OFN is still riding the 2018 #OFNConf wave — thank you to all who attended, participated, and shared your feedback and commentary.

Many of our staff have heard from OFN members and other attendees that one of the most resonating moments of the event in Chicago was OFN President and CEO Lisa Mensah’s evocative conversation with John Rogers, Chairman, CEO & Chief Investment Officer and Chairman and Lead Portfolio Manager of Ariel Investments.

Mensah’s relationship with Rogers and Ariel dates back to her days at the Aspen Institute, when she and Rogers worked together to drive forward the idea that every child in America should have a bank account. (“We got close,” said Lisa.)

In case you missed it, here are some outtakes from the conversation. Watch the full dialogue to the end to hear about the amazing and brilliantly designed Ariel Community Academy and why now is the time to make a bank account for every child a reality.

A few thoughts from Rogers on Mentorship’s Role in Performance and Perseverance

“I’ve had really great mentors and role models to go to during the tough times... My dad was a Tuskegee Airman and my mom was the first African America woman to graduate from University of Chicago Law School. In Chicago, we had a lot of great African American businesses... so many successful entrepreneurs you could look up to as role models.”

Rogers On Minority Communities Being Stuck and Going Backwards

“When I got home from college 37, 38 years ago, there were all these great minority businesses that were thriving and doing so well.  And almost all of them are gone completely. The large black banks – independence National Bank and Seaway National Banks all got smaller or closed... Johnson Publishing building... a beacon of hope for minority entrepreneurs, is no longer owned by the Johnson family... Part of the problem is the anchor institutions in our communities say they care about diversity and inclusion. They talk a good game about it. But in many ways, it’s a good charade. They are not working with minority companies... It’s a modern day Jim Crow. The black and brown people do the construction and catering and the white men get to be the successful private equity guys, venture capitalists, hedge fund, and investment bankers, and top tech executives.”

Rogers On Diversity and Inclusion

“University of Chicago is really the national model. President Bob Zimmer came in 10 years ago. I was the only African American on a board of Trustees of 60 people. We had a conversation about why this is the case. I said, ‘Bob, if all the progressive institutions never work with minority owned businesses and never ask their majority suppliers to have minority executives and partners on the relationship, how do you expect any of us to create the wealth and stature to be able to serve on the board.’

Bob’s a mathematician and said, ‘Every once in a while, someone gives you an idea that helps you move the science forward and be able to solve the problem in a different way.’ And Bob took our conversation to heart and created a program. And over ten years we’ve gone from zero to now 80 minority owned professional services firms that do business with University of Chicago. And it goes across the board, everything from law firms, accounting firms, money managers for the endowment, photographers, public relations firms...” 

Rogers on Persistence:

“We have to fight for each other once we’re in the board room. If we don’t speak out and fight and make people uncomfortable... the wealth and income divide will keep getting greater and greater and not better and better.”



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