Established in 1987, Roberts and Ryan became the first service-disabled, veteran-owned broker-dealer in the country. Roberts and Ryan president, Brian Rathjen, joins Traci Dority-Shanklin on the podcast to chat about his passions from supplier-diversity to helping the veteran community and Year Up, an inner-city youth mentoring program.
Some episode highlights included:
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 funds. Time is short, so let's get started.
Traci Shanklin 0:37
My guest today is Brian Rathjen, president of Roberts and Ryan Investments and founding partner and senior Managing Director at Kelson Group, a business development and distribution firm for institutional money managers. In 2017, Brian and other investors purchased Roberts and Ryan and recapitalized it as this first service-disabled, veteran-owned, broker-dealer in the country. Brian also has a heart for working with inner city youth through an internship program called Year Up Brian's philanthropic work, and our similar backgrounds in the financial world made me want to bring him on the podcast. Today, we will chat about supplier-diversity concerning our industry, the financial world. Brian, thank you so much for joining me today.
Brian Rathjen 1:29
Thank you, Traci. My pleasure.
Traci Shanklin 1:31
So, can you tell me what's going on at Roberts and Ryan?
Brian Rathjen 1:36
Sure, Traci. Thank you. So, Roberts and Ryan is a service-disabled, veteran-owned broker-dealer. We're currently based in downtown Manhattan by Wall Street. We've got 23 Wall Street professionals, half of which are also military veterans. And this is something that I got involved with about three years ago. I'll give you a quick background if that's okay. So, I had attended the Naval Academy and spent six years in the Navy, and kind of fueled my passion for supporting the veteran community.
Brian Rathjen 2:09
In 2001, I started working with Ted Kennedy Jr. at the Marwood Group as a third-party market or placement agent. And kind of the vision of the firm at that time was to bring good asset managers into the Taft-Hartley marketplace. And Traci, as you know, from being in the business and having grown up in a union household, a lot of, you know, the unions are for outsiders. Sometimes a little bit difficult to navigate in kind of understand how decisions are made and investments are made. So, I think that there's a lot of really good money managers out there that don't spend the time getting to know our friends in the Union marketplace. So, we want to bridge that gap. So, I worked for Ted from 01 to 2010. And then I started my own firm called the Kelson group with my business partner, Dan Ledva. And we were doing the same activity, taking really good performing asset managers and bringing them to our friends in labor. It was kind of a win-win with our friends in labor got access to investment opportunities that they normally wouldn't have access to. And our friends in the money management are always looking for fresh capital. So, they were happy. And then we were happy, we got paid a fee to do that.
Brian Rathjen 3:29
But really my passion during that whole time - I was on the board of something called Boulder Crest Retreat, which is 37 acres in Bluemont, Virginia. We have 130 acres in Arizona. And what we do there is we take care of combat veterans and their families - help them get the tools to deal with PTSD. And then I've got a family at home, too. So, I kind of have three buckets in my life. Had my family. I had my business. And I really had my passion, which was helping out the veteran community. And I wanted to come up with a solution to do one thing well every day to take care of all three buckets. So, I looked at the service-disabled veteran space, and put together a group of investors and purchased Roberts and Ryan, which was founded in 1987 by a Marine who was kind of aging out of the business. And the whole purpose was if we could do one thing well and grow this company with the idea of donating 10% off the top to veteran causes, I could take care of kind of my entrepreneurial spirit. I could take care of my family, and I could take care of my philanthropic interests.
Traci Shanklin 4:38
That's amazing. It's a great story. So, backing up a little bit, I'm fascinated by your time with the United States Navy. And I also know - so you served in the Surface Warfare community, is that correct?
Brian Rathjen 4:55
I did, and that really ties into I think what you wanted to speak about today, which is you know, supplier-diversity, and kind of what's going on in today's world with this social injustice and kind of riding the ship, so to speak. So, going to the Naval Academy is really formative for me because it's a very geographic and socio-economic diverse population that goes there. And that was really my first exposure. Growing up on Long Island in a fairly non-diverse community, and then going down to the Naval Academy, and being with all types of kids from all 50 states from all different socio-economic backgrounds really was an eye-opening experience for me. And then going into the military was just fantastic.
Brian Rathjen 5:41
So, I spent three years on a ship out of Pearl Harbor, and I was on a Knox-class frigate. It was an anti-submarine warfare ship, and about a 4000-ton ship that we had a crew of almost 400. At the time, it was all men. Now it's men and women, thank God. But at the time, combat ships were just open to men in the late 80s, early 90s. And as an officer, I was in charge of 88 men from all different backgrounds, I was really exposed to a lot. And the thing about being in the military, which is not for everybody, but for me, culturally, it was just a perfect fit. What I loved about it is when you're out at sea in a self-contained unit, it's pretty dangerous because you've got fuel, and you've got ammunition, and you're in the middle of nowhere. So, you're really reliant on each other if something goes wrong.
Brian Rathjen 6:31
The worst-case scenario - you have a fire at sea. If that happens, when you look to your left and look to the right, you really don't care, you know, how much money that guy's family is worth; what color he is; what religion; you don't care about anything except that he can handle a firehose. So, the military, I think, is one of the best social - I don't want to say experiments - but it's just a great crucible because it throws you in with folks from all different backgrounds. And I can honestly say, most folks that have served in the military have probably the least amount of racial bias of any - anybody that I know. Because when you're on a ship, or in a foxhole, it really doesn't matter. And that was really formative for me. And I got to deal with all types of different personalities.
Brian Rathjen 7:19
There's a lot of the guys that were in the Navy for their own reasons. One of my men had two years of schooling at Yale. He was a rich white kid, and then I had, you know, black, brown, all different types of folks from the ghettos of Dallas. You know, prior to going to military, I didn't know that Dallas even had ghettos. I didn't know anything about Dallas. But you - you get exposed to a lot of different personalities and folks from all over. And I, for me, it was very formative. And I'm so grateful that I had my military experience in my teens and until I was about 28. So, it really kind of laid the groundwork for how I view the world and how I view humankind.
Traci Shanklin 8:01
Yeah. So, piggybacking on that and getting to the supplier-diversity, I know that's an issue, or a topic that you're very familiar with, especially in light of the current events with Black Lives Matters. So, regarding our world, the financial world, how important is diversity to our client base?
Brian Rathjen 8:21
Well, I think is very important, you know, our client base being the Taft-Hartley marketplace, you know, historically, I think we've made great strides. I mean, the purpose of the unions really is to support the working men and women of the country. And, you know, if you look back in the 60s, your 92%, of the building and trades, the construction workers was white. And now we've kind of progressed, and it's actually almost a little over 55% are brown and black, which I think is very important. Because I think there's really two things that I think need to be fixed in our country. And the way to get there really is, you know, economic opportunity. So, I think by fixing the education system and giving folks economic opportunity, or the on-ramp to empower them to participate in the economy.
Brian Rathjen 9:16
And I look at the unions, you know, my, you know, I'm of Irish descent, Irish German descent, my mother's, all of her relatives that are living here now came over from Ireland in the 50s, and 60s, and they all wound up in New York City in one of the trades, whether it's the steamfitters, the carpenters, the iron workers, or a couple of the guys were doormen with SEIU, that opportunity. You know, without the unions, these guys would have had no hope. They didn't have education at the time. They came over here with pretty much the clothes on their back.
Brian Rathjen 9:51
But, the union gave them an opportunity to provide for their families, provide college educations for their kids, give them retirement, homeownership, etc. And the unions really catapulted them, took them to the next level. And I think that same opportunity and why it's so important to have diversity is the way to really reach into these communities and give them economic opportunity. I feel the unions can play a huge role in that, and they are currently.
Traci Shanklin 10:19
And translating that over to the wealth management business - I know that a lot of the companies rushed out with statements pledging their support and promise to do better with their racial diversity problem. However, according to June 2020 story in Wealth Management Monthly Magazine published for financial advisors, out of 350,000 personal financial advisors in the US: 5.72% are black, 6.12% are Asian, and 1.22% are non-white Hispanics while 84.6% are white. Why do you think that our industry is struggling with diversity?
Brian Rathjen 11:06
I think that we're making some strides. If you look at some of the bigger banks, they've got a very robust, diverse - look, the bottom line is we've got a lot of catching up to them. This is 400 years of institutional bias, if you will. And I think that it's really about opportunity. And if you look at some of the inner cities, when these folks are growing up, they're on Maslow's hierarchy. If you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, they're on the baseline looking for food and shelter. They don't have time to think about, you know, or they're not even exposed to the opportunities. And that's why I think that you just don't find them.
Brian Rathjen 11:47
You know, when I worked at Prudential in the mid-90s, on the trading floor, it was 99.9% white. I think we had two folks of diverse nature. And that is evolving, thank God. But a lot of it is, you know, nepotism. Think about how you get a job, right? You're hiring your friend's cousin, or, you know, it's networking, right. So, your network is kind of your net worth, if you will. And I just don't think that these kids growing up, they don't even know about the opportunities that exist. So, that's why I think that, you know, having internships, programs that reach into the inner cities, and expose these kids, and that's going to take time, but there are a couple of programs that I'm involved with, that we could talk about when you're ready. But I think that it's really about exposure.
Brian Rathjen 12:38
You know, if I go into an inner city and talk to some of the underprivileged youth about being a stockbroker, they're not even exposed to it. And that's part of the problem. So, you got to get involved and engaged and do community outreach and mentorship to get these kids involved.
Traci Shanklin 12:57
Yeah, I had another guest on the show a diversity and inclusion expert by the name of Nicole Lee. And she said the exact same thing about creating pathways for underprivileged youth in order to combat meritocracy. While meritocracy sounds good on paper, but when put into practice, it really has more to do with luck than merit. Like you were saying, most of these opportunities depend on which school you went to, who you're related to, or associated with those people. But these kids don't live in those zip codes, or go to that school, or belong to that family, or fraternity. So, they never know about those opportunities, or hear about them, or even see them. That's why I think your work at Year Up is really important. How did you get involved with inner city youth and internship programs like Year Up?
Brian Rathjen 13:52
How I first got interested in this whole thing - when I got out of the military. I was working at Prudential Securities, and then started my own firm, as I told you after working for Ted, but I wanted to give back a little bit. And the way I chose to do that was, you know, combining my desire to help the Naval Academy which did so much for me, and also to help inner city youth. And I really believe and I learned - this is not an original idea, but it's true - that in order to be successful in life, if just one adult that believes in you. It goes a long way; that's like everything.
Brian Rathjen 14:30
So, when I was working for the Naval Academy as a volunteer - that's what they call a blue and gold officer - when I was tasked with helping the Naval Academy get a more diverse student body. And they wanted me to go into the inner cities in the Bronx and Harlem and try to recruit kids and give them an opportunity. And that was kind of a life changer for me because I saw the - the impact. I had two kids in particular that stand out. One was a homeless kid whose father had died, and his mother was a drug addict. And I met him. And he was always interested. He wanted to join the Marines. But we got him interested in the Naval Academy. And, you know, we got him in. He got himself in. We just exposed him to it and kind of helped him with the process. But he's now a Marine Corps officer. And he's going to break the cycle of poverty for his family because you know, after serving - getting a degree from the Naval Academy and five years of service, he'll probably go onto postgraduate work, and then get a - get a very nice job or career in either technology or down Wall Street or whatever.
Brian Rathjen 15:35
But it's kind of a life changing event. And the mentoring aspect - that's one thing that, you know, you don't have to donate a lot of your own financial resources if you don't want to, or you don't have the capacity to it. But anyone could mentor a child. And I think that really fanned the flames, my desire to kind of help folks, because it's very rewarding. So, fast forward with Roberts and Ryan, you know, we were donating to Boulder Crest, Navy SEAL Foundation, some veteran opportunities. Once kind of the landscape changed - post George Floyd and we had all this unrest - we decided that instead of a goal of 10% to veteran organizations - it's great to support the vets who are overseas, trying to protect our freedoms in America - but if America is broken, you know, what's the point? So, we wanted - Roberts and Ryan wanted to be a part of the solution and try to help solve some of the issues.
Brian Rathjen 16:34
So, I had been exposed to an organization called Year Up. And Year Up is something that I was first exposed to - Mike Manning, who's the president of New England Pension Consultants - and Mike has been involved with Year Up. What Year Up, and he used to do golf tournaments every year, so I would go up for that. And then I became a small donor where I would just make a monthly donation from my credit card. And I was exposed to the kids in Year Up. What Year Up is - and I encourage folks to take a good look at their website. They've been profiled on 60 Minutes. It was started by a Harvard Business School graduate who made some money and technology, and then he founded Year Up.
Brian Rathjen 17:15
And what Year Up does - they've got over 250 corporate partners, and almost 30 of those are financial partners including JP Morgan, American Express, Prudential. What they do at Year Up is they target 18 to 24 year-old, inner city, underprivileged men and women who have a high school graduate or a high school degree or GED. And they put them through a one-year program, where Year Up has got their own curriculum. They teach them life skills; how to show up on time; how to shake hands; how to look people in the eye - just basic life skills that a lot of folks don't grow up with, quite frankly. And they also give them some basic accounting and finance and technology, IT background. And then they partner with the corporations. And the corporations hire them as interns and that whole program's about a year. And the Year Up, what is great about it, is these kids get exposed to all types of industries, all types of jobs that they never would have a chance at getting.
Brian Rathjen 18:21
Imagine growing up in the inner-city and trying to get a job at AllianceBernstein. You don't even know what AllianceBernstein is; you have no idea how to get in the door; you don't have any skills to get in there. Well, Year Up provides all of that. And it's amazing. These kids come out with jobs ranging from 50 to 150,000. They're not jobs. They're really career paths. And I just think that Year Up is an amazing solution. So, we just did a financial transaction. We normally would have donated $200,000 to a veteran organization. And we donated 100,000 of that to Year Up. And we've kind of partnered with them to do two things. One, as we do more financial transactions, we're going to donate a portion of our proceeds to Year Up. And in addition to that, we're going to reach into our rolodex of corporations that we have that are not in the program and try to help Year Up scale up. But, I think Year Up is one of a few different solutions. But I think it's the best that I've seen out there. And I'm very excited to be working with them.
Traci Shanklin 19:22
Yeah, I think companies could really almost entirely close the pay gap for women and minorities if they would build a pipeline of diverse talent through programs like Year Up, you know, whether it be seeking different places for the recruitment. I think it's a really important piece of this. And I think - I and I'm not sure what Year Up's doing. But I do think that reaching into the rolodexes of those of us like you and myself, and saying what companies are willing to look at this organization to potentially hirer, and give these individuals who have been through this program a pathway to something that they can actually, you know, you have to see to believe, right. So, these youth need to be able to see that there is an opportunity for them. And I think it's such an important piece of what's going on in our industry specifically that we start creating legitimate pathways for individuals, diverse individuals, to be able to see that they can achieve leadership in organizations such as that. Such as the ones that we work with, and for.
Brian Rathjen 20:38
Yeah, I agree with you 100%, Traci. And the thing about the program - and again, anyone that's listening, please take a look at their website - it's pretty robust. They've got some great videos, great case studies. The organization's like, uh, there's a great video, Anthony Rizzi from AllianceBernstein, you know, he kind of went into the program and took a couple of kids. And now he's got, you know, almost 50 interns going through this program. And it started out as kind of a charitable endeavor, if you will. But now he does it because he wants to win. And the talent that he finds from these kids, the hunger, the desire to succeed, is it's unbelievable. So, the corporations, this is not a charitable endeavor. It's just you're doing social good, but it's helping them win. And it's really an unbelievable organization.
Brian Rathjen 21:27
You know, part of the problem I think that we have in just in the country in general without going down a rabbit hole talking about education system, but if you look historically, like investment banking, okay, the pipeline to become an investment banker, generally they go and recruit from Ivy League schools or the top education schools in the system. Well, how do you get into an Ivy League school? For the most part, the pipeline for that is some type of postgraduate or prep school. And you're talking about really recruiting, you know, into investment banking, kids who are coming from the top 1% of the country. So, the really - what is the real opportunity for an inner-city kid to get a job at an investment bank? Pretty tough, pretty tough. So, I think that like you said, finding other sources of human capital, I think it creates a win-win for folks.
Traci Shanklin 22:21
I think it comes down to us also changing this perspective that we have to have a certain type of education in order to be successful in this industry. I mean, I don't want to dismiss, you know, education, but I do think that there is the sense I referenced this earlier, but I had a conversation with a diversity and inclusion specialist about meritocracy. And I also talked to Randy Kinder, with the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust about the very same thing. And in both cases, you know, look, meritocracy is this great word. And the meaning behind it is very positive. However, it is one of the things that I have found companies tend to justify - use to justify not having a more diverse workforce. And I think it is really one of the things that Nicole said was this concept that meritocracy should not be based on luck of your zip code, or luck of your socio-economic background. And that is what it has come from because, you know, you're talking about meritocracy, within an organization that has a finite universe of candidates, right, that to your point, picking from some of the better schools, having better educations, those kind of things. And where it dismisses this idea that you can be very successful with a different pathway of education than the more I guess, traditional ways of which people recruit their talent.
Brian Rathjen 24:04
100%. I think some of the grading systems are starting to put in that adversity slash diversity score. So, you know, imagine who you want to hire the kid that grew up with a single parent home that had to walk two miles to school and had to take care of younger brothers and sisters and that? Or, you know, the kid that was privileged and was driven to school by his mother every day and she made him his lunch? There's - there's definitely skills that translate to business.
Brian Rathjen 24:33
You know, Bear Stearns, when they used to be around, they used to recruit poor PSDs - Poor-Smart-Determined. You give me a kid that's overcome adversity, and I'll take him any day of the week, rather than some, you know, kid who's, you know, his biggest adversity was he left his lacrosse stick at home. But you know, I mean like not to that crack on that because - but there is definitely skills that translate to the business. You know, people that will get up and seize the opportunity and run through walls and go that extra yard. I think we're moving in the right direction. Maybe not as fast as people would like.
Brian Rathjen 25:10
But, I do think that creating, you know - this guy, Robert Smith from Vista Equity is an amazing guy. I don't know if you've ever seen him, but he's the gentleman that wiped out all the student debt for the Morehouse College students at the 2019 graduations. An African American guy, extremely well-educated, came from a middle-class background, but he talks about creating on-ramps that empower people, you know, to participate, regardless of whatever their background, their religious, gender, etc., etc. But on-ramps - giving people economic opportunity. And I think if you flatten the field a little bit, and give people the opportunity. That's how we're gonna get out of this. I don't think it's about handouts. It's about hand-ups. It's about mentorship. And it's about, you know, opportunity.
Traci Shanklin 26:02
Yeah. So, can we switch gears just a little bit, I know that Roberts and Ryan, you have a lot of understanding about the supplier-diversity, which is a piece that I think money managers in our position know about, but I don't know how important they recognize that it is. I had a conversation with a union labor trustee in this business. And we talked a lot about supplier-diversity, and when they sit around the table and are looking at various money managers to hire, the - what they're focusing on. And it is a really real, relevant conversation around that table. And I wanted to just get your input on that because I know with Roberts and Ryan that's a very big piece of your business model. And I think you have a really deep understanding of how the importance of supplier-diversity is escalating in our current environment especially in light of, you know, Time's Up and - and Black Lives Matters and other things.
Brian Rathjen 27:07
Sure. So, this goes back to economic opportunity, creating economic opportunity. So, Roberts and Ryan, because we're a serve - we're 51% owned by two service-disabled veterans, and we've got a veteran status. We fit into that bucket of women, minority, service-disabled veterans. In the country right now as it pertains to money managers, there are 27 states that if you're managing money for their pension plans, they set a goal, or give you a mandate, and ask you to trade a certain percentage. In some cases in Illinois, it's up to 44% of your trades with women, minority, and service-disabled veterans. And that gives us the opportunity, you know, we've got all the capabilities and we've got the designation, it gives us the ability to compete with the bigger banks and the bigger trading shops to handle those orders. And that translates down to, you know, economic opportunity not only for our employees, but allows us to donate money back to Year Up.
Brian Rathjen 28:13
The other tie-in with the unions is when Roberts and Ryan was started, we were focused on philanthropic giving for veterans, for health and wellness, but also career transition. So, one of the beneficiaries of that a program I strongly believe in is Helmets to Hardhats. Helmets to Hardhats has an amazing program that takes men and women out of the veteran-community and helps them get into apprenticeships, so they can get high-paying jobs within the construction trades. But there are a number of other women and minority broker-dealers that quite frankly, can compete with capability against the big banks, given the opportunity. So, I think that for the unions, you know, the conversation they can have with their money-managers is how much of your trading are you doing with women, minority, and service-disabled veterans? Because if you can get the same level of service, but empower disadvantaged groups that's the way out of this kind of social inequality that we have.
Traci Shanklin 29:17
Yeah, so that was my last question, which was how and where we can continue to improve our diversity report card?
Brian Rathjen 29:24
One thing that a lot of people may or may not be aware of, but in 2008, during the financial crisis, when the Dodd-Frank bill was passed, there was section 342, which established OMWI, which is the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, and veterans are included in that verbiage. And that is an act that hasn't had much teeth to-date, but it's - there's oversight - congressional oversight on that, and that is something that I encourage all money managers to get ahead of because supplier-diversity is here to stay. And diversity and inclusion within your own firm is something that's going to start getting highlighted more.
Brian Rathjen 30:13
The SEC put out a voluntary survey two years ago, and they got less than a 5% response. It was voluntary. So, most money managers chose to ignore it. They reissued that survey this year. And I can guarantee you with Maxine Waters and Greg Meeks, they were very upset when the survey went out, and the response was so light. So, I think you'll see coming down the line legislation that says any money manager with more than 100 employees and X amount of AUM, which I think the cut-offs probably going to be about $50 billion, you're going to be forced to answer questions like how many women do have? How many people of diversity do you have? What are their roles within your firm? There's a trend here that just not going away, which is I think, a good thing because the younger population is demanding more social inclusion, and more - they're less motivated by money and more about social justice. So, you've heard a lot about ESG and diversity and inclusion. This is - we're in the top of the first inning of something that's gonna be around for a very long time.
Brian Rathjen 31:24
And let me give you one - pause that for sec - well, let me give you one other thing that, you know, Citi group, which is an unbelievable organization, you know, they've got a goal 40%, of associate vice presidents to managing director roles will be filled by women by 2021. Dave Solomon, from Goldman Sachs, when he was in Davos said, they're not gonna bring any private companies public, they won't bank them, and help them with their IPOs unless they have one woman on the board of directors. That's for this year 2021. It's going to be two women on the board. So, there is a push here going forward. And I encourage anybody if you're not interested from a social standpoint, from a financial standpoint, get ahead of the curve, because it's - it's coming. And it's going to be diversity and inclusion within your organization. And then supplier-diversity, how many women, minority, and veterans do you work with?
Traci Shanklin 32:22
I know, I just completed a RFP, and it was a question. Both of those were questions. So, that is definitely something that many, and I actually think it was an Illinois RFP. So, that makes total sense. But I mean, I think it's already here. It's just a matter of the importance it's going to start taking on as we move forward.
Brian Rathjen 32:44
Yes. And by the way, there's plenty of surveys out there that talk about and support the importance of diversity of thought, diversity of personnel. And what that brings to the table. It's good business.
Traci Shanklin 32:56
Brian Rathjen 32:57
So, you're doing well while doing good.
Traci Shanklin 32:59
Absolutely. Who said that?
Brian Rathjen 33:01
I just did. You didn't recognize my voice?
Traci Shanklin 33:03
No. "Doing well by doing good?" Who said that? I know, it was Bruce Burtch. He wrote Win-Win for the Greater Good. Well, Brian, thank you so much for joining me today.
Brian Rathjen 33:16
Thank you so much, Traci, always a pleasure to be with you.
Traci Shanklin 33:19
This concludes our conversation with Roberts and Ryan Investments president, Brian Rathjen. If you're interested in partnering, volunteering, donating, or just finding out a little bit more about Year Up, the inner-city youth mentoring program that Brian talked about, please visit their website at www.yearup.org.
Traci Shanklin 33:44
Thanks again for joining the discussion where listeners connect with leading experts throughout the financial and investment world be part of the change.
Traci Shanklin 33:53
And that's it for this week's episode of The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast. We'd love to hear from you. And if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, head over to www.multiemployerfunds.com, and let us know. Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai