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MPW Summit 2020: Building Financial Resilience In The ‘New Reality’ Economy

September 30, 2020 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated June 07, 2021 09:35 AM UTC

Thasunda Brown Duckett, Chief Executive Officer, Chase Consumer Banking, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Penny Pennington, Managing Partner, Edward Jones Michelle Seitz, Chairman and CEO, Russell Investments Moderator: Kristen Bellstrom, Features Editor, FORTUNE; Co-chair, Most Powerful Women Summit

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The COVID-19 pandemic handed a crushing blow to the economy. It's effective businesses, jobs, personal finances and more society's most vulnerable, felt the greatest impact, both from the virus itself and from the financial fallout. But our next guest say that building back and becoming financially resilient is not just possible, it is necessary. So please welcome to Shonda Brown Duckett, Chief Executive Officer Chase Consumer Banking, Jpmorgan Chase Penny Pennington, Managing partner Edward jones Michelle fights Chairwoman, our chairman and Ceo of Russell Investments. So thank you to all of you for being here. Um, to start on this conversation, I just wanted to throw out a step that I saw recently um, from a Harris poll And it found that nine out of 10 Americans Say that the that the COVID-19 crisis has causing stress for them financially. Um, and just kinda, I want to start with you on this one because Chase Consumer Bank, which you oversee serve something like 25 million American households. So you're in sort of a unique perspective to see what's happening with this issue and to have a viewpoint into American finances. So talk to us a little bit about what you're hearing from your customers as far as how the virus is affected them. Yeah, well thank you so much and it's great to be here. I would say that even prior to Covid, 47% of all americans said that they would struggle coming up with $400 in the event of an emergency. And so Covid is exasperated. That level of anxiety as well as that level of truth. Um, I would also say that we know that just like pre Covid, it disproportionately is impacting people of color. And so as we think about what's going on in terms of the head set of consumers, like you said, they are concerned, they are concerned about how are they going to make those everyday purchases? They are concerned about the stimulus and as that continues to wind down That cushion that is needed or has been needed to help them through. And I would also say that when you look at women, especially between the ages of 25 and 40 for childcare is a real issue as well. And so I think as we look at the backdrop of COVID in the state of Americans, there's definitely um anxiousness. There's definitely a level of anxiety. But I think we also have to be anchored. These issues were not are not new. These are issues that plague everyday americans prior to the pandemic and are just now being even more exasperated. Um, as we navigate through this pandemic, mm um Penny I want to ask you a similar question. Um, but maybe more through the lens of investing. Um I'm interested in knowing what your clients, what are their biggest investment concerns right now. And also, is that something that's evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, the early days in March? Yeah. Well, investors and our clients are always concerned when the markets get volatile and they have been volatile, they will continue to be volatile. There's a prediction for you. We've got all kinds of things setting us in the next few months. That will, that will mean volatility. Are our clients are also wondering why the stock market seems to be doing so well when, uh, evidence about the economy is not quite sanguine. So if there is a bifurcation in the market there as well, I'll also take it from the standpoint of folks uh, preparing for retirement and in retirement, we just fielded a new study, one of the largest studies ever done of both thinking about retirement across five generations, 68 million Americans say that their retirement savings have been negative really impacted the pandemic. And when you think about how that breaks out, about 20 million of those 68 million Say that they've stopped saving for retirement altogether, another about 30 million that they have moved their savings. And Um, and are there Children who have lost their jobs and 70% of retirees say they would do that. It would help their Children even if it means a pending their own financial terms. So this is going to have a longer lasting effect as people rebuild retirement and frankly rethink retirement and what it means for them in the future. Penny, you just said about five things that I want to come back to. Um, so we will circle back on many of those topics. Um, but the Michelle, I wanted to ask you, you know, to this 50.1 of Penny's early points about market volatility, um, you know, you have said before, I think emotion is one of the greatest contributors to wealth destruction, and I imagine that this is the kind of volatility that causes the types of emotions, fear, anxiety. Are you still hearing those kind of, are you hearing the investors are feeling that way? And so, you know, what do you do, or when you try to say, um, to address that? Sure. Um, well, it doesn't go away as Penny said, markets continue to be volatile, and, uh, markets are driven on both fear and greed. Uh, there is volatility at almost all times, but this is this has been close to unprecedented, I think, I would say. Um, But but the underlying emotion really is driven by what is a true financial security crisis, and it does impact some groups, uh more than others, but it is, it is, and it has gone mainstream, affecting all generations, all income levels, lower income levels even more profoundly with many people slipping uh in their financial status and in their financial security. And that at the base of it is what causes anxiety and it's it's very understandable, but it is a point of financial insecurity and until we can get the ship righted so that we're making the culture of financial services and the conversation within financial services more pointed the financial health rather than consumerism and credit scores the better off. We'll all be um Penny. I actually wanted to come back to another point that you made, um which is you were talking about the performance of the stock market versus the economy overall, and, you know, I certainly feel like we're sort of living in two different economies right now. And I'm just, can you help me understand why that is why we see that disconnect between the market and some aspects of some industries versus, you know, the average person on the street and their finances. Sure. And then then Michelle, you're really great at this one as well. Um the stock market is, is a broad index, right? It includes a lot of different companies. Some of those companies are faring very, very well as a result of the move to technology, for example, but there are much larger number of companies that fundamentally are in decent shape, but they're actually down in terms of their financial performance. And so we have a bifurcated market right now, very narrow market in terms of what's doing really, really well and what's suffering right now. But something that I think that we all ought to be concerned about is that have of our economy reflected in the publicly traded stock market, half of our economy has two jobs, 85% of the growth in our country comes in the form of small business and those small businesses are really suffering, right? So I think that's why the average american, so many of us would say, I don't quite understand what the stock market is doing so well, when the main street that I go go past every day looks like it's suffering. And I think that's something that we we as leaders need to be attended to because it tremendous percentage of our GDP, of our creativity, of our innovation, of our growth in this country. Um, you know, I think what we keep circling back around to is the fact that this is the type of economy that um between the economy and the virus, there is really a potential for there to be increased Um you know, financial wealth inequality in the country. And um and I wanna talk to you specifically about the racial wealth gap. So the most recent statistic that I found on this is um that the average white American family has almost 10 times. The network is the average black American family. And you know, you add on the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affected the black community. And this seems like a really dangerous moment for that. Can you talk a little bit about the work that you've been doing it chase to attack that problem? Yeah. And and again, I would just say that COVID is exasperate ng um some of the issues that we've always have had in our in this country, when you think about wealth inequality, when you think about the media network of single black women is $200. And so when we think about what, what the state is and how do we address some of these inequities? We talk a lot about some of the structural and systemic issues, whether that has been policy driven over time, whether you look at the disconnect between homeownership rates approaching 75% from white, it's under 45% for African, $6 of assets versus $100. I mean that's go on and on. And those stats were true prior to Covid. And so as we think about the jobs to be done, as it relates to financial health and financial inclusion, I think even for the women here at fortune, um we have to make sure that we are doing the work inside of corporate America to say when you look at the least wage earners in your organization that disproportionately are are probably women and probably people of color. If we truly want to change these outcomes, we're going to have to be intentional about the mobility of black americans, brown americans moving into middle class, moving up into the ranks and we ourselves have work to do in corporate America to make sure that we do have that representation in those first line jobs moving up to middle management etcetera. Because if we don't we are not going to change these outcomes and I do think lastly, I would say we are going to have to look at some of the structural policies, We're going to have to look at some of the initiatives that we all can do in corporate America, whether that's the level of intentionality that we have at jpmorgan chase with women on the move, or advancing black pathways and really looking at not just career advancement, but wealth creation as a result, which is anchored in financial health. And so I think those are the things that we really have to focus on. And one thing I think is important for all of us, when you look at the least within our organizations, Are they aware of the financial health programs you have? Are they participating in 41K. Why aren't we making sure that the information is trickling to the segments of our organizations that need it the most? I think the net message and all of this, that's are not new. The problems are not new. We just as a society including us in corporate America have to decide to take real intentional action in order to change these outcomes. Um, Michelle I see you nodding a lot. Um, and I'm wondering, you know, from your perspective, do you feel like there's, you know, a role that the um, investment community can play and helping to address some of these issues? Absolutely, absolutely. So I agree. 100%. What we're seeing is an amplification and the acceleration of problems that have been inherent and growing over time. So the retirement crisis was very clear. Uh, too many of us. We've been talking about it for quite a while, but now, as I said before, this has gone mainstream and the words you're hearing from all of us, Financial, health, financial security, closing an opportunity gap, re skilling opportunities, again, opportunity. But the financial services industry has an enormous role to play, uh, making sure that we focus smart technologies on people, making sure that they're financially resilient in these kinds of times. And frankly, almost all the time normal never happens. No one is average. No one's a statistic. They need personalized data. We can educate, but we actually need to give tools because educating people out of a crisis is not going to work. We can do that for future generations, but what people need now is data. They need defaults and tools so that they can help themselves and they need to be empowered to make better decisions and make it a little bit harder perhaps to make what we know to be really bad decisions like getting into debt that they can't ever crawl their way out of. So an incredibly important conversation for us to change so that we can work on financial health insecurity rather than trying to get people out of the emergency room once it's occurred. Mhm. Um you know, one issue that's come up repeatedly here is is retirement. Um And uh the retirement gap, the fact that americans are typically I saw 11 staff that said That lesson, about 25% of Americans have saved less than $5,000 for retirement. Um which is a bit daunting. Um So I wanna, you know when you think about retirement, you often think about baby boomers, people nearing retirement. But in fact another issue is younger people and whether or not they are in a position to be saving for their retirement. And and Penny, I know you know you mentioned the research that you've done with with age wave and one thing that really jumped out at me is how hard this crisis hitting young people. Um So can you talk a little bit about what you found and you know what the implications of that are long term. Sure, and I'm gonna try to try to put a little bit of a bright spot on it, especially for young folks. Time is on the side of young people, right? So it's never too early to start. It's never too late to start On average. People who are advised, people who reach out and get financial advice have 25% more assets than people who don't. And in this study we found out that over 60% of investors say I need more empathy and connection from whomever I'm getting advice so that I can tell them what my hopes and dreams are so that they can help me on a personalized basis for young folks who are more technology inclines. Sometimes there are all kinds of resources in order to do that. Edward jones just posted one on our like Web financial financial fitness dot com. It's open to investors to our clients. It's open to the families and Children of people who work at Edward jones because we're finding out lots of people are at home with their Children and looking for great content. Um what we do know about younger investors that really wrenching times in our economy have a long lasting impact on their risk appetite on their trusted institutions. And so that's why even more important in the three leaders that you have on this panel are all devoted to helping people get access to advise the technology to good tools to financial literacy programs all throughout their lives in order to uh in order to to ramp up their financial, health knowledge and wealth. Um I want to pivot a little bit if you'll allow me and ask you all. Um We have a couple minutes left to prognosticate a little bit and tell us when the financial recovery we keep hearing about is going to happen. Um So we we actually pulled the M. P. W. Community and we asked specifically when they thought that um economic activity would get back to pre pandemic levels. So here's what we heard 22% sometime next year. 53% said 2022 and 18% said 2023. So probably the easiest way to do this is maybe just like a show of hands. Um Who on the panel thinks that this will happen sometime next year in 2021. Okay. Resounding. Oh wait too. Can. Oh uh that is very optimistic. Um And I just we only have a minute but I I just want to go briefly down the line and and ask each of you like what what what's inspiring that optimism. Um So can we start with you on that? Yeah. Well I want to just give some good news and and have a little bit of optimism here. But if nothing else, but I do think what we are seeing is like debit trends. We are seeing an increase acting deputy use. We are seeing signs that add local areas open up. We are seeing, you know more activity. I think the piece that we have to address a small business as small business recovers. So will the economy And what we do know is that there are pockets and hopefully, you know, we can address the pandemic and and sometime next year start to be on a path to full recovery. I don't think we'll be fully there, but I do think we'll be on a path sometime in 2021. That is good to hear. How about you? Penny? Um greater resilience will come as we discover the public health uh policies and approaches that we can use to keep ourselves safe and kind confident go out and spend um to uh to be part of a more vibrant economy. It is going to fall differential e in different industries and on different people as we work our way out of this over the next year. In two years. Okay, Michelle, I've only left you a couple of seconds. I'm so sorry. That's OK. But eternally optimistic. And and the quick answer to is that we've had close to 30% of of our GDP uh in stimulus and that will have a powerful effect as well. Um testing and treatments improving. Uh even before we get a vaccine. So I I agree with my other panelists. This is uh it's more to be positive about as long as we face the hard truth and we're all about making sure that we have economic prosperity for the majority of our population. Um, okay, great to end on a uplifting note there. So I want to thank all three of you very much for an informative and I think really important conversation.