The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast

The Race Conversation: Building Diverse Partnerships with Randy Kinder-Part 2

January 08, 2021 Traci Dority-Shanklin Season 2 Episode 8
The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast
The Race Conversation: Building Diverse Partnerships with Randy Kinder-Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

Former NFL running back and current president of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, Randy Kinder joins host, Traci Dority-Shanklin, for the second part of their conversation. In this episode,  they discuss supplier-diversity and how the Investment Trust Corporation builds diverse partnerships as the country grapples with police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some episode highlights include:

  • The ITC Approach to Building Diverse Partnerships
  • Company Push-Back: Meritocracy
  • Breaking Barriers: A Sports Metaphor
  • Conversations Matter!
  • Representation Matters: The Pathway Forward
  • People Will Listen
  • A Few Final Thoughts

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Narrator  0:03  

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 fun 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 funds. Time is short, so let's get started. 

Traci Shanklin  0:37  

Thank you for joining us for the second part of my conversation about diversity in the investment world with Randy Kinder, President of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and a former NFL player for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Randy currently serves on the board of the Mikva Challenge and Holtz's Heroes Foundation, two organizations dedicated to empowering our nation's underprivileged youth. In the first half of our conversation, we talked about how businesses are taking a stand against social injustice, and how the Black Lives Matters' conversation has made its way to Wall Street. We've already sort of touched on this, but I'd like to get more specific into the idea of supplier-diversity. For my listeners, supplier-diversity is the businesses that a company chooses to partner with in terms of outsourcing. It can be anything from HR to custodians and brokerage houses in our world. So, I hope you will enjoy the second part of my interview with Randy Kinder and gain some valuable insights. So, can you share what ITC's approach is on building those partnerships to ensure diversity?

Randy Kinder  1:51  

Sure, well, you know, we are a vendor basically. We work for different investors and for the trustees of funds, so we often are the ones being asked the question. But the other part of what we do is we help the AFL-CIO and unions look at potential partners who could act as managers or trustees for other funds that they may be interested in. And in that our part of our due diligence on them is not just how has this company been as an actor working with - with unions in the past? But also, what is the company's view on what's happening in the world right now? 

Randy Kinder  2:34  

We've had some very, very good conversations with partners or potential partners over the past month on what their reactions have been to just these issues with George Floyd and the like. And in frankly, in most cases, Traci, it's - it's been actually a really good exercise for us, and we've been very pleased with what we've heard. In very few instances have we've gotten an answer back that hey, our company really doesn't have a say on this just yet. A lot of companies have - have recognized what's happening and been able to then go back to some things they were already implementing and just really put exclamation points on them. So, right now, this is more important than ever. We're going to double down on our investment into x, which is to help, you know, whether it be that to work with black communities, or to diversify their workforce or the like. 

Randy Kinder  3:25  

So, we ask the question, that's - that's basically it. We just ask the question. We asked them to report on it and let us know. We don't tell them you will be disqualified for your answer. We just we just want to know what's happening. And put a bold kind of underline on it by saying these are things that our community, the labor community, the AFL-CIO, these are things that we think about, care about, and believe in. Tell us how your - your values match up with ours. And in - in each of those instances, again, as I've said, usually, what we've heard back has been positive because they - they realized, I think beforehand, if they're going to be working with labor then they need to show that they believe in things we believe in. And in those few instances where it hasn't been a great response, it's - it's been one where at least they now realize what they need to bring to the table next time. They need what - they need to think about if they want to do business with - with our people.

Traci Shanklin  4:18  

The big takeaway I have is how ongoing and very real these conversations about diversity are becoming. Diversity comes up in every RFP that I've seen of late. I've read that the SEC now has a diversity questionnaire that they're placing into their audits for certain size investment firms. Most of the bigger houses are having these conversations, and they should be. What would you say to a company that pushes back and says something like, well, we have a diversity-inclusion plan, but we are more importantly, a meritocracy?

Randy Kinder  4:53  

I mean, this gets into a lot of things, right? If you talk about a meritocracy, which is a great word, right? No one can say it's not a great word and a great - a great thing to be thinking about. But then you - you can't ignore the word opportunity. And the fact that so many of these positions, and I told you from the jump that I ended up here, because of I knew somebody. 18 years ago, I knew someone who introduced me to an opportunity, right? And how many times in life has that benefited, you know, people who actually know people, right? For too many of us, often people who look like me, people look like you, women, and people of color, if you don't know that person, that's it. If you don't know where to go, that's it. And if a company is really interested in really believes in DNI and the like, and in staying true to being a meritocracy, then they want to make sure that their pool is big. They should. They are really getting into the pool and finding all those candidates. So, they can allow them to then prove their worth, and to grow at the very least. 

Randy Kinder  6:03  

And if they - if they don't, and I understand that, but companies that don't want to invest in that, then they should also then not expect to be seen that way. And should be prepared for people not to want to do business with them because they don't believe it's something that - that is worth it for them to do. And to me, it's fairly simple when you look at it that way. And again, in our industry, if these are things that aren't important to you, then just be prepared not to go after certain types of business, you know. If you believe you're in a meritocracy, and so on and so forth, okay, then find clients who have those same values as you and good day, right? Otherwise, change. Be who you want to be and get out there and do the good work. And I - I haven't heard once, you know, I haven't heard or seen examples of people when you widen that pool, you know, being disappointed with the good product, as they say the cream rises, right? Well, let's get all the cream in there. And then see, and I hate to go back to - to a sports metaphor, but you know, it's - you let the cat out of the bag, but that's my - my background initially, right?

Randy Kinder  7:12  

Um, but I was talking the other day with somebody about the Negro League Baseball, right? And about, I think was the homestead grace, it was - it was this amazing Negro League team from back in the day, and who was on it. And we talked for a long time. And this goes to exactly what we're saying about, "Well, what if the color barrier had been broken? 30 years earlier? 50 years earlier - whatever? How different would the record books or sports look today? And what effect that would have on society, right?" Just by opening up opportunity, what would that look like for us? And it's an interesting thought experiment, right? But when things happen like that - when you widen the pool; when you take away barriers to entry, and really work to make it your team or make your industry well representative of the folks out there, in most cases, good things happen, and the results prove it out. So, it's - it's a philosophical thing, I guess. But to me, it's also just a lazy thing. If you do - if you want to keep things the way they are, have at it. But you're not going to be around for a long time. And you certainly are closing yourself off from the future. And that seems to me to be an easy proposition to make the right decision.

Traci Shanklin  8:34  

Well, you've pretty much answered this question. But what do you say to the company that might be afraid to have an open dialogue with their employees about race and diversity?

Randy Kinder  8:46  

Yes. So, this is an interesting one to me because I've had in some of the conversations I've had of late recently, I was talking to a colleague at another organization who's - who's of color, a black woman, who runs a - who was an exec director of an organization. They wanted to have a conscious conversation with their employees about the workplace; about their feelings on certain things. And so, they started with a - basically a survey that they put out which would then guide kind of a conversation that they intended to have later. And what she found out is that in an organization where she's a woman of color, who's the authority in it, there were still lots of feelings that, you know, we're about representation - about feeling underrepresented about, you know, some people had feelings about having some issues with regarding race and others. And it showed her and it showed me in our conversation that even in what someone would - would say, as the, you know, the primo kind of best scenario, the best-case scenario, if you're not talking to your teammates, your employees, you're missing it.

Randy Kinder  9:59  

You're missing what's going on. The missing of feelings of what's really happening, and just from that standpoint, and when again, what I would have thought was an ideal situation, you know, the conversation that happened later was fruitful. They understand more about - you understood more about what your employees needed; what they weren't getting, right? And then on the flip side of that a lot of what was going right. So, to companies that don't want to have that conversation, you're just missing out. If you're not talking to them, they're gonna be talking about you. And that will affect morale; that'll affect productivity. And it, you know, at that point, you know, why are you doing what you do? 

Randy Kinder  10:37  

You know, we talked earlier about making sure that your senior management of companies is onboard and understands and really internalizes kind of what the mission is especially when it comes to - to - to these issues, the core kind of beliefs of a company. And the best leaders, I think, are ones who can then make sure that every single person who draws a paycheck or who is a consultant, or who becomes a vendor of yours understands that as well. And that they believe in it. And like, for me, and in our team at the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, and for my colleagues who work over the Housing Investment Trust and other organizations that you're - you know, well that work with labor, I mean, this - it just becomes who you are. And you work that much harder if you can believe in what you do. So, I would say to any - any leader organization, have those conversations because they're being had without you. And it's better that your team know that they're on the same page and beliefs with - with their leaders than thinking they're at odds with them.

Traci Shanklin  11:36  

So, I had a conversation yesterday with somebody who works in - in diversity and inclusion, that's her space. And she said almost the exact same thing about talking to children about race is she said, you know - I asked her about, you know, how do you start that conversation? And she said it's a tough conversation, but the truth is, you have to have it. And if you're not having it, they're learning it from somebody else. 

Randy Kinder  12:08  

Mm-hm. Yep. 


Traci Shanklin  12:10  

And I just thought like it, you know, that that was such a powerful thought for me is that like so the choice is you get to teach them or that you get to let somebody else influence them, and who knows who that person is going to be. So, it's such an important part of this conversation in general.

Randy Kinder  12:28  

Yeah, I agree with you 100% on that. I think we had a conversation about kind of what kids think; how they process stuff at one point but essentially mean, absolutely. If you weren't talking to your teammates - to your employees about these things, you have to realize they are talking to somebody. And if they're not hearing it from you, they're going to think one way or the other, you know, something about what it is you believe, and what it is the company believes if they're not having that conversation with them. I mean, I ask people all the time, how - how's this - just like you right now, you know, how is this being, you know, how is this issue being looked at in your company? How are you guys feeling about x, y? And every time when I asked someone and they say, you know, I don't really know, it tells me something, right? And they're - they are by answering the question telling me something about how they feel, either consciously or unconsciously, about what - what's going on at their company and the amount of communication they're having. And then you can make all sorts of insinuations after that. It's important, and if it's important, you should talk.

Traci Shanklin  13:30  

Yeah, very important. I'm going to just circle back to one thought that I had. So, it goes back to the more the recruiting aspect and - and the difference that we can make going forward. How can we, I think it also speaks to your mentorship involvement, and how can we go into say it's the universities, and really demonstrate to them, not just educate them on what we do; who we're doing it for, but demonstrate to them that there is a pathway here for you if there aren't enough people already currently that looks like them?

Randy Kinder  14:15  

That's a tough one. It is tough because obviously represent - we always hear people say, I say to myself that representation matters. It's a lot easier to want to be something if you see somebody who looks like you doing it. But that said, I would say that if a company makes the investment, the journey, to be in a place where there are people who, you know, they're looking to recruit, I would say especially now, so let's - let's just create a scenario. An HBCU, Howard University, here in town down the street from it, right? If a company in our industry shows up and says this is what we do. We are looking to hire you and you're in - people who look like you or whatever - whatever it is. This is the opportunity. People listen. I mean, the whole, if you build it, they will come. I absolutely believe in it. And I do not think and I'm going to get lambasted by this by some of my friends and peers I'm sure, but I don't think recruiting is as hard as we make it out. 

Randy Kinder  15:18  

There are a lot of people in this country. A lot of hungry, enthusiastic, and driven people looking to find, you know, to find that something that they're willing to do in life, but also looking for something that they believe in especially now. And if you have an organization that has a set of beliefs that align with positive things, and I think when you're talking about retirement security, and investments, it's an easy story to tell, I can say it's easy, because we tell it every day. But you will find people who want to get involved in this. It affects everybody in this country, one way, shape, or another. It's easy to connect. And you can do well at doing it and make a difference in people's lives. So, if you - if you haven't already been able to or if your team is not representative, go out and make it take that step people recognize that. Be that face. And I'd say this to - be that - that - that white face in a room full of black people and say, "I'm here because I - I'm interested in and I want to add people to my team who are qualified and who look like you so I can be better. And you can make us better." Oh my gosh, people will listen. People will absolutely listen. 

Randy Kinder  16:32  

I was - I was talking just the other day. A close, close friend of mine, as I mentioned before is first inclusion officer for a company, Northeast, and she was at an event in New York, and one of the speakers a few months - several months back was a guy from our industry, David Blumenstein from Segal was in a room, you know, full of - he was a - he was a - it was an African American organization that works in insurance, he was speaking to them. And his point to them was, you know, one was to tell his story, which is interesting. But also say I'm here because I'm genuinely interested. And I want to do more; help me do that. And got a fantastic response.

Randy Kinder  17:12  

And while that may require some courage from a company or investment from a company, right, it's not a hard thing to do. You're gonna find lots of people who want to do business with that guy, right? Who's there telling you I want you in. Is it easier to do it that second time around once you have some - some people on your team and can show some success stories? I think so. Absolutely. But it's - it shows a commitment when you start from - from that first big step. And I certainly - I think that's a fantastic thing to do. I would support a company that wanted to do that, right? I would want to help them open doors. But you know, you have to - it shows your investment. It shows that you're serious about it. When you go in and you plead your case and tell your story.

Traci Shanklin  17:53  

That's a great place for us to - to end. Randy, thank you so much for being here today. Is there anything that you can think of that you'd like to add about this conversation?

Randy Kinder  18:04  

Just Traci, I want to thank you for having me. But also, the biggest thing if we - if I - if I didn't say it several times, you know, is to have these conversations just to keep talking about it; to not be afraid especially now not a time to shy away from having hard conversations. But having ones that you know, if enough people have them, can be incredibly impactful. And if there was any industry that one needed really smart and interesting people who actually represent diverse backgrounds and diverse ways of thought it's ours right now. There's so much change happening. There's - there's so much strife and fear about what the future might hold. But this is - this may be one of the most important times for the retirement investment and the retirement industry. And again, in getting people in who actually understand what it means for them; what it means for families; what it means for working people. This is a great time to do it. And you know, while we are sitting at home, there's not really a better time to really double down on thinking about it, so that we're ready to go as soon as things open up and implement. So, I thank you for inviting me on. I'm excited about some opportunities that I hope we're going to come for our industry and I hope to be a part of making some good changes.

Traci Shanklin  19:21  

I have no doubt you will be. Thank you, Randy, I really appreciate your time. Thanks again for joining the conversation where listeners connect with leading experts throughout the financial and investment world. Be part of the change. 

Traci Shanklin  19:37  

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, and let us know. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to next time.

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