Video: Democratizing Wealth Building to Help Close the Racial and Gender Gap

Online Event Archive Recorded November 15, 2022

Persistent racial and gender wealth gaps remain a major obstacle to building financial security for low- and moderate-income (LMI) households in the United States. How can we ensure that the financial system, and opportunities to build wealth, are developed to meet the needs of LMI people? Income alone is insufficient: too many people are just getting by.

Traditional pathways to wealth—homeownership, higher education, entrepreneurship, and investing in stocks—have been inaccessible to many, and emerging pathways including shared ownership and blockchain technology offer new opportunities. This is the time for innovation!

The panel explored the relationship between financial security and wealth building, shared key findings from in-depth research studies, pilot programs and deep engagement with LMI families across the country, and spurred thinking about new 21st-century pathways to building wealth for those who need it most.

Social innovators, fintechs, financial services firms, industry experts, employers, and policymakers will all benefit from this conversation.


Timothy Flacke, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Commonwealth
Tia Hodges, VP of Corporate Giving and Employee Volunteerism, MetLife; President, MetLife Foundation
Willa Tellekson-Flash, Director of Community, Public.com


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Flacke  0:02

Hello, good morning or good afternoon depending on where you are. Welcome my name is Tim Flacke and I am the co founder and executive director of Commonwealth Commonwealth is a national nonprofit building financial security and opportunity for vulnerable households through innovation and partnerships. And I am profoundly grateful that all of you are taking time to join us today to talk about wealth, and specifically democratizing wealth building and aiming to help close the race and gender wealth gaps. I want to thank the National Community Reinvestment Coalition for making space for this conversation. And again, for all of you, I hope we will have a conversation today. I am really, really pleased with the panelists we have, who will come on in just a moment Tia Hodges leads the MetLife foundation and is also its president and CEO, as well as being an adjunct professor at New York University, as probably many of you know that Tia has been a leader in financial health, and investing in financial health and is also an invaluable partner to, to Commonwealth, my organization. We’re also joined by Willa Tellekson-Flash, who is the director of community at public, as she’ll explain public is a leading FinTech working to make the public markets work for all people. We’re also privileged to partner with public here at Commonwealth. I just have a few opening comments to frame the conversation. And then we’ll dive in, as I may have already said, in my view, and I hope that you’ll agree, today’s topic is profoundly important. Wealth and wealth gaps matter, a great deal. I imagine we all have our experience of this. But wealth is the part of family’s finances. That is not just about today or of the moment. It’s the part about what we own. What has the potential to be long term durable, appreciating assets and wealth are vital roles in families and households, as a source of protection, some insulation against adversity, whatever it might be some insurance, as if you will see corn, opportunity to invest in the future and possibly to make a lasting difference in our households socio economics. Wealth also provides real self determination and choice and agency about things like where you live, or what kind of work you do, what kind of life you get. So to lead for many of us wealth, whether we want it to or not, is associated with dignity and self worth, hardly surprising and in a market based economy. And wealth has the potential to enable legacy, if you will, it’s a chance to pass something on to the next generation in your own family or in your community. And I think we’ll see through the conversation, it’s it’s more than just listed here as well. For viralization wealth is really what brought us together as a guiding principle 20 plus years ago, it remains our guiding light. And what we’ve seen as a get I imagine many of you have as well, is that there is no one solution to enabling wealth creation or attacking wealth gaps. We we need solutions that speak to different households in different circumstances, who are at different points in their own financial journeys. We of course, are aware of well known traditional pathways to wealth, things like homeownership, higher education, entrepreneurship, but we have to we have to be clear that those traditional proven pathways have not been equally accessible to all. I imagine a lot of us have heard the statistic about the median wealth difference between black and white households. It’s now eight to one, but it is worth taking a moment and narrowing down and looking what happens when we add gender as well. If you combine race and gender, the median wealth for white men is 13 times the median wealth for black women. If we then tighten again and look at age, a single black woman under the age of 35, has a median wealth of just $101 Compared to $1,550 for a single black man and that same age group, or 22,006. $140 For a single white man in that same age bracket, so we have serious wealth gaps we have to remember. And beyond traditional pathways, it’s also true that we live in an age and a time of rapid change in technology. But beyond that, and some of that change creates new possibilities for wealth creation. It’s with those insights in mind that our traditional pathways have not been accessible to everyone. And that there is a rapidly changing world, including around wealth creation, that we sought support and a partner with another life foundation or a Commonwealth to explore a portfolio of wealth building strategies. If that is of interest to you, you can find out more about it in our wealth building blueprints, which is available on our website, build commonwealth.org publication is wealth building blueprints, the promise of traditional and new pathways for closing the wealth gap. Alright, Tia, Willa, thank you so much. I will just say briefly, before we dive in, that if any of you who are joining us today have questions or comments, please go ahead and put them into the q&a feature in zoom. We will do our best to monitor those during the conversation. But we’ll also save some time at the end. So Tia, could you just introduce yourself and add anything that you think would be helpful for the audience briefly, and then we’ll take it over to you, Wiila.

Hodges 6:34

I think so much, Tim. Good morning. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to participate, to share our perspective. And also learn from all of the questions that may be coming in as well. I equally learned from that. My name is Tia Hodges, I had a corporate giving employee engagement, volunteerism, and Presidency of now I foundation based here in New York City. And as Tim mentioned, our financial health has really been this has been center of the plate of our work for many, many years. So really excited to have this conversation or join this conversation today to talk about it at the intersection of race and gender. And I think the perspectives are immensely important from all of us as we really seek to tackle this issue. So I’ll turn it back over to you, Tim.

Flacke  7:32

Thanks. Willa, why don’t you introduce yourself as well?

Tellekson-Flash  7:36

Thanks. Thanks so much for having me. Thank you for being here. For for those of you who are tuning in, really looking forward to this conversation. And as you said, to to learning from from all of you as well, my name is Willa. I work at Publix, which to provide a little bit of context on is an investing platform that allows members to build a portfolio of any asset class that includes stocks, ETFs, crypto and alternative assets as well. I know that community which is has been in my title can mean many different things at different organizations. So at Publix, that’s meant overseeing investor engagement and advancement. So providing our community of investors with the context, the educational content, and the conversations that they need to be confident in, in their investing decisions. And that that confident pieces is something that that I’ve thought about a lot because it was intimidation that that I felt when I personally was was trying to learn more about investing that drew me to this role and to this company. I’ve found it and find it incredibly frustrating that the financial world can feel like it’s not for a lot of people. And and so is excited to be part of conversations about opening up investing in particular, but I think financial health and wealth building at large to more people, both by eliminating some of the taboo factor of talking about money, and providing tools that allow us to actually address some of the obstacles that are in the way of democratizing wealth building. So really excited to be part of this conversation and grateful to Commonwealth as well, who we’ve we’ve gotten the chance to do some work with which we’ll talk a little bit about later.

Flacke  9:39

Thank you so much both. Let’s let’s just start with the really a baseline question which, you know, I’ve alluded to in my remarks, but I want to get your thoughts. Why is wealth important and how is it distinct from income? And what does this idea of democratizing wealth mean to each of you. Tia, can we come to you first on that?

Hodges  9:58

Sure. I will be radically transparent as I was within the practice meetings, I’ll be radically transparent with the audience. I’ve been in philanthropy and nonprofit for many years. And I think when we first initially think about income and wealth, we use, I use the word sometimes interchangeably, rightly or wrongly. And so I think, first, the definition around how income is generated, a wealth is generated. And I’ve been at MetLife foundation just a little over a year, probably about 15 months at this point. And when we were launching our new strategy, this year, we did a deep dive with a partner around our portfolio of work, and really understanding what our wealth building activities are investments that we have, from a Grants perspective, and what is income generation. So as my coach would say, you know, your time and talent helps you to generate income, and wealth. And he was, you know, you need an income to in order to secure a home. And in many instances, companies will have benefits plans for their employees, whether health care, or 401, K or 403. B, and the accumulation of those assets, and then the ability to also transfer that right when we talk about intergenerational wealth as well, the ability to transfer that from one generation to the next. So do I leave anything for my children or grandchildren etc. And but I think the clear definition is really important in terms of how we accumulate income, and then the idea around wealth is significantly important. And I finally got on the right track on that one, the other from a full philanthropic standpoint, and this is just my purview perspective. So the audience members, and then the philanthropies that you connect with, we’ll all have a slightly different perspective, but also in our portfolio of work. You know, in our financial health work, we often talk about checking and banking accounts, access to savings, you know, having our nonprofit partners work with clients who are, you know, accessing, or saving money from a digital platform standpoint. So through FinTech, for example. And that is important to understand what what you have the ability to save, that’s equally important, but that’s also a slightly different conversation. That’s also when our in our portfolio of work, such as benefits, so the conversation around public access to public and private benefits and benefits looks like access to health care to that forum 401k Four, three P. And there are other benefits that employers are offering sometimes a larger employers, whether that is also helping to you know, buy a home or reduce student debt. So a variety of things go into one the definition, but being clear about that, but also the different avenues around building wealth and also generating income. So that’s how I kind of take a look at that broader ecosystem. And we’re really working to suss out, what do our investments our brands look like? And what do we really need to link into? Right? So if many Americans, for example, have access to a checking and savings account, then do we need to really turn our focus on wealth building strategies. So that could be homeownership and increased savings and investing in the market? I think we may even talk blockchain and cryptocurrency what does the emerging currencies look like? So I hope that’s a little helpful context and how I think about the definitions, but also how we’re really being introspective at MetLife foundation on what, what we’re supporting, and we’re, you know, where do we really need to start to turn our attention to, especially for communities of color and for women.

Tellekson-Flash 14:25

Yeah, I think to to build on some of that. I think one of the one of the pieces that you talked about TIA is is this wealth being something that is so much more long term than than the income piece or, or even what you have in a in a checking or savings of any given time and mentioned homeownership and other things like that wealth is really something that unlocks opportunities over time, whether that being in your lifetime or in future generations as well. And Uh, because of of my line of work, I think about wealth most through the lens of investing. And I think that that’s something that has been historically, an important way for, for individuals to build wealth over time, but also hasn’t been something that’s been easily accessible to most people for are up to present day. And still something that I think, is that we have a lot of lot of work to do. And I think the, the piece about democratizing wealth, comes down to not only access I think is a word that we use a lot, access to tools, but also how we are bringing these things to people and what the context that that we’re providing is, and the education that we’re providing is. So the individuals feel empowered to take part in this for themselves. So that it doesn’t stop with just one person. But I do think that, that that long term, over your own lifetime and, and future generations is is a really important piece of of understanding why it can be so powerful, because of all the different things that that can be unlocked when it’s a continuing a continuing journey for folks.

Flacke 16:24

Thank you both, I want to keep the conversation going. And also just take a moment to talk a little bit more about why race and gender are important and wealth. I threw out some numbers. And I saw in the chat, it sounds like some of you are interested in the source of those, which of course is great. But you know, sometimes numbers alone don’t really give a full story. And so briefly, I wonder, Tia and Wiila if you want is there anything more you want to add about why race and gender really belong in this conversation?

Hodges  16:56

Yeah, I’m happy to start and Willa, of course, you know, pop in. I think the I think we have to one, one word that we use here at the Foundation is really an intersectional approach. Right. And I think we also have to be really radically transparent. And this is hard to say a little bit. And they’re tough conversations. But we really have to take a look at it be radically transparent around how the the wealth gap, whether by race, gender, access, you know, what was created started, and I think we really have to start there from a historical lens. And in the US, I think that’s really hard to do without talking about race and gender. I don’t know how you, I don’t know how we get our I don’t, I don’t know that it’s possible to get around it to be quite frank. And so that plays a really important role. If we look at some of the policy over many years, decades and decades. You know, there were certain jobs that were not included it for example, in the New Deal, being eligible for any type of retirement benefits to how we think about decisions on loans for businesses, or redlining. They all have a great impact. And most importantly, as or equally important, is the conversation around narrative. So we don’t really realize how that process works around why are certain groups not able to achieve intergenerational wealth or even have difficulty building income, right? So when we look at occupational segregation, for example, and look at dollar per hour access to benefits, and then even the ability to accumulate income, enough to be able to save for a home or get an education, or put what sometimes it’s the perception around how much you can actually afford to put away in a 401 K, or 403. B I struggled with that when I worked in the nonprofit sector. But narrative is equally important. And so what are the stories we’ve been told or that we tell that say, who’s deserving of wealth, the ability to to have that job to have that, to be able to build that business to be able to save, who has the right to own a home? And if so, in what neighborhoods, we’ve seen how homes are appraised as well, right? It’s all a narrative, but it also has a very historical lens, as well. So disaggregating data is immensely important, because if we are to have interventions from a philanthropic standpoint, and you know, private sector and others, we really have to understand how each community of people of individuals are impacted and it’s not necessarily equitable across that lens. So I think distilling by race and gender from a historical as well as an interest, historical play is immensely important and the narrative is immensely important, and how do we shape shift and change that narrative, because to me, some of the stories we tell some of the the ability to gain access to credit is about who is deemed valuable, or who’s deemed invaluable. So, you know, just noodle on that for food for thought. But it is an important piece of the work. And that’s really the hardest piece to manage, and identify and create solutions. And to and have a collection of across the ecosystem actually take action to address those really big changes, if we’re talking about addressing gender and race where wealth gap is concerned.

Tellekson-Flash  20:46

I think the the narrative piece is something that, that I’ve seen it play in, in our community of investors of we surveyed our community of just over a year ago or so and large populations of of those using our platform identified as women as people of color. The intersection pieces, women of color, as well, and, and I think the the thing that I’ve seen in interacting with with members, time and time, again, is, is an appetite to participate, but not feeling like they themselves are an investor or can relate to what they’ve seen in media, but also just in what our understanding is of, of what wealth building is and who can take part in that. And so I think there’s a lot of work on our end, at Publix and similar, similar organizations to think about, how do we help people find their place within our ecosystem? Even if that’s a technological application? How do we help people find their footholds? How do we help them sort of connect the dots and be like, Oh, I actually can participate in this, this, this is for me, as we create more and more tools, in hopes of including more people in in these practices. But because the narrative has been different for so long, that won’t shift automatically, just because we provide a tool or a piece of technology that allows someone to participate.

Flacke  22:34

I appreciate all those comments. And I sometimes have an image in my head as I listen to one or something around the just so you know how long it takes ocean liners or large ships to change direction. And the reason I think that that image is in my head is that when we talk about wealth, it’s already come up that this is a long term activity. And and the flip side of that, I think is we inherit the legacy of the past in a way that might be a little bit different than for current income.

Hodges  23:09

It’s good, I just mentioned one or one or two other things. Just to circle back to the points also that Willow was making by Guess we think about race and gender. It’s always interesting, some of the health outcomes that also exists with when we talk about wealth and access to intergenerational wealth and income. And I always think about how, you know, financial freedom, what that feels like, and the emotional, social, emotional, and just folks feeling liberated, which we all should, should feel and have a right to feel, but how when we engage and support women and communities of color, to participate in investing or, you know, Blockchain or other access to credit. How, as on a very individual community level, and also in their own families, likely have better outcomes have the emotional capacity and mental capacity to manage life in a totally different way. And I think so much of what happens when there is such a wide wealth gap is there there are obviously the economic and social stress stressors that are at playing, but it also prohibits people from living, I believe, personally and professionally from living to their fullest potential, right. So if you’re bogged down by, you know, having to work a couple of jobs and you can’t save for retirement, how that impacts your home, your community ability to support and thrive, which we all have a right to, but I think also, you know, there’s a lot of research city, in fact, in 2020 re released research around the impact of the racial wealth gap, and black Americans in particular, I think was that $16 trillion is lost. So it behooves all of us to ensure that we really address and find real world solutions to the issue. And some of that may be very hyperlocal. But we cannot forget the social, emotional and mental aspects of not being part or having such a wide wealth gap plays in each of our communities.

Flacke  25:44

Yeah, I’m so glad that you made those points Tia, we find that all the time in our work that when you step back, really no one benefits from the gaps we have today, around short term financial security or around wealth. Well, no one has an extreme state. And but there’s so much to be gained for the economy, for families, for communities for employers, by attacking positions, I would want to shift the conversation a little bit and let’s go, you know, you know, we’ve been high level in concept, let’s get down into some some nitty gritty, because I think that can be interesting. And to get us there. Let’s go to an audience poll, if our host could help us with that. And what you’ll see here, when it comes up is we’re curious to get a take from all of you. On our first audience poll about the idea that people living on low and moderate incomes should have access to investing. And I’m just going to, here we go. You can read it for yourself how important it is, for people living on low and moderate incomes, to have access to investing opportunities, and you know, three simple choices there. You could go ahead and click on that. I think it’ll be interesting for all of us to get a bead on how this group is feeling is this priority is not a priority isn’t somewhere in the middle. And then we’re going to go next to talk a little bit about some work we’ve done to try and enable access to investing for populations that frankly, told us that they would like to have this opportunity, but don’t feel that they have and what happens when we create some circumstances to allow that? I’m going to ask our fabulous NCRC hosts, we can close out the poll here and we can see some results. It’s kind of well, okay, this is an audience that, that I’ll speak for myself that I I love that there’s strong interest, and you see the importance of creating this opportunity. So what I’d like to do is, Willa, let’s go over to you because as you well know, we have worked together Conwell and public to create an investing opportunity. Can you just tell us a little bit about what we did?

Tellekson-Flash  27:59

Yes, my unmute button got away from me for for a moment there. Yeah, so we we were able to work together on, on providing access through technology, but also through through seed funding, to to folks with low and moderate income to, to really look at what the possible effects and impacts of inclusive technology design, as well as as seed funding were for on investing outcomes for underrepresented populations. So we put together a pilot program that took place over seven months, and provided 241 participants with $250 in seed funding, and then used public’s investing application to all or the community layer of of public’s investing application to also connect participants with each other, as well as, as well as connecting some of them with access to mentors. And, and interact both with each other and with those mentors throughout the time that the pilot was running. And we’ll talk a little bit about about outcomes in a moment and, and also are looking forward to working together on a larger national pilot for thinking more about investor identity and digging into what that means to folks moving forward.

Flacke  29:37

Willal, why don’t you just go ahead and what did we find what were the key takeaways

Tellekson-Flash  29:41

So I think two things really stood out. The first is that people crave learning opportunities, learning opportunities, looked like community interaction, so learning from one another mentoring interaction And as well as educational content that that provided overviews and sort of getting into the nitty gritty of of different investing practices and things like that. The second finding being that that seed funding is a really effective way to to get people started, especially if especially if the the financial piece has been a barrier or just a reason to pause and to think about, you know, is it is this money that I could potentially risk losing there, understandably, is risk involved in investing. And I think also through through the work that we did together, some of the recommendations that are outlined in the report that Commonwealth put together on the pilot, which can maybe be shared in in the chat, if folks want to dig deeper into it. Seed funding, it was one of the the main recommendations that came out of it as, as a win win for for new investors and for the the tools that they’re the tools, the platforms, etc, that they’re using, that they provide a way for people to learn by doing in a way that that can really get people over that initial over that initial sort of hump into, into feeling like this is something that they can participate in. The second recommendation and sort of, like, seed of of knowledge that that came from this is opportunities for for community interaction, in platforms like ours increased both comfort and belonging, I think, historically, investing is something that is a super solo activity for individuals that you’re, you know, trying to take in information and make decisions on your own. And I think there can be a lot of hesitation around is this the right decision, I don’t know. And so being able to interact with with other people and sort of hear different perspectives, different different ways of thinking, is, is helpful in terms of that decision making piece or like nervousness piece that can be there. But also a sense of belonging, we talked about the the narrative piece earlier, and being surrounded by people who you feel like you have things in common with and, and watching them be on a similar journey has has a lot of value. And then the third, the third piece is that embedding learning opportunities directly into an investing platform or an investing experience, makes knowledge more actionable. I think one thing that I think a lot about from the financial technology side is that we are not able to, to give people direction about what they should or shouldn’t do to make smart investments or smart financial decisions. That being said, because we are providing access to tools that allow people to invest or just keep it to investing for for the sake of this. It’s also our it’s also our responsibility to provide people with the context to really understand the actions that they’re taking, or the context around the the tools that they’re using, so that they feel empowered to to make those decisions for themselves. That if that education or information is in the same place, that it’s so much, it’s so much more seamless, to, to sort of take in knowledge and then put it to use directly in that same place rather than fragmenting the the experience for folks.

Flacke  34:09

Thanks. Willa, and I just want to underscore one thing from from what you said, we did a ton of research, this is Commonwealth before designing this pilot, and something we heard over and over again, as people said, this just isn’t for me. And when you push to look, look at the kinds of people and I saw a comment, I think that went by in the chat along these lines. And as we talked a little bit about in our free call. Boy, that doesn’t seem like a reason why people shouldn’t have a choice, a sense that there’s just they’re just not well, it’s just not built for them. And after writing this pilot, we saw a movement from 25% to 65% of participants said I feel confident in being able to make investment choices. And to be clear, these were all people who who opted in who wanted to have this experience. So I really think the point of have, you know, even a modest amount of seed fund gives people a chance to experience something that might have felt off limits. And that is profound. I do want to move us on Thank you. This is great conversation, we have a lot a lot of ideas to cover. Investing in capital markets is a Path to Wealth Creation, proven one. But I want to talk briefly about another one. Working with with support from from MetLife Foundation, we’ve done some deep work on credit building and credit repair, specifically with an eye to wealth creation. And while the idea of helping households build credit or even repair credit, is not a new one. And lots of people have done fabulous work on this, we found a really important opportunity to intentionally link that work to this idea of wealth creation and wealth aspirations and financial aspirations. So we had an opportunity to work with a leading credit building, FinTech and mission driven FinTech called lock box. And we did extensive consumer research with over 400 people to really understand their experience, and came up with some messaging and design adjustments that really try to link credit repair to financial aspirations and wealth. And what we found after testing that is that people who participated in the New Revised Version, if you will, of this tool, lifted their credit scores by an average of 52 points, and that 88% of those who participate in the pilot, were able to successfully apply for credit after completion of the pilot. And it’s it’s it’s really basic and important stuff, being clear about the the link to financial aspirations from credit building work, being transparent about the tools and approaches and costs, and providing supplemental information that people want. So I invite you to read all about it. I feel like we’re we’re directing you several times to our website. But that is the place to get all the the quotes. This one or all of the information. This one is a case study in credit building on build Commonwealth, that word. But this is a really different approach to think about wealth creation. And I just wanted to give it a chance to weigh in here because in your position, leading the MetLife foundation and really thinking across a whole portfolio of different financial health and wealth creation strategies. Tia, are there any thoughts or comments you want to add about this concept of credit building and how it relates to wealth creation?

Hodges  37:33

Yeah, thank you for teeing that up in the background on it. I think I will say a couple of things, I think globally, I think but globally, access to credit is essential is really important. But when we when I land the plane, specifically in the US, and it’s very important, obviously, our society and our culture, you know, credit is immensely important credits initially reported around the world, but just to centralize the the points around the US. So much of what we’re able to acquire from a wealth building standpoint, access, you have to have really good credit. And if you do not, we know that people with poor credit, pay more, or are not able to buy a home may be entrepreneurs who may have maybe not the best credit, and may not be able to expand a business that is ready for growth for them. That’s just an example. Because you have to have credit in order to do that. So it’s immensely important. When we look at it from our own portfolio. Once again, financial health is really center the plate of the work that we do. And we’ve evolved our work to now include economic inclusion and resilient communities. But we look at financial health across all of our portfolios, because it is central to all of our allies. access to credit, having good credit scores is important, especially for low income communities, individuals and families in particularly if they do not have intergenerational wealth. In fact, we are funding a project in New York City that is working to increase the credit scores of black and Latin X entrepreneurs, to help them increase their credit scores, but then also, with the thought of, and I think we’ll assign it best thinking about the long term, you know, when they’re launching their business or trying to grow versus their sustain or grow their business. Do they have access to credit that enables them to do that? I think it is a really important pillar. If we were to look at our financial health portfolio, so moving beyond income generation or income and into wealth, that’s where it becomes really in Orton, to have that important of almost foundation. Building Block is another word you can say. And it is those building blocks that enable both low income people, women and people of color to, obviously have a greater opportunity at wealth building. And then if you also take a look from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I don’t have the statistics in front of me. But we do know that many entrepreneurs of color, for example, often borrow from friends and family, which is really important, as well. But once again, going back to in terms of growing a business, or expanding it, it is hard to tap those networks again, and you have to have good credit in order to do that. And their ability to generate income and to provide for their family is immensely important. And so access to credit is that. So I hope that’s been a little bit helpful in that I’ve answered your question on that particular piece of it. But really thank Commonwealth for all the work that you’ve done on looking at credit as a part of the wealth building toolbox for people across the country. And also, I think also applicable globally as well.

Hodges  41:22

Thanks, Tia. I think that image of building blocks seems like a really powerful and appropriate one, when you think about cross cutting issues like like credit, really appreciate that, I want to I want to ask us to shift gears again. And I want to do a little bit on innovation and wealth creation, wealth building. And then to get us started, this is something that we have thought a good deal about and wondered a good deal about on our team and what the potential and role of innovation and technology change might be in wealth creation and democratizing access to wealth. And one idea just to kind of make that series of boards a little bit concrete. One idea that we’ve studied and are really excited about is the idea of shared ownership, there are some assets that might be acquired and held on to and realize appreciation from in a group, whether that’s family members, community members, faith community, or some other kind of community. And like most good ideas, this is not an entirely new one. There are precedents for this. But one thing we know about a lot of wealth creation is that there can be significant entry barriers, and especially costly assets. Imagine real estate in one’s community can be really difficult for individuals to acquire on their own. We know that there are things called Real Estate Investment Trusts that are accessible to more wealthy and sophisticated investors. And it’s an interesting question, if we now have new tools and technologies that might create that same opportunity make it more accessible to people living on low and moderate incomes. And at the risk of putting a lot on the table at once. It’s interesting when you start to look at real estate, shared ownership generally, or with regards to real estate, some of the challenge are the frictions involved, the legal agreements that are necessary, the trust arrangements, the record keeping the way that you build trust among a community here, I mean, trust small team at the banking service of a trust. How do you do that in a way that’s cost efficient? When you’re thinking about, you know, large, sophisticated investor pool, you can, you can absorb a certain amount of cost to do all of this. But many of those functions, ways to combat or or address those frictions, conceptually, are actually well suited to distributed Ledger’s or blockchains. blockchains offer public, transparent, immutable records of ownership, the possibility of smart contracts, and the promise of all of that happening at low cost. So that’s a whole webinar unto itself to unpack that. But I want to throw out this idea that technologies that we might associate in one context, for example, cryptocurrency might actually pay dividends in other contexts, like shared ownership. So with that headspace, I wanted to turn it back to the panel and ask for your thoughts about innovation and wealth creation and technology, innovation. And Tia, maybe we’ll go to you first on this one, I think you have some from our pre conversation, I know this is something on your mind.

Hodges  44:34

Willa might be better.

Flacke 44:37

Either way

Tellekson-Flash  44:41

I’ll jumping after you.

Hodges  44:44

What I will say I will be radically transparent with the audience and everyone who hears this after today’s live. I am still learning about blockchain and all the currencies in the crypto as in had a very good week most recently. Um, But I think it’s important one from an education and knowledge standpoint that some of our most vulnerable or marginalized communities are aware of the potential and the opportunity. I’m always big on that I think that is significantly important. And blockchain cryptocurrency and even we’re even exploring Metaverse as well, one from a financial inclusion, financial health standpoint. But also, as we’re looking at workforce training and future work and and variety of skill sets and the ability to learn, I just think we have to really invest the time and effort in these, for me as an older person emerging technologies, they’ve probably been around for a lot of folks, but newer emerging technologies, and I think they have an opportunity to, to be game changers for low income communities. But I think understanding what that opportunity is making sure there’s equitable access to the table. And one thing that we did touch on Tim previously was the necessity to have representation at the table. So we talked about women and communities of color, a lot of these technologies are already in formation, or they’re being updated, where are the voices from these communities to make sure that the technologies are accessible and are fairly representative of low income communities, people of color, and women, I think we’ve seen some of that with AI, you know, all of all algorithms that are there that can be biased. And that is because not enough diverse representation is at the table. So knowledge is important represent representation is important, and really clearly delineating for our communities, how these technologies can help them build wealth, the opportunity and the potential, but also to understand the risks as well. So Willa, I’ll turn it over to you, you’re probably much more adept than I.

Tellekson-Flash  47:08

I still feel like I’m I’m trying to stay on top of all the developments and all these new new asset classes. But I think one of the interesting things about crypto and blockchain technology is is some of the things that you just mentioned here, the first being transparency of you know, if if systems have been designed to benefit certain individuals over time, then those who who haven’t been sort of brought along, are interested in in having a more clear line of sight into how these things are working to sort of build trust in in some of these things. And, and I also think that the some of the elements of what blockchain technology is building is allowing more people to be at the table to be part of building these, these things that may not have have been included in the past. And so I think for those reasons, it’s it’s something that I’m certainly curious to see how we leverage this technology moving forward. And something that Tim we talked about, prior to this conversation was, crypto is something is an investing, or an asset class that we added to public during the time that we were doing a pilot with Commonwealth. And I think that’s sort of that’s in line with how we’re trying to think about what innovation and what we can do with technology to to play a valuable role here. And I think, for us, that’s meant, how can we think about, you know, bringing all these emerging asset classes into a central place where people can learn about them, invest a small amount of money in them if it’s something that they’re interested in to sort of see how it works and learn about that asset class and compared to in comparison to others, sort of by doing for the same reasons that we talked about value of, of seed funding. And so I think crypto has has been a big one there. But, you know, the, the markets continue to change the types of investments continue to change real estate, you mentioned, there all sorts of different sorts of alternative asset types and how can we continue to provide people with context for what these things are to help them make decisions around? Is this something that’s that’s for me? Or is this something that that I want to learn more about or invest in? So I That’s what, that’s what I’d add there.

Hodges  50:03

Thank you both. I appreciate all those kind of comments. And maybe just to underscore, Tia, I think your point about who is involved in the creation of technology, who was involved in the testing, you know, who’s who’s there who’s at the table and representation, boy, that that resonates. If we want some of these promising innovations to serve, just serve this work. We have a little less than 10 minutes left, and I did want to make some space for audience questions. So we’re going to pivot over that. Over to that. Now. Just a note about the technology. If you can send your questions through the q&a function as distinct from the chat function, there’s been so much activity on the chat, which is fabulous, I hope you all are answering one another’s questions. But I don’t think it’s realistic for us to catch all of that. So in the q&a, one of the questions that we have is, should our discussion be organized into two parts? Part one might be how to make reparations for past discrimination against minorities and women. Part two might be how to ensure that wealth building processes are fair and equitable going forward. Does this make sense? So I’m curious if either of you would like to offer any thoughts about that question? Well, whoevers our question asker, you you’ve asked a good one, because we’re all we’re all giving it some serious thought.

Hodges  51:32

Um, I would say, Wow, you can, I would say a couple of things. One, one hour is not sufficient for the conversation, because I think there’s a lot to chew on, you know, and everybody has a slightly different vantage point. And that’s important, because the perspectives are important. And so I do think that conversation around reparations is important to address. And that should probably Wow, Tim, we can have a whole conversation on that. And there’ll be several, I think, leading thought partners on on reparations one, what does it mean to how does it materialize or manifest? And just like the chat is active. Today, the chat would be super active on what reparations look like, because everybody has a slightly different way of thinking about how how reparations should manifest. But I do think, how do we get past discrimination? Yeah. wealth building our fair, I think fairness and equity should be ideally at the center. I just go back to some of the earlier comments around narrative. I’m looking at the chat. Yes, I said low income people, I need to reverse that even I get sucked into not saying things the right way. So narrative matters. So thank you, to everyone in the chat for calling that out. But, you know, fairness and equitable. But I also think that there’s a part of narrative that is in that, and who do we deem to be a deserving how that conversation comes about around who is deserving around reparations around the wealth building processes, what is fair, what is equitable, those are really difficult issues to assess through and you could spend oodles of hours really just debating and thinking about it and working through it. We all have a really hyper local, regional, and live life experience that would I think, have a variety of interesting aspects to that conversation. So I think I answered the question, y’all tell me if I didn’t, in the chat. So I hope that’s helpful.

Hodges  54:03

Yeah, I think you were brave to start us. So I really appreciate that. Willa, do you have anything you’d want to add on this one?

Tellekson-Flash  54:09

No, I think I appreciate Tia’s response and don’t feel like I have sufficient expertise on on the first part of the question to to add much more there.

Flacke  54:24

Totally fair. And I guess my reaction is that there’s something really constructive about recognizing, distinguishing between what got us to here and what we do going forward. And so maybe, just after that reflection, I think we have time for one more question. So I’ll read this. I’m curious to know how responsible it is to present a crypto as an asset to invest in especially for low income individuals starting their journey to investing. Given crypto is so risky compared to other asset classes. I would love to hear the panel’s take on this. So Wiila, I feel like because when we might start with you.

Tellekson-Flash  55:01

Yeah, I think I agree that, you know, it’s it’s an asset class that does carry a higher level of risk. And that’s something that that shouldn’t be ignored. And I think the the other piece of that this is that we’ve we’ve talked a lot about wanting to make sure that access to certain asset classes isn’t limited to certain groups of people. And so when we thought about adding, adding crypto as an available asset on public, I think we spent more time thinking about how can we make sure that we’re providing as much information as possible, so that folks understand the potential risks and then can can sort of assess whether that is something that they’re willing to take on. And we did that in many ways via technology. And so certain risk labels and things like that. And we we don’t necessarily need to get into all of that. But I think sort of my my broad takeaway is, there’s a lot of responsibility involved with, with providing access. And so taking on the, the pieces of conceptualizing and making sure that people have as full a picture of possible as what this investment type entails to make that decision for for themselves is valuable. And I think Tim, you had mentioned seeing during during the pilot that understanding the risk, it wasn’t necessarily something that folks were taking to in large amounts, sort of, because of that understanding, potentially.

Hodges 56:55

Yeah, I’ll just say very briefly speaking for Commonwealth, we struggled a lot with whether to allow, we had an option in conversation with public whether to allow crypto once they introduced it on the platform, we ultimately decided to allow it in the context of the pilot because we weren’t providing seed funds. So we felt that that provided some measure of flexibility. And we were deeply curious to see what the response was, as already alluded, there was actually very modest take. And I just want to repeat what I think really You already said what we what’s really important is to help people who are beginning to invest he is as knowledgeable and clear as they can about what their goals are. And what are the ways to achieve those goals. There is something and Tia, your head nodding, and then we’re gonna run short on time, but you may you may have thoughts on this. There is something uncomfortable about standing between somebody and something that they want, or they read about in the newspaper that makes me uncomfortable. But it is a really, I think it’s a really tough question. We are, we are approaching time. So I want to bring us we’re actually at time. So I want to thank first of all, Tia and Willa for spending the time and our preparation conversations to be with us today. I know that we didn’t get to all of the questions, much less all in the chat. I think there’s some great, rich, rich stuff in there. And I guess as a way of wrapping up, I just appreciate that all of you recognize the importance of the wealth conversation, and are open to thinking creatively about the challenge going forward and to consistently linking it back to questions of equity and closing racial wealth gaps, gender, gender, wealth gaps, and the intersection of those both gaps. And with that will thank you and wish you the best for the rest of your day. Thanks so much.

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