Former NFL running back and current president of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, Randy Kinder joins Traci to discuss the flurry of inclusion statements issued by financial companies and why they’re important in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Race Conversation: Inclusion Statements with Randy Kinder-Part 1
This is The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast with Traci Dority-Shanklin. If you're interested in labor and union benefit funds, well, you've landed in the right place. We are a go-to source for all things union benefit fund related, and we are going to bring you interviews with key decision makers and fund professionals that guide these plans. They'll share their insights, experience, unique perspectives, all of the latest developments, and tips to unlock the mysteries of multiemployer benefit fund. Time is short. So, let's get started.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 0:37
I am very excited to continue the discussion about diversity and systemic racism impacting America. Currently, there is a shift happening. We are witnessing businesses taking a stand against the injustices that have faced our black brothers and sisters. Black Lives Matters is a conversation that is making its way to Wall Street. Recently, Pension and Investment magazine interviewed Arielle Investments co-CEO, John Rogers. Rogers made it very clear that businesses and the investment fund industry need to do a better job of not just creating jobs, but of creating leadership opportunities for African-Americans. Institutional money management firms that serve multiemployer benefit fund clients can and should be a part of the act of healing.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 1:22
Our guest today is Randy Kinder, the president of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation. Randy started his career with the AFL-CIO's Housing Investment Trust in 2002, and has been an integral part in expanding the Investment Trust Corporation strategies. Randy was instrumental in the creation and launch of the AFL-CIO Equity Index Fund and has continued to guide the strategic outreach of this effort. Perhaps, the thing I like best about Randy is his commitment to mentoring youth. Randy serves on the board of the Mikva Challenge and Holtz's Heroes Foundation. Both are organizations that empower our nation's underprivileged youth. He is a member of the Bank of Labor's Midwest Labor Advisory Board, which provides policy oversight for the bank. Randy attended the University of Notre Dame, played football, participated in track, and as a proud member of the NFL Players Association having played for both the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles. I know Randy will educate and inspire you. So, Randy, thank you so much for being with us today.
Randy Kinder 2:34
Traci, thank you for having me.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 2:36
So, I'd like to start by having you just share your story and background, and how you came to be president of the AFL-CIO's Investment Trust Corporation.
Randy Kinder 2:46
Well, thank you, you did a great job in the bio piece. It covers a lot of it. But um, you know, I got into this industry, this business kind of by mistake, I was living in DC. And I always thought I wanted to work in something that was connected to politics growing up. And I was kind of starting my career working in constituent services for a group here in DC. And, like many of us, you know, it happened that I knew somebody that works for many of us, not for all of us. But I knew someone named - a guy named Steve Coyle, who ran the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust and did so for I believe, it was 26 years when he retired. Steve was a family friend and someone who I kept in touch with over many years, and we had lunch and I talked about what I was doing when I wanted to do.
Randy Kinder 3:40
And Steve started telling me about the AFL-CIO investment program; about what the Housing Investment Trust was doing; about some of the things they're looking to branch out to do. And at the time - this is 2002 - the Housing Investment Trust had just launched a program for homeownership. Working with a large lender, they were working with unions across the country to help union members get into homes, but to do so through getting good loans, uh, paper loans. And so, the program was set up to put together different types of home - homeownership education fairs and the like. And it was kind of the beginning of other things they wanted to do.
Randy Kinder 4:22
But, if you remember that time, everybody and their mother was - was getting into loans and home loans, and everyone was working in that industry. And the idea was to create a program that was really looking out for our members across the country. And yet he's the one to join us. You'll learn about what we do with the HIT 1000 investment trusts you learn about the homeownership energy you get out and learn about unions, and you know, maybe like it. Well, that was, I think, February of 02 - worked on that program for several years. And when we dissolve that program, I moved to the - what was the multifamily group, and then the mark - marketing group, and - and just kind of learned the industry from our point of view from the labor's point of view.
Randy Kinder 5:07
And at one point, I moved over to work on the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trusts, and continued in marketing and kind of our - our - our former constituent relations and investor relations. And here we are 18 years later, and my predecessor retired last year, and I was tapped on the shoulder and said, "We'd like you to take over as president of the Investment Trust Corporation, the ITC." And here I am. Here I am. And it's been a great journey, but it's been one where you work with the AFL-CIO, you - you get up every day, remembering that every penny of money that you have any kind of contact with is it comes from workers. It comes from their hard work. And the point of everything we do is to make sure that their hard work pays off in retirement. And so, it's a - it's a fantastic mission. It's something that I believe in. I didn't know how much I believed in when I started 18 years ago. But, it's a great way for me to - to keep motivated to motivate others, and to do some really exciting things to really move that mission forward.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 6:16
That's amazing. And I echo that. Most people who know me know that my father was a labor leader. And that was when I went into this business. That was one of the things he said to me is never forget who you're working for. And so, I applaud that.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 6:33
So, when we originally started to talk, the goal here was really to talk about all of the focus and discussion on racial inequality in America especially since the Trayvon Martin murder acquittal; the George Floyd tra - tragedy of late, that conversation is beginning to escalate given what recently happened, and I'm just wondering how the conversation about race has shifted since the George Floyd and these recent peaceful protests by the Black Lives Matters movement?
Randy Kinder 7:07
You know, it's been these past - this past month, I guess it's hard, you know, I see where it's hard to keep track of time these days. The conversation has definitely come to the forefront and intensified. And since - since the latest tragedy and Mr. Floyd in, I think, I'm sure you've heard a lot of people say this, because we've been dealing with this really international health issue, where we all are at home for the most part, it has made it, I guess, easier to intensify the things that we think about, and this particular issue, which has been around for a long time, now people are actually focusing on and you have corporations and investors thinking about these things.
Randy Kinder 7:52
So yeah, it's a short answer that the conversation has intensified a great deal, both kind of publicly and privately. I can tell you that in my private life, you know, I don't go a day without having some sort of conver - or some sort of conversation related to what the heck is going on in the world especially on this front. And I've had some very good ones. You mentioned my involvement with the Mikva Challenge and with the Holtz's Heroes. We've had some very, very strong, important conversations on that end about what this means for youth and especially for the Mikva Challenge for those who get involved in civic - in what it means for civic education for young people. And the Holtz's Heroes side, we talked about it and how we can be better mentors and - and be better be more involved in our neighborhoods, in our communities.
Randy Kinder 8:35
And in our industry, the conversation when you - when you talk of this stuff comes to a couple different things. Representation being probably the first, you know, as we've talked about in any of the conversations I've had with leaders in our industry, our industry is very white. It's very white and very male, which is - I'm not saying anything ridiculous. It is what it is. And what can we do about that? And what I've been excited about - I guess optimistic - what's made me optimistic about this moment is how many leaders - how many practitioners and folks in our industry really want to have that conversation now in the companies I've had, it doesn't feel like they feel that it's been forced on them.
Randy Kinder 9:18
I have people coming to me asking me questions about it. Ask me what I think. Ask me if to kind of look at something that they're thinking about doing, and the interest seems genuine. And there's a lot of it. So yeah, the conversation has intensified a great deal. And then obviously on the on the other side of that is what ramifications is this have or on what funds want to do and how they direct their investments. Are there ways that they could be investing - and I've had these conversations - are their other ways that these funds could be investing that reflect kind of a greater attention to the values associated with moving away from or making it clear that their values don't align with a society that are with - with it - with any interest that could be racist or - or have some sort of systemic racism aligned with them. So, there's been a lot of conversation all across the board. And it's been good to be a part of that. And good to see that.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 10:17
That's inspiring to note that the conversations are happening with some frequency. I'm not surprised that there's conversations around diversity and racism, but that it's moving its way into the financial world to go as deep as who you invest with, which I think is wonderful. What do you think companies can do to achieve more diversity or inclusion in their workforces? And in their supply chain?
Randy Kinder 10:46
So yeah, I'm glad you asked that. And there's to what you're just saying to there - that whole - the whole side of how companies choose to invest and to invest with is - is going to - how funds choose is a big part of this as well. But on this point, you know, how can we kind of diversify the industry? Or what can leaders and companies do? I mean, it comes down to creating - creating opportunity through recruitment.
Randy Kinder 11:12
And I have no silver bullet on this means that from the jump, but I just had a conversation the other day with a leader in our industry, where he talked about creating relationships with universities and organizations in order to find candidates and interest people in what we do. You know, he was looking at it for their industry and looking at getting people interested in insurance and being actually an actuarial, you know, in that piece, which, you know, I fell asleep as he and I were talking about it, but no, but you know, being able to really highlight the opportunities that are there, and be able to talk about it in a way that really connects people in a way where you think about, well, how does this tie into my family's retirement? And why is this important, and so on and so forth.
Randy Kinder 12:00
In that conversation, he talked a lot about the groups that his company were building alliances with, and the conversations that he was having with senior leadership in his company to get them more interested in and thinking about these issues and taking them seriously. He talked about leaders kind of in - in the diversity and inclusion part of our - of our industries as well, and having conversations with them to find out best practices, so that he can implement them for his company. These are all good things. I think, and this was a point we were talking about as well, it starts with recognizing that this is important, and saying that it's important.
Randy Kinder 12:42
It's been interesting, watching how many - how many corporations are putting out statements now, you know, saying essentially, we aren't racist. And we don't believe in that, right. And there's been conversation around whether or not a statement is enough is action more important, and so on so forth, I actually think statements are a big deal. I think when you state what you believe in, and you can then be held accountable for that. And getting a senior leadership in a company to recognize that this is part of our culture now, that being anti-racist; being for diversity and inclusion is who we are. And what we need to act upon is the most - maybe the most important step - to really getting a change going. Which goes to what I was saying before, how many conversations I've had, where the people on the other end of the call who initiated the call, actually really sounded like they believed in what they were saying, and were bringing personal things into it.
Randy Kinder 13:40
So, it's starting with kind of a culture change in your company in really pushing that forward and making it clear this is - this is what you've signed on for by being a part of this organization. And then you get to action. And how do we - how do we infuse everything we do with this belief with this value? There are some good organizations out there that are thinking about this all the time that group should hook up with. But there's been a lot of work on this. I happen to know some folks who work in diversity-inclusion in the insurance industry, believe it or not, and who have been working on this a long time who now are like, okay, everybody's ready, let's do it. There are tools there that can be used. It's just a matter of the company saying let's go. These leaders saying let's go. Let's actually use them and not just do it for two weeks. Let's make it part of who we are.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 14:26
Yeah, I think the biggest hurdle what we - how does it get implemented? Is it, you know, to your point, all these companies that are out there that are saying, "This is what our value is." Now, they have to actually put action behind that. I actually saw one yesterday company that basically gave a report card, and said, "You know, when I saw this," I mean the CEO said "When I saw this, I was pretty disappointed in myself and the firm and we can do better." I thought that was a really interesting approach from a company because it said says we've really looked at this, and now we're gonna do something about it. So...
Randy Kinder 15:04
Yeah, there'll be accountable to - to what they've set-up. I love that. I mean, we always say in our office, "Listen any - if we're getting information, that's a good thing, right?" You can then act upon it. And making that first step. Okay, let's look at what we do, and creating a grading system for yourself, and then realizing, "Hey, we didn't match up.” Okay, now what are you gonna do? You know, it's all window dressing or not? It's a good, good start. And the other piece of it, too, Traci - I know, you've seen this is - this is gonna be for some of these companies, it's great as I was saying for them to make it on their own to say, "Hey, we're going to change this on our own." But for others, it's going to be forced upon them because their clients will make sure that they engrave them on what they do.
Randy Kinder 15:52
And that goes to the kind of the second thing you were saying before about, you know, the investor, themselves, thinking about who they invest with, who they trust to invest their money or work with. And in kind of grading themselves on how they go about that. And there's some very active, you know, pension funds, and the like who pay close attention to this. And when, you know, a manager in our space is being asked to, you know, to fill out all the requisite, you know, RFIs - whatever it may be a potential client investor, and they get questions on how does your firm, you know, deal with? Or how does your firm view diversity and inclusion, and they don't have an answer, it's really easy to find out. And if they haven't thought about it, they'll be exposed immediately.
Randy Kinder 16:41
And we use - we get these all the time at the ITC. And, you know, we can show we're an organization that has believed in this for a long time, and we're very proud to say we're very diverse. A diverse crew on a small group and a very diverse one, by gender and race and the like. So, it's easy for us to talk about, you know, how we are represented in our - on our team. For a lot of these firms, it's not, and the more they have to - they find themselves sitting in the backroom saying, "Well, how can we classify this person in order to do?" Outside of all what's going on right now, they kind of look at themselves. And I've heard these conversations before and they say, "What is it we're doing that isn't up to snuff here? Why are we sitting here having this conversation? Why we didn't realize before now that something is not quite right?" It'll hit their - their bottom lines with a lot of investors now. So, one way or another this has to happen. I mean, case in point, you know, I'm here in DC - not our industry - but the NFL team was been dragged - dragged. They didn't - they didn't do this on their own volition to - to change their name after many years because it was going to hit the pocketbook. So, there's a couple different sides to this but it's happening.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 17:56
Getting hit in the pocketbook will make anyone sit up and take notice. Thanks, Randy, but I'd like to pause our conversation right here. Please tune in again for the second and final half of our discussion with AFL-CIO Investment Trust president, Randy Kinder, where we chat about supplier-diversity.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 18:15
Thanks again for joining the conversation where listeners connect with leading experts throughout the financial and investment world. Be part of the change. And that's it for this week's episode of The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast. We love to hear from you. And if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, head over to www.multiemployerfunds.com, and let us know.
Traci Dority-Shanklin 18:40
Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai