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Building Black Wealth Q&A with Gunjan Kedia and Greg Cunningham

November 09, 2021

Kedia, Vice Chair, Wealth Management and Investment Services, and Cunningham, Chief Diversity Officer, discuss the results of the survey, what surprised them and what U.S. Bank plans to do with the findings.  

U.S. Bank recently conducted a survey to better understand the financial needs, goals and challenges of Black Americans with at least $25,000 in investable assets.* We asked 4,024 Asian, Black, Caucasian and Hispanic consumers of all ages questions about how they define financial success and wealth, how they think about financial planning and wealth accumulation, and about their relationships to wealth management and financial service providers.

Gunjan Kedia, Vice Chair, Wealth Management and Investment Services, and Greg Cunningham, Chief Diversity Officer, discuss the results, what surprised them and what U.S. Bank plans to do with the results.

Why did we do this survey?

Gunjan: We are a Minneapolis-based company, and the death of George Floyd hit close to home. On a national level, it also put a spotlight on a number of issues Black Americans face, including the racial wealth gap. We saw a surge of desire from across the bank to do more. We had already been exploring ways we can do more to meet the needs of clients who historically haven’t been catered to by our industry. For example, we learned a lot from our research around women and wealth; that really galvanized action and changes in our Wealth Management division. We wanted to do the same with this survey – we wanted to better understand the Black community and their habits and preferences around investing. It’s our aspiration to provide access to all in a fair, equitable and relatable manner.

Also, it was important to me to connect this initiative back to the broader enterprise. Earlier this year, we introduced U.S. Bank Access Commitment, a new, long-term approach to help build wealth while redefining how the bank serves racially diverse communities and provides more opportunities for racially diverse employees. The work is supported by all areas of the business, and the insights and learnings coming out of this survey will be valuable to help inform our efforts in wealth management.

What did you hope to learn? What did you learn?

Gunjan: We wanted to know what motivates the affluent Black community and their relationship with money. We wanted to understand their goals, fears and hopes and find out who they look to for financial advice. The results were insightful and will help us connect with Black affluent consumers in a more real and authentic way. Our survey certainly reinforced that banks have work to do in building trust, but we were surprised to see that that the Black community, particularly affluent Black Americans, have better respect and regard for the knowledge and advice financial institutions can offer than white or Asian Americans.

Greg: We needed to learn the barriers to engaging in conversations about wealth for the Black community. How can we remove those barriers? What we did learn is that Black consumers have had a unique engagement with financial services and the banking industry that informs their decisions. And despite the pandemic, those surveyed within the Black community, especially younger and emerging affluent individuals, are more likely than other segments to rate their current financial situation as better than a year ago (61 percent vs. 49 percent). The survey allowed us to think about how we make our purpose to “power human potential” true for everyone.

We also learned:

  • Understanding the importance of one’s community is critical. More than 69% of Black affluent survey responders felt a real sense of responsibility to their community vs. 28% of white respondents. Maya Angelou said, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” Many Black Americans are not saving money or investing for themselves. They are looking to share with others and lift their entire communities.
  • Seventy-eight percent of Black respondents felt there are institutional roadblocks impeding their wealth accumulation, far outpacing sentiments of other communities.
  • The importance of generational wealth, of building a foundation so generations after you will be in a better place. While most people feel that way, the survey told us it’s much more important to Black Americans than to other groups.

What surprised you most about the survey results?

Gunjan: I was quite inspired by the degree of commitment the affluent Blacks feel toward their community – four times stronger than the white respondents. We also heard a clear desire of this community to see themselves reflected in their financial advisors. When we did the Women and Wealth survey, we had expected to find this and we were surprised by the fact that women were less focused on working with women advisors. So this response was clearly different.

Greg: We were surprised that the Black community wasn't more mistrusting. They have a willingness and enthusiasm to work with financial services institutions. We were surprised at the interest people had in wanting to work with a financial advisor. We thought the mistrust would run deeper given the history.

What do we plan to do with the results of the survey?

Greg: We hope this will help create a national dialogue about Black wealth. We also hope it helps inform key critical actions our industry can take to make Black affluent consumers feel valued, respected, and welcomed into our organizations and into conversations about building wealth. This is part of a much bigger bank-wide initiative. Every single business line at U.S. Bank has an initiative tied to our Access Commitment – a pledge to support businesses owned by people of color, help individuals and communities of color advance economically and enhance career opportunities for employees and prospective employees.   

Gunjan: We are just absorbing the findings of the survey and crafting plans. We have already significantly increased diverse advisor hiring, and we are tailoring our advice and products to focus on areas that this community places a lot of importance on – investment in real estate, wealth transfer planning, supporting their communities, and launching small businesses, to name a few. We are also creating awareness and training among all our advisors so they can be sensitive to the unique needs of this community. 

What kinds of feedback have you personally heard from clients on the racial wealth gap?

Greg: I think people are really pleased to hear that we are focusing attention on a topic that is of such vital interest to our nation, and we’re doing so from a place of humility. Although our report contains a set of recommendations we think our industry should consider, we don’t have all the answers. Our study is meant to ask different questions so that we may better serve all of our communities. By doing that, everyone benefits.

Why is closing the racial wealth gap important to you personally?

Gunjan: I have called the United States home for nearly 30 years, and it still surprises me that in a country as wealthy as ours, with so much global economic power and innovation, we haven’t created more opportunity for everyone. That we still have so many people who can’t financially progress, educate their children, or have access to affordable financial products. I also believe that the right financial advice, at the right time, by a trusted advisor can meaningfully improve your financial outcomes. That’s what we’re trying to make happen here.

Greg: I come from a community that in so many ways has been left behind economically. After Emancipation, freed slaves were buoyed by the hopes of equal rights, citizenship and human dignity. However, the period known as Reconstruction brought violence, corruption, fraud and a denial of rights to freed men and women; particularly in their attempts to fully control their economic freedom and destiny. This work will not solve all of our historic wrongdoings, but it does allow us to begin to move forward together into a better future.   

Why are Black Americans important to U.S. Bank? To Wealth Management?

Gunjan: All Americans are important to us. Our goal is to reach everyone in a way that is personal and familiar and helps build trust. Our survey is focused on Black Americans first because that is where the racial wealth gaps are the most severe. We are also thinking about Hispanics, Millennials, Generation Z, women.

Greg: I believe it’s essential that we all acknowledge that Black Americans were intentionally and systemically denied access to opportunity and wealth in this country. Extreme disparities and their persistent harm reach into every American’s future. We can all be energized by the opportunity to provide the tools of financial prosperity for Black families and other historically disadvantaged members of the American fabric, because those benefits will be felt throughout our entire country. Our purpose statement is to power human potential, we need to make sure that's true for everyone.

 
*Investable Assets – personal financial investments (taxable, IRAs and Keoghs) including deposits, investments and annuities. Excludes 401(k), 403(b), profit share, IRA-SEP, stock purchase/ESOP, money purchase, life insurance or home value.

 

Investment products and services are: 
NOT A DEPOSIT NOT FDIC INSURED MAY LOSE VALUE NOT BANK GUARANTEED NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY



For U.S. Bank:
Credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association and subject to normal credit approval. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.


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