recently and going back in time to determine when COVID-19 entered the U.S.
Beginning in early May, All of Us has distributed monthly surveys to participants, via email or text, inquiring about stress levels associated with social distancing, work habits and environments, mask-wearing and hand-washing. It’s also asking whether participants have had COVID-19 symptoms or have been tested, and includes queries about insurance coverage, drug use and mental health status.
Another study will provide researchers with de-identified data, including antibody test results and digital health information, to study whether symptoms vary among people who have tested positive for COVID-19 depending on their ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other categories.
Federal data shows that Black seniors have been four times as likely, and Latino seniors twice as likely, to be hospitalized with COVID-19 as white seniors. It’s understood that structural racism and socioeconomic differences contribute to this gap, but All of Us hopes to help pinpoint reasons and potential solutions.
The minorities who’ve experienced the poorest COVID-19 outcomes are well represented in the All of Us research cohort, said Denny. “We will really be able to layer a number of kinds of information on what’s happening to different populations and try to drive at some of that ‘Why?’ Are there genetic differences, differences in prior medical history, timing of testing?”
One of the precepts of All of Us is to share the results of its studies with participants as well as involve them in study designs. NIH hired leaders of churches, community organizations and other grassroots groups to spread the word on the program.
The largely Spanish-speaking clientele at San Ysidro Health, a federally qualified health center based in San Diego, has been eager to participate in the COVID-19 research, said Fatima Muñoz, the health system’s director of research and health promotion. Most of the All of Us participants she helped recruit prefer in-person interactions, but they are adapting to the pandemic’s online requirements, she said.
“There is historically a well-founded mistrust amongst some diverse populations and communities of color in biomedical research,” said Denny. “We can’t control history but can try to engage authentically going forward.”
The Black Lives Matter protest movement has pushed the program’s leaders to do more for its diverse participants, Denny said.
“It’s caused us to think more of how we can promote diversity in researchers, which had not been as much of a focus,” he said. “It has heightened some of the urgency and importance of what we’re doing. It’s a great call to action.”
The All of Us program is funded with $1.5 billion over 10 years through the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. Denny said he expects results from the antibody testing, an $850,000 project that was contracted out to Quest Diagnostics, to be published this year, with insights from the surveys published after that.
The All of Us database provides unparalleled access to information on research groups whose level of harm by the virus would have been hard to predict, said Dr. Elizabeth Cohn, a professor of nursing at Hunter College in New York. Cohn is a community engagement lead for All of Us and chairs its publications committee.
“This is the demonstration of why we built this platform,” said Cohn. “This is a big moment for All of Us because this is what it was built to do.”
The pandemic has made it even clearer why it’s necessary to have a multicultural base for health research, said Dr. Randall Morgan, executive director of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute, an All of Us partner.
“When we get to 1 million, we hope to still have that level of representation,” he said.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) reached the United States, many companies that promote social responsibility quickly extended their efforts into supporting employees and communities through the many challenges the pandemic brought.
For employee support, that meant incentivizing them to come to work by providing a safe environment and monetary rewards. Toufayan Bakeries, Ridgefield, NJ, gave its employees, both production and office staff, a 10% raise for six to seven weeks.
“That helped in a lot of ways, like people being able to hire a babysitter if they had lost their childcare,” said Karen Toufayan, vice president of sales and marketing. “It helped in ways we didn’t even understand. Some of our employees took that money and made their own donations to food banks, which really moved us.”
The Toufayan family took this a step further by estimating the total amount of that 10% bump and donated the same — a little more than $200,000 — to local food banks in New Jersey and Central Florida where the company’s three bakeries are located.
The Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich., allowed front-line workers extended sick time and provided thank-you bonuses and schedule flexibility to enable them to care for their children. The company also expanded its workforce in places where there was increased demand.
“That ensured our hard-working employees also have time to rest and recharge away from work,” said Kris Bahner, senior vice president, global corporate affairs, Kellogg Company.
For Wyandot, Marion, Ohio, supporting employees looked like an extra days’ worth of pay a week for seven weeks if they came to work. Typically, employees usually are allowed to take home two bags of snacks per week; the company increased it to a case for workers to distribute or keep as they saw fit. And Wyandot bought more than $10,000 worth of gift cards from Marion businesses, particularly restaurants, to not only support the local economy but also reward employees.
“The gift cards were a way to say, ‘We’re committed to Marion. We’re committed to helping out the businesses that employ your family and friends,’ ” said Rob Sarlls, president and chief executive officer of Wyandot. “We want to help keep Marion strong. That visceral commitment to Marion gave our employees a lot of pride.”
Wyandot also donated personal protective equipment and 60,000 lbs of snacks to first responders, the local school system and food banks. The company frontloaded some of its annual giving to the beginning of the year, making sizeable contributions to the Mid Ohio food bank and a relief fund for restaurant workers.
“We felt so fortunate that we were able to continue baking bread, to continue manufacturing, that we had to find a way to give back.”
Karen Toufayan, Toufayan Bakeries
When giving back to the community, it is an obvious choice for food manufacturers to focus on the thing they do best: feed people. This became the core of many companies’ COVID-19 response.
“As the pandemic began impacting North America, we recognized the immediate need for shelf-stable food and funding to help organizations meet the rapidly changing needs of their communities,” said Kim Fortunato, vice president, community affairs, Campbell Soup Co., Camden, NJ.
Campbell made an initial commitment of $1 million of financial and product donations in mid-March to food banks and local pantries in its 33 hometown communities. Since that initial donation, Campbell has grown that amount to more than $5 million in the United States.
Clif Bar, Emeryville, Calif., donated 14 million CLIF, LUNA and CLIF Kid Bars to food banks, first responders, non-profit partners and frontline healthcare workers. It also made up to 450 meals a week at its headquarters to feed volunteers at the Oakland Unified School District.
The Kellogg Company has taken its COVID-19 relief global through its Kellogg’s Better Days global purpose platform and donated more than $11.5 million in food and funds to hunger relief efforts related to COVID-19 around the world. The donations are supporting The Global FoodBanking Network, European Food Banks Federation, Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.
In addition to its support of national and local nonprofit organizations in its hometown of Baltimore, H&S Bakery donated 20,000 loaves of bread weekly to more than 40 charities.
“Despite the bakery’s extensive divisions and holdings, neither our company nor its family members have strayed far from our Baltimore roots and take pride in giving back to the city that helped build out business,” said Bill Paterakis, CEO of H&S Bakery. “Further, H&S has made contributions in all locales in which we operate a bakery.”
While the pandemic may have afforded many opportunities to give, for many of these companies it was just an extension of the commitment they had already made to corporate social responsibility. And for these businesses there was no other choice.
“We felt so fortunate that we were able to continue baking bread, to continue manufacturing, that we had to find a way to give back,” Ms. Toufayan said.
This article is an excerpt from the July 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on social responsibility, click here.
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