Wednesday, December 23, 2020

New Perspectives from Black and Brown Entrepreneurs

This has been a year of biblical proportions, with almost too many historic events to count. Among everyone 2020 has brought our way, one of the most positive has been Kamala Harris, the first female and person of color to become the Vice President of the USA. 

Harris epitomizes the best of a new, more diverse country–mixed race, born of immigrants, and a self-made success. From King to Obama to Harris we have come a long way, but as consequential as they are, they represent only a fragment of the black and brown American experience. 

Black and brown entrepreneurs have always been an economic force in America, in 2020 creating 4.7 million jobs and $700 billion in revenue. At the same time, they're too often the most impacted by significant events. For example, in 2020, we saw a 41% decline in black businesses, as a direct result of COVID-19 (Creative Investment Research). Although corporates pledged over $40 billion to support BLM, the majority of funds will be slowly allocated over time, through layers of bureaucracy, while the need to access funds is urgent. 

Most modern polls, even those using sophisticated data algorithms, find it almost impossible to get an accurate picture of what's really happening with minority businesses. Collecting data via Prox, we met with a cross-section of small business owners, male and female, immigrant and non-immigrant, a writer, a fitness influencer, a business coach and a professional soccer player to name a few, to gain a realistic perspective into the current lives of black and brown entrepreneurs. What lessons they can share from their path to business ownership? What can we do to support them and other aspiring entrepreneurs? 

The path to entrepreneurship. Becoming an entrepreneur was not by happenstance. Black and brown entrepreneurs chose the path to entrepreneurship out of pure motivation, drive, passion, and had a role model who helped to inspire their journey. At the same time, a little less than half took to entrepreneurship out of necessity. 

Business ownership. Over half of the respondents owned more than one business, and despite current economic conditions, continue to see a level of profitability.

General challenges. Access to capital, resources, and mentorship remains to be the biggest challenge faced by black and brown entrepreneurs. Lending discrimination, customer discrimination, community and family pushback persist, but remain isolated. 

Impact of the pandemic. Even against all odds, half of our interviewees saw growth during the pandemic; however, the other half saw a negative impact due to shutdowns. And while major corporations seemed to benefit from government loans and grants during the pandemic, none of our black and brown businesses received any form of government support.

Black Lives Matter. While the BLM movement created more awareness and mainly had a positive impact, no one in our group received any direct investment or funding. 

Their advice for other entrepreneurs?

SBA, PTAC, and other organizations to network with and find ways of finding clients

-          Kellen Coleman

It's ok not to have a blueprint that looks like other businesses to be successful. Many times, we are told it has to operate a certain way to be successful, and that's not true. We just need the right mentors and thought partners around us to help us both realize this and not get distracted by chasing a mission that isn't true to what our vision is.

-          Dynasti Hunt

Find a mentor.

-          Tash Salas

Stay focused, persistent and consistent.

-          Sidney Rivera

Work your network. A healthy network is filled with different types of people with different strengths. You must help each other and together you all rise.

-          Jerri Villarreal

Make sure to read up before starting especially if you don't have a mentor. Don't be hesitant to ask other successful people that are in your field for advice. 

-          Miriam Archibald

 Save your money and take strategic risks. There is never a right or a perfect time to start.

-          Djenane Fleurentin

 When you're watching everyone around you do the same work, and it's on-par with your own, yet they're making more money than you; they are getting more clients or brand deals than you, you begin to wonder what it is you're doing wrong. 

Suddenly, I realized the difference was pretty clear. I'd never really thought of myself as a minority before. I hadn't felt like I was treated much differently than my peers. However, while trying to build a business based on influence, I began to feel that disparity. There will always be bias, but that doesn't mean you can't thrive. Sometimes it means we have to work a little or a lot harder than others in order to break through, but you can, and you will breakthrough.

-          Mercedes Moore 

Keep showing up. Even when you feel alone and unrepresented, and experience rejection over and over. Keep showing up. The more you show up for yourself, the more you pave the way for those who come after you. You might be a model for someone, just like those models I looked up to.

-          Kimberlee Morrison

Spend quality time assessing your values, skills, talents and vision. Make sure they are aligned before moving forward with your business.

-          Ronnie Witcher

Learn how to communicate and how to influence people with integrity. Trust yourself and your talent. Cultivate a relentless pursuit of your goals and implementation of small action steps. Learn how to model, time blocking for outcomes, innovate and measure. Never give up :)

-          Dayana Pereira

Advice to everyone, how you can help.

Hire us, give us a try to get a new outlook on things

-          Kellen Coleman

Trust minority-owned businesses to do what they feel is best for their organization instead of providing funding that comes with a bunch of obligations and requirements that are necessary to meet. Unrestricted dollars that are provided are one of the best ways you can support an entrepreneur who is carving a new path instead of deciding for them what's best for them by restricting how they can use the funding you provide.

-          Dynasti Hunt

Give them business and referrals:)

-          Tash Salas

Look for causes that you care about and understand the business.

-          Sidney Rivera

Entrepreneurs may know that they need help but don't know what they need. Money is not always the answer and help needs to be very targeted and specific.

-          Jerri Villarreal

 

Don't judge whether a minority business is worthy of your financial investment by its cover. Support more startups that have skin in the game.

-          Djenane Fleurentin

It depends on the minority-owned party. For me, if someone were to ask me how they could help my business, the first thing I would say is to share my business. Help me reach more people who might be interested in my services. If they were interested in working with me personally, even better! I'm happy to discuss partnerships to get more reviews and testimonies to grow. As a group, listening, learning, and helping to educate.

-          Mercedes Moore

Come to terms with your own implicit bias, and then do the work to dismantle that bias. For most of us, that's practising a new level of self-awareness and checking our privilege on a daily basis. Then become intentional about using your own privilege to help underrepresented people in your industry.

-          Kimberlee Morrison

Identify needs and root causes before providing what you "think" these entities need.

-          Ronnie Witcher

Understand what the biggest challenges are. Listen first. See your future in them: support and monitor. Celebrate the wins. Keep building.

-          Dayana Pereira

Monday, December 7, 2020

COVID Reveals What’s Actually Important


The COVID crisis reveals what’s actually important: family, food and community. It also shows what’s not important: material items and money worship. Globalization, too, a specific form of money worship, proved unable to support the domestic production of basic but critical supplies, like masks, in a time of crisis.

Another thing revealed by this crisis is the true cost of racism. It shows how racism supports mediocrity. 

The crisis reveals the moral and spiritual bankruptcy embedded in some of the “religious” claims by white racists in the US. These appear to be materialistic and greed-based misinterpretations. This is a self-centered version of “faith” that somehow justifies not wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic. In addition to being irrational, any logical interpretation of this behavior reveals the selfishness driving this behavior. The common thread is veneration of white privilege, including the right to impose a deadly pandemic on Black people, simply because some white people choose to do so. No appeal to free markets, personal liberty, or state’s rights can justify the damage done to the entire community by these irrational, anti-science based behaviors. These mirror, directly, violent racial extremism.

This hatred of Black people specifically, the descendants of people who played a critical role in building the country, has always been irrational. Blacks bore the brunt of the damage racism has caused, but always knew this social damage was going to grow. Targeting blacks is a reflection of white fear and mediocrity, nowhere better seen than in the performance of the current (December, 2020) president. The other thing this crisis reveals is the central role that lying plays in white supremacy: in 1,316 days, the current president told 22,247 lies. 

Black people don’t oppose white supremacy just because it damages Black people. Historically, Blacks have tried to make the case that anti-Black racism imposes significant costs on the entire society. Those who promoted this line of reasoning have either been assassinated, like MLK or assimilated, like Obama. Under either outcome, the result is the continuation of white supremacy, to the now clear detriment of society. 

Both humanity and the planet continue to suffer.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Powell's October 6th Forecast by Christopher Moreira, Intern, American University


On October 6, 2020, Jerome H. Powell, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System reviewed America’s economic status amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Powell began his analysis at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic hit. He then touched on the recession and the nascent recovery that must ensue. Mr. Powell closed with a look at what lies ahead on the road to normalcy. The speech was full of numbers and statistics that, to the casual observer wouldn’t fully explain what this means for the country. But, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Chair Powell is wary of what's to come for our nation, which, before the COVID-19 pandemic was experiencing new highs in job creation and the stock market. Nevertheless, Chair Powell remains optimistic that the country will fully recover and return to what it once was.

In terms of the pre-covid economy, Chair Powell stated that: 

“The U.S. economy was in its 128th month of expansion—the longest in our recorded history—and was generally in a strong position. Moderate growth continued at a slightly above-trend pace. Labor market conditions were strong across a range of measures. The unemployment rate was running at 50-year lows. PCE (personal consumption expenditures) inflation was running just below our 2 percent target.” 

This was great news for Americans, who were now able to find work as well as to start businesses because of the new influx of money into the economy. Mr. Powell stated that the country's work force and the country's banking system were both strong.

Moving on to the upcoming recession, Mr. Powell noted that, so far, there hasn’t been much of a drop in the stock market. This is due, in large part, to stimulus from the unemployment packages the government provided at the start of the pandemic. Paired with stimulus checks and consistently printing of money, this is, in my opinion, creating a bubble that will eventually crash the market and result in an increase in inflation. Mr. Powell stated that “Real GDP fell 31 percent in the second quarter of 2020 on an annualized basis. Employers slashed payrolls by 22 million, with temporary layoffs rising by 17 million. Broader measures of labor market conditions, such as labor force participation and those working part time for economic reasons, showed further damage.” The massive drop in real GDP has caused a loss of jobs that may never return as businesses must either downsize or file bankruptcy in effort to remain afloat during the recession caused by this pandemic.

In conclusion, Powell laid out the blueprint for recovery. Key points in the speech included managing risks of exposure of COVID-19 to the population and that FOMC projections found unemployment declining to 4 percent, with inflation reaching 2 percent by the end of 2023. This shows promise in that the economy may be returning and bouncing back to growth. 

Powell also stated his preference for expansionary economic policies to grow the economy. By adopting these policies, we will see money flowing back into the economy. As money flows, this will continue to put money back into the pockets of the American people. 

It is also worth noting that the economy was able to maintain stock market highs during the recession. We should be wary that, if monetary policy does not keep pace, we will witness yet another crash of the nation's soon-to-be-booming economy.

Edited by William Michael Cunningham

Monday, October 12, 2020

JPMorgan's $30 billion “commitment”

 

JPMorgan Chase announced a $30 billion “commitment” to address U.S. wealth inequality in Black and Latino communities. The pledge consists of actions, over five years, designed to increase the number of loans, investments, donations and grants the bank makes.

The focus of the effort is housing, where the bank says it will lend an additional $14 billion dollars, finance the construction of 100,000 affordable rental units and issue $12 billion in mortgages. These efforts are meant to be supplemental, that is, the bank says these are loans and investments it would not otherwise make.

Of course, problems with racial inequality in the U.S. have been magnified after the May 25 death of George Floyd, instigated by former members of the Minneapolis, MN police department. The incident sparked weeks of protests across the globe. In addition, the COVID pandemic exposed gaps in health care access. The Black community has experienced far higher Covid-19 mortality than in the overall population.

Banks, which have contributed to income and wealth inequality through unfair, uneconomic and discriminatory practices, are now vying to address society’s racial problem. We note that both Bank of America and Citigroup have each made $1 billion Black Lives Matter (BLM) "pledges." These commitments are designed to lower US income and wealth inequality.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic recently stated that “U.S. banks need to improve financial services to Black Americans, many of whom have avoided financial institutions because of a history of racism.” The statement came less than a week after the CEO of a banking institution the Fed is responsible for regulating, Wells Fargo, blamed the trouble it is having in reaching its diversity goals on the “limited pool of qualified Black talent.”

Our data shows that total corporate BLM pledges now stand at $40 billion. In analysing these pledges, we use three guiding principles: our IMM framework: Innovation, Money, Momentum. The JP Morgan Chase pledge meets one (and a half) of these criteria: it appears to be a sizable dollar amount. It gets half a Money point because banks have made these types of pledges before, and they have failed to help move the needle in terms of Black economic empowerment. It definitely helps continue the BLM Corporate momentum. The pledge fails our first principle, however. It is neither innovative nor impactful.

While we are pleased to see the continuing attention placed on issues of racial discrimination and the resulting income inequality, innovation, in our framework, is a key measure of potential long-term effectiveness.

Only time will tell how truly impactful this new "commitment" will be.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

William Michael Cunningham Selected for Prox, A New Knowledge Exchange Platform

As a new virtual knowledge-exchange, Prox is dedicated to "connecting wisdom with those who seek it." The platform allows people to search a community of subject matter experts and book time with them instantly.

In a September, 2020 TechCrunch article, Prox CEO Michael Mathieu stated that the goal of the platform "is to create an entire suite of 'back office' tools for experts and influencers...the company is starting out by offering an easy way to host one-on-one video sessions with knowledge seekers. People who are influencers on social media and on YouTube, they don't control that customer," Mathieu said. "It's a YouTube customer, so if you're going to monetize, it's through a slice of YouTube ad revenue."

The TechCrunch article goes on to state that "Prox is designed to help..experts make money more directly from anyone who wants to connect with them, and to understand that audience. (CEO) Mathieu suggested that the need has intensified during the pandemic, with more experts and creators asking, 'How do I connect to my audience in more significant ways, have multiple revenue streams and actually have really good visibility into who they are?'

Prox Head of Customer Success Nicole Healy said that many of the "pros" already using Prox are "published authors looking for another connection point."

Mr. Cunningham has published several books and reports on economics, crowdfunding, impact investing, ESG investing and analysis, minority banks, community development and other topics.

For more, please see https://prox.io/pros/

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Bits & Pretzels (B&P) is the German equivalent of the South by Southwest (SXSW) startup event.

B&P is Europe’s biggest startup/founders festival. The event will be held from September 29 to October 2, 2020. Speakers include:


  • Eric Schmidt, Former CEO Google, Co-founder Schmidt Futures
  • Dirk Nowitzki, Basketball superstar
  • Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global 

Former speakers include Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Jessica Alba and many other world leaders in the global startup ecosystem.

Bits invented Table Captain Networking for startups to connect face-to-face with experts in small networking sessions. Each session is 40 minutes long for up to 6 attendees and are perfectly timed and sized for startups to ask questions.

We will host a Networking session at the event on September 30th. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Emerging Managers Summit Virtual 2020. Yuyang Zhang, Impact Investing Intern. Boston University.















September 24, 2020
In a discussion led by William Michael Cunningham, Mr. Tarrell Gamble, Ms. Wendy Garcia, and Dr. Ruchi Dana spoke about their experience with diversity within the investment management business sector. 

Starting with women in the workforce, Dr. Dana noted research that shows companies with more women are also more capital efficient. 

Dr. Dana also noted that gender diversity is an important starting point when considering balanced executive boards. She stated that female consumers make up $20 trillion of consumer spending. This is larger than the GDP of both India and China combined. Therefore, Dr. Dana notes, it is important to have women on corporate boards who understand this perspective. She finished with noting that "In a society where firms are mainly white male owned, there exist many systemic barriers. When looking to hire investment consultants, firms must also be conscious of the language they use to refer to their employees."

            To summarize the comments mentioned above, it is not only important to hire women in investment firms but to also have them on corporate and executive boards. Having multiple genders making decisions leads to more inclusive populations being considered. Different experiences would be also be considered and there would be more perspectives within the decision making process. California is one of the few states that, by law, encourages gender diversity within the corporate boards. While this may be a good first step in the right direction, enforcing this policy has proven difficult.

 Mr. Gamble mentioned Proposition 209 which prohibits consideration of race, sex, gender, nationality, and ethnicity when hiring individuals within California. While the proposition might be seen by some as a good thing and a way to discourage prioritizing certain groups, it also hinders groups who, because of intentional discrimination, qualify for this assistance. This remains problematic in California, a state that is "majority minority", with a population that is 30% Hispanic, 15% African American, and 10% Asian.

While gender equality is an important concern, racial equality remains an issue within many companies. With systemic racism so persistent in society, it is difficult to pinpoint on a set number of things to do to remove all racial and gender focused barriers. However, one of the starting points, as explained by Mr. Gamble, Mr. Garcia, and Dr. Dana, is to modify investment management contract language. To diversify contract language is to make these contracts more applicable to a wider audience.

The panel noted that certain investment funds have been designed to be set aside for minorities and women who, because of systemic racial and gender discrimination, need assistance in rising up in the investment management business hierarchy. As these opportunities are often unequal, specially designated pools of investment funds may help remove unfair outside competition and offer a space for growth.

Some on the panel suggested that, in order to engage the new generation, it is important to tackle these inequalities now. One tool that was discussed is the creation, within corporations and funds, of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).  Where this position reports within the organization was also determined to be important. The panel noted that, when the CDO reports to the CEO, more impactful diversity outcomes can be expected, relative to a CDO who may work within a Human Resources Department. The panel concluded that the younger generation needs role models who have this diversity activist mindset. Not only is it important to include minorities and women, we must have white individuals who are willing to speak up and help.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Reuters Events Investment Summit (Dec. 3-4, Online)

On December 26, 2016, Creative Investment Research noted that:

"Under any conceivable scenario, the current situation is very bad, and I mean toxic, for democratic institutions in general and for people of color specifically. Bottom line: our Fully Adjusted Return Forecast** indicates that, over time, things will get much, much worse....." (See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/trumpism-william-michael-cunningham-am-mba/)

Now, after months of economic uncertainty and volatility, we find ourselves at a crossroads.

Reuters Events Investment SummitReuters Events Investment Summit
With markets in decline and economies around the world pointed towards recession, Reuters Events' Investment Summit (Dec. 3-4) unites financial institutions and investors to tackle the future of investment at this unprecedented moment.

Combining onstage inspiration with intimate peer-to-peer networking, the two-day flagship will cover four key themes:
  • Market Drivers and Outlook: Learn how macroeconomics, geopolitics, China and market volatility have impacted investment outlook and how you can prepare for 2021 and beyond.
  • Asset Management Strategies: Go beyond data and learn the methodologies employed by the most successful managers to enhance their understanding of the market and extract financial rewards. Watch out for opportunity identification techniques, industry specific expert takes and great debates.
  • Leadership in a New Reality: A deep-dive into how long-term government, regulatory and investment initiatives will drive change for investors around the world.
  • Learning from COVID-19: Crisis has created both opportunities and risks. Are you moving fast enough? What does progress look like? Get exclusive insights from industry forerunners, leading asset owners, senior regulators and influential international players as investors look to tackle economic calamity.
As the world comes to term with the events of 2020, this 2 day strategic summit will evaluate the investment community's response to the current crisis to identify opportunities that lie ahead. Join institutional investors and asset owners @ #ReutersEvents Investment Summit (Dec. 3-4, Online) to help set the investment agenda for the year ahead. Find out more here: https://bit.ly/2DtZ5W4

We are pleased to partner with Reuters and are committed to helping investors on their road to profitability and resilience.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

What is Investment Research And Why Is It Broken?


What is Investment Research And Why Is It Broken?

Investment research studies of the performance of stocks, bonds, metals, mutual funds, and other assets. This is done, most often, to influence investment decision making. It seeks to "produce a guide to what investments to make.”

With the capture of regulatory authorities (who are, supposedly, looking out of the public interest) by financial institutions, the number of investment "assets" has increased. There are now more than 5,000,000 different types of investment vehicles. Many have little actual value.

A new investment class with actual value may be cryptocurrencies. A cryptocurrency is a digital program or asset designed to work like currencyBitcoin is a cryptocurrency.

What is Investment Research?

As we note in our online class, investing is "the process of spending money in order to increase the original dollar amount." Investment research provides timely information that, combined with expertise, provides advice." One goal is to reduce or eliminate information gaps and to reveal "potential issues and dangers associated with specific investments, known as risk." In other words, "investment research is designed to..make investors more profitable."

The current era of investment research started with "the Amsterdam Stock Exchange established in 1602.." Key issues included fraud, information validity and accuracy, and understanding true risk.

With the growth of the "market culture", in the 20th century, one set of investments, the stock market, "became a common way to invest, and because of longstanding issues investors have faced for centuries, banks began delivering equity research to their customers through private mail.

Beginning in the 1990s, investment research was provided through email newsletters and other online channels. Advanced research portals like the Bloomberg Terminal, which actually dates back to the early 1980s, have become widely used by serious investors looking for sound advice and reliable data."

(While employed by Merrill Lynch, we had dinner with Michael Bloomberg in 1987. We discussed our research paper on the future of market information systems.)

Many "investors have accessed research through paid subscriptions. As of 2017, the aggregate size of the global investment research market is $16 billion, with more than 40,000 pieces of content delivered each week by bigger banks and brokerages."

Investment Research Is Broken

Our position with respect to capital markets regulation recognizes the primacy of protecting investors. Investor interests, broadly speaking' are not served by fraud and malfeasance. Securities laws and traditional investment research have failed both to protect investors and to promote efficiency, if efficiency is defined as lowering aggregate losses.

Investment analysts issue biased research reports to curry favor with management. Rating agencies, like Standard and Poor's, Moody's and research providers like Bloomberg and Morningstar, issue defective investment research reports. The former are supposed to “base their ratings largely on statistical calculations of a borrower's likelihood of default,” but one news report noted that:

“Dozens of current and former rating officials, financial advisers and Wall Street traders and investors interviewed by The Washington Post say the (NRSRO) rating system has proved vulnerable to subjective judgment, manipulation and pressure from borrowers. They say the big three are so dominant they can keep their rating processes secret, force clients to pay higher fees and fend off complaints about their mistakes.” (See: https://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/s71005/wcunningham5867.pdf). 

In response, the European Union (EU) "implemented new rules in 2018 requiring asset managers to pay directly for their own research." This is also an attempt to correct flaws in the investment research field: "a study from Bespoke Investment Group in 2015 examined 12,122 ratings in the broad market index. Just 6.67% had a 'sell' label, with the rest either being 'buy' or 'hold.' ” This is clearly indicative of a lack of objectivity.

Also, one study noted that, "in 2012, 49% of (Wall Street Investment) analyst ratings on Dow 30 stocks were incorrect..."

The industry has long been due for reform. Banks, large asset managers, hedge funds and others have controlled the investment research industry for their own benefit.

If you want to learn more about the most objective, insightful and independent research available for investors of any size or strategy, please see: https://www.creativeinvest.com/sitemap.html

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Impact Investing: What is it? Who does it? Why?

For many majority-owned institutions, the concepts of "monetary gain" and "social good" have long been regarded as mutually exclusive. We see this most directly in the recent attempt by the Labor Department to shut down Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing: “Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. But this ignores the facts: investing has always been used to further social goals.

Claims that it is difficult to determine the worth of "ESG" or "Social Investments" have not prevented majority-owned institutions from using these factors while making decidedly "anti-social" investments. For example, on July 24, 2020, major "investment" bank Goldman Sachs was fined $3.9 billion by the country of Malaysia to settle criminal charges that the bank conducted "a massive scheme to launder billions from one of the country’s investment funds."

What is Impact investing?

"Impact investing" (also cited as social, environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, or corporate social responsibility (CSR) investing) describes a style of investing combining a desire to maximize financial return with an attempt to maximize social good (social return).

As one report noted, "Impact investing has experienced increased popularity in recent years: A recent Google report found that search volume for impact investing has overtaken that of angel investing in the past decade. Silicon Valley startups and established corporations alike are seeing a surge of impact-driven initiatives, and throwing financial weight behind such projects. There’s also evidence that suggests impact investments frequently outperform those with strictly financial motivations."

In 2006, our statistical and investment analysis found that our thesis about the higher alpha for a portfolio comprised of companies that are top performers within the sector diversity/inclusion were also top performers with respect to investment return.

Who is involved? 

Major institutional investors include:

The United Nations. Via a set of  "Sustainable Development Goals," the UN is seeking to refocus investment attention to non-financial factors. Impact investing looks to factors that aren’t explicitly part of the conventional schools of economic thought. We now know that there are social impacts that cut across all companies, all industries, and that impact a broader community, and you have to account for that within your financial models.

Another major institution in this sector is the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which "pioneered the use of shareholder advocacy to press companies on environmental, social, and governance issues." The group represents a "coalition of over 300 global institutional investors..with  more than $500 billion in managed assets. Leveraging their equity ownership in some of the world’s largest and most powerful companies, ICCR members regularly engage management to identify and mitigate social and environmental risks resulting from corporate operations and policies."

Impact Investing Tactics: Social and impact investors use four basic tactics to maximize financial return and attempt to maximize social return. These are outlined below.

SCREENING excludes certain securities from investment consideration based on social and/or environmental criteria.

DIVESTING is the act of removing stocks from a portfolio based on mainly ethical, non- financial reasons.

SHAREHOLDER ACTIVISM. Shareholder Activism efforts attempt to positively influence corporate behavior.

POSITIVE IMPACT INVESTING involves making investments in activities and companies believed to have a high and positive social impact.

How to get involved with Impact Investing.

We suggest you visit the following websites:

ICCR: https://www.iccr.org/about-iccr

UN Principles for Responsible Investment: https://www.unpri.org/pri/what-are-the-principles-for-responsible-investment

US Sustainable Development Goals: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/: An attempt to address global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Want to learn more about impact investing? Check out our online resources to learn more about putting your money to work in more ways than one.

Impact Investing: https://www.creativeinvest.com/impactinvesting.html
Social Return Anlysis: https://www.creativeinvest.com/socialreturnanalysis.html
Social Return Strategy: https://www.creativeinvest.com/socialreturnstrategy.html
Social Return Tools: https://www.creativeinvest.com/socialreturntools.html

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Emerging Managers Summit, to be held virtually on September 24th, highlights the benefits and opportunities for institutional and private wealth investors to invest in new, small, diverse, women owned, emerging, and boutique fund managers. The program seeks bring smaller diverse managers into the limelight as they have historically outperformed their larger peers. This event will take place entirely on Opal Group’s custom Virtual Event Platform, giving an opportunity for delegates from around the world to connect online. Key decision makers from family offices, endowments, foundations, and pension funds will be able to virtually interact with emerging managers, as well as share best practice ideas with peers. Hear from our panel of experts to stay up to date on the ever-changing emerging manager market. https://opalgroup.net/conference/emerging-managers-summit-virtual-2020/

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Response to Proposed Department of Labor ESG Rule


On June 23, 2020, "the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a rule that would 'update and clarify' the Department of Labor's investment duties regulation. According to the news release issued announcing this proposed rule,

"Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan," said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. "Rather, ERISA plans should be managed with unwavering focus on a single, very important social goal: providing for the retirement security of American workers."

Our 135 page response, filed on July 26, 2020, concerned the social impact of the proposed rule, and stated that:

"With this proposal, we believe the Administration and, by extension, the Secretary, have violated their oath to protect the public and should resign or be removed. Of course, we understand how committed these specific individuals are to self-promotion, as evidenced by their willingness to damage the public.

We will oppose this draft rule in Federal Court. As a recommendation from a Department headed by a person appointed by a president who conspired with foreign interests to win election so that he could damage the US, (as evidenced, once again, by this action) we believe any proposals put forward are illegal."

We provided a complete listing of all violations of law and custom that the Administration has committed over the past few years, including and leading up to 200,000+ deaths from the COVID 19 crisis.

The letter can be downloaded at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/126T-F0dwZLTdArOyduYZVcLD36Xtlqj_/view?usp=sharing

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The largest Black-Led (but not Black-owned) bank in the U.S.


Black-Owned Broadway Financial Corporation and “Black-Led” CFBanc Corporation announced a merger of equals that may lead to the creation of the largest Black-led (but not Black-owned) bank in the U.S. The resulting institution will have more than $1 billion in combined assets and approximately $850 million in total depository institution assets (as of June 30, 2020).

(Also see: BLACK BANKS MERGE TO CREATE NATION’S FIRST BLACK-LED BANK WITH OVER $1 BILLION IN ASSETS. https://www.blackenterprise.com/black-banks-merge-to-create-nations-first-black-led-bank-with-over-1-billion-in-assets/

Black-Owned Banks in LA, DC Announce Merger.
https://mynewsla.com/business/2020/08/27/two-black-banks-merge/

Merger of two Black-led banks aims to help break a painful cycle https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-08-27/black-banks-broadway-federal-bank-city-first-merger )

Broadway is one of the best Black banking institutions in the US, based on their longevity and positive impact on Black homeownership in the Los Angeles area.

The fact that the new institution will have a presence on both coasts is positive. It means the resulting bank will be able to present itself as having an impact in multiple geographies. This will allow it to get assistance from majority-owned banks on both coasts.

A number of questions remain:

Black-Led versus a Black-Owned. Being Black-owned implies a higher degree of control, and, thus, a higher level of concern for Black economic interests. As a Black-led, but not Black-owned financial institution, how well the partnership with CFBanc actually reflects Black economic interests remains to be seen.  In 2002, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. expanded the definitions of what constitutes a "minority bank" claiming the old definition "ambiguous." Now a bank that does not meet the ownership test can be designated an MDI (minority depository institution) if 51% or more of the directors on the board are members of those minority groups and the community the bank serves is primarily minority. This change did not lead to an increase in lending to the Black community on the part of Black banks. (See: https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/minority-bank-designation-has-become-meaningless and https://www.blackenterprise.com/executives-working-to-create-black-owned-holding-company/)

Attitude and flexibility of the bank’s main regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). In addition, the bank will be listed on the Nasdaq. Will it be allowed use this platform to raise significantly more capital?

Impact Investors? With Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Minority Depository Institution (MDI) and Benefit Corporation designations, the bank is positioned to take advantage of funding from impact investors to Black firms. How well the firm will use these designations and any resources that come about because of them is another question. The ability of the resulting institution to actually increase their commercial lending as opposed to simply increasing “capacity” will be critical.

Other transactions? The financial advisors are Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and  Raymond James & Associates, Inc.  Mega white shoe law firms Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP and Covington & Burling LLP are serving as legal counsel to the parties. These firms are the major financial institution transaction advisors in the US. They are also very expensive. We suspect they are engaged as part of their contributions to Black Lives Matter. This implies there may be other Black bank transactions in the works.

Cooperation and collaboration across ethnic lines. This crisis may force us to the realization, finally and literally, that we must "live together as brothers or perish together as fools." What would be of more impact and relevance would be cross ethnic group (Black and Asian, Black and Hispanic) mergers and cooperative agreements.

The one positive impact of centuries of racism may be to have exposed massive opportunities for cooperation and collaboration across ethnic lines. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Six (6) Companies Are 70% of Black Lives Matter Pledges


According to a new report issued by Creative Investment Research, as of August 3, 2020, $7.854 billion in corporate pledges have been made to facilitate efforts that support racial justice. Just six companies account for 70% of that total.


Also see: https://youtu.be/t7aqn7oGGj0 via @YouTube 

Creative Investment has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the development of a BLM Corporate tracker: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tracking-corporate-donations-to-blm?rcid=r01-159828617213-f92f83fc925f4b9a&pc=tw_co_campmgmt_w&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet To donate directly, please contribute at paypal.me/cirm 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

CRUZN COZY has started a kickstarter campaign

During quarantine, CRUZN COZY has started a kickstarter campaign in high hopes of getting business adjusted to the new norm for all of us worldwide.



Here at CRUZN COZY, we understand that everybody has been affected in some way by this quarantine period. Whether that be emotionally, physically, mentally, or socially. It's been hard for all us, but if you can find in your heart to give just a small token, that will be greatly appreciated. Any amount helps. No amount is too small or too big. A percentage of generated sales from merchandise or the campaign will be given to organizations who help people that are in need of shelter, food and clothes during quarantine. Any backer who gives $100 dollars or more will receive free merchandise from our new collection, and backers who give $200 or more will receive 2 VIP tickets to the SBFW New York Fashion Show Tour 2021. 

Thank you so much for your time. One small act of kindness can touch the hearts of many. 


Best Regards,

CRUZN COZY Team 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How to Use Crowdfunding in 2020


With the attention placed on financing small (especially Black) businesses during the current crisis, and with the problems identified in government-run business financing programs like the PPP, (see * below) we are presenting updated information on crowdfunding. We draw on what we have learned since we issued, in 2012, our book on the subject. (This was, as far as we know, the first one published.)

Crowdfunding works by allowing an entrepreneur with an idea for a company or product to post the details of the idea or product on a web site such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act allow start-up and other companies to sell up to $1 million in equity, or ownership shares, in their business.

Our company has been facilitating this type of business financing since July 1998, and. most recently, in June of 2020. We still believe this is a viable option for minority firms, as we stated in 2012.
How to be successful at crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is about the crowd. To be successful at it, you need to bring or build one. Here's how you do that.
  1. Use multiple channels in a disciplined way to grow your network. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, MailChimp are all tools you must use. This effort should start 3 months BEFORE you launch your crowdfunding campaign, even if you already have accounts on these platforms.
  2. Generate relevant information on each and every platform that you can use to showcase your project when you launch. (Remember, you have not launched yet.) You are creating a database of contacts by posting relevant information and commentary. Use a tool like Zoho CRM to capture first name, last name, email and phone. 
  3. Just collecting the information is not enough. You must engage with the people you have identified by providing something of value to them in the area of your shared passion. Hopefully, these individuals will become fans, ready, willing and able to spread the word about your project when you launch. If you want to raise a million dollars, your list should include at least 50,000 people. Your fan base should be at least 5,000. It took Dawn that long to develop this list. 
  4. Once you have this list, you should be able to launch your campaign. The campaign should run for at least 3 months, but if you have really done the work outlined, you may be able to see success in as few as 30 days. 
Here is a graph showing the difference in crowdfunding campaigns that take three months in advance to prepare versus those that don't. The no prep campaign runs for twice as long and raises half as much.


Our final advice is to beware of platforms and consultants who tell you they can shortcut this process. We know one guy who charges $20,000 minimum to have you do the work we just outlined. In the years since we published our book, we uncovered crowdfunding platforms who specifically will not list projects run by Black people on the theory that their chances of success have proven to be lower. (Of course, if a platform won't let you on, you chance of success with that platform is zero...)

*We have run into supposedly minority focused PPP lenders, like Lendio, who are determined not to make loans to Black people.

With the right preparation, we think this funding option is an increasingly viable option for small, Black and women run firms.

If all of this is new to you, consider taking our class, How to Crowdfund. https://www.udemy.com/course/how-to-crowdfund or getting our book on the subject. The JOBS Act: Crowdfunding Guide to Small Businesses and Startups on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MT104U1/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Black communities need more help from the Federal Reserve Board

An estimated $7 billion in corporate pledges have been made to facilitate efforts that support racial justice, and help activities that seek immediate solutions to the crisis affecting Black people.
We are very familiar with these types of promises, having launched the first website focusing on financial support for minority communities in 1995 and a new website to monitor such corporate pledges.
Yet it appears that only $188 million of that $7 billion is money someone can reasonably expect to get their hands on. Further, in certain sections of the Black community, there is concern about the effectiveness of the traditional organizations identified as recipients of the pledges. And there appears to be less concern with newer, trending organizations.
Our recent survey of customers banking at black-owned banks suggests most consumers who do not use Black banks are concerned about their financial stability, and have not been able to leverage financial resources from these institutions.
Programs that rely on secondary institutions to provide capital to already underutilized Black-owned banks add another stumbling block to the effort to get capital where it is needed.
Certainly, more money will help. But there may be more effective methods such as creating a digital wallet and currency to get money directly to affected communities without the need for money-sapping intermediaries; or creating a large credit program at the Federal Reserve. The latter approach holds the most promise.
Recall that the Federal Reserve Board created a secondary market corporate credit facility to purchase a more diversified portfolio of corporate bonds that include supporting large employers. Regrettably, very few Black-owned firms are eligible for this program, having been locked out of the corporate-debt market largely due to discrimination, both involuntary and self-imposed.
The Fed also created the Main Street Lending Program meant to encourage cash flows to small and midsize businesses by purchasing up to $600 billion in loans. But already, the number of black-owned small businesses plummeted by 41% between February and April when the coronavirus pandemic started in the U.S., according to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The financial loss to the Black-owned businesses is estimated at $23 billion due to the pandemic. Therefore, the Fed should allocate $23 billion of the $600 billion in its Main Street program to Black-owned firms, using a wide array of financial instruments and techniques.
Lastly, Black people need a truly collaborative and cooperative effort — in and by the Black community — a community often trained to be petty and cutthroat to each other given the paucity of resources at its disposal. After Creative Investment Research, in the public spirit, disseminated an estimate of corporate pledges to the Black Lives Matter cause (at $1.6 billion), several foundations made donations totaling $1.7 billion.
Now is the time to let go of bad habits for the survival of the Black community. In so doing, we can also show the world the way out of the crisis.
First published at: The American Banker Newspaper: Black communities need more help from Fed https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/black-communities-need-more-help-from-fed