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Nasdaq Spotlight: Craig Byll on Financial Literacy’s Role in Empowering the Black Community

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At Nasdaq, we are on a mission to make financial education more accessible to drive inclusive growth and prosperity. For Financial Literacy Month, we learn from the members of our diverse employee resource groups about the effect financial literacy has had on both their personal and professional success, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, and the resources they recommend for a more inclusive future. We spoke with Craig Byll, senior product analyst of U.S. Equities at Nasdaq and GLOBE Marketing co-lead, about the impact financial literacy has in empowering the Black community.  

Why did you decide to join GLOBE? 

I decided to join GLOBE because I immediately found a sense of community and belonging when I encountered the group. GLOBE welcomed me in with open arms the moment I started here at Nasdaq in search of a diverse network, and I have not looked back since joining this experience. GLOBE at Nasdaq is one big family, and that is evident in many aspects of how the organization functions. Members and Allies of GLOBE have been able to bond over a multitude of interests, hobbies, media and topics that we might have in common, as well as the ability to embrace unique experiences that shed light on us as individuals with our own vastly distinct identities. GLOBE represents unity beyond the experiences we let one another into, but also through the values we might share, as vast as fostering a more diverse and inclusive community, and driving forth impactful change beyond our company and throughout the various pockets of the globe (no pun intended) from which we all come from.   

How would you describe the employee resource group to a new employee?

GLOBE’s name speaks for itself. As the Global Link of Black Employees, this employee resource group unites employees from across the diaspora as well as those who would like to be part of the network and support our cause. To echo its mission, GLOBE sets out to empower the success of employees with initiatives that promote professional advancement, provide networking opportunities and build mentorship, advocacy and community outreach efforts. It succeeds in this right and provides numerous opportunities for members to build beyond barriers.

Favorite memory while being a part of the employee network?

While all GLOBE experiences have a special place in my heart, my favorite memory in particular has been the previous year’s celebrations for Black History Month. Among a host of events that celebrated black excellence, there was a fantastic panel featuring legends in their own right, the veteran journalist and news mogul Soledad O’Brien and the acclaimed music mogul and record executive Kevin Lyles. 

How can people outside of the GLOBE network be a good ally to the Black, African, African-American and West Indian community?

I believe the most imperative part of being an ally to the Black and Brown communities that GLOBE members belong to is to learn what it truly means to be an advocate for equal rights and, to quote Ibram X. Kendi, “Antiracist” – in effect actively against racism and implicit bias. Part of an alliance is taking upon the role of an advocate and educator. Allies must educate those around who have privilege, so they can understand and empathize with the injustices experienced by those with less privilege. Privilege itself essentially speaks to the fact that one has never had to encounter or experience the effects of cultural bias, racism and prejudice firsthand.

In what ways can companies support their employees and further support social justice?

There is a multitude of ways that companies can support their employees and further Social Justice. Charitable contributions to non-profit organizations that support equal rights and opportunities for Black and Brown communities; Providing support and uplifting Black Businesses; Voter Rights initiatives; Provision of funding and adequate resources (i.e., education, career opportunities, mentorship, innovative technologies) to underprivileged communities; Backing legislative initiatives (i.e., the fight against mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline); and Funding HBCU’s, are all just a few matters in an endless list of options that companies can engage in, to support the fight for social justice. 

Within the corporate realm, there are many policy-based initiatives companies can adopt to influence social justice from the inside out. Adopting ESG best practices and making the shift to more equitable hiring is an example of a conversation that should be a no-brainer prerogative in every C-Suite. 

Nasdaq’s recent Board Diversity proposal is a step forth in the right direction when it comes to addressing an enormous systemic issue that has unfortunately carried on for as long as companies have existed. Equal hiring practices and business expectations must be accepted and adopted across corporations in order to provide fair access and opportunity to those who are equally (if not more, in many instances) qualified. Looking at gender-based and ethnic/racial diversity hiring practices, change truly starts at the top, and there is quite a bit that must shift in how companies address this. 

Diversity in boards reflects diversity in thought, in shared experiences, and in solutions. The adoption of inclusive hiring practices proves to affect the bottom line as well. Companies that accept deep-level diversity as a mandate, perform better as a result. According to a report published by the U.S. Committee on Financial Services, companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Action is necessary in this regard. Companies have a distinct ability, unlike any other entity, to cultivate more inclusive, accepting, and equitable environments. The ball is in our court. 

What challenges have you seen the Black community face related to financial literacy?

I personally think that history and the past is the greatest storyteller when it comes to challenges that the Black community has had to face and overcome in regards to access to wealth, financial resources and financial literacy, collectively. Black people, have been discriminated against, disenfranchised and systemically blocked from building any semblance of wealth for centuries. The gravity of this situation historically is beyond anything that I, let alone any one person, has been capable of personally witnessing as a single instance. To put matters into context, slavery lasted for 246 years. The math makes it that more startling. Slavery began in 1619 before the United States was declared a constitutional federal republic. Furthermore, Slavery (slavery in the form that we conventionally recognize it against the backdrop of American History and the Atlantic Slave trade) began in 1619 before the United States was declared a constitutional federal republic and was abolished in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th amendment. The constitution was ratified in 1776, which means that in 2022, the United States will be 246 years old.

The U.S. is nearly as old as chattel slavery, the biggest generational setback that has been legally enforced by our country since before its inception. Following the abolition of slavery, we have been playing a game of catch up, with new systemic forms of oppression that are designed to prevent black people from acquiring wealth. A commonly cited report by the Brookings Institute confronts the fact that there has been no absolute elimination of unfair and inequitable laws that prevent Black people from gaining access to wealth. Instead, laws of the past have instead been transformed into more subtle, systemically embedded, sophisticated laws that are actually harder to identify and eradicate from our government. As a result, I think that the fundamental issues that remain are those that rest with the highest forms of authority that govern our country, and until we truly dismantle the structures that financially hamper underprivileged communities, the wealth gap will remain reflective of a “society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens” (McIntosh, Brookings Institution, 2020). 

Why is financial literacy and financial wellbeing important to you as a member of the Black community?  

According to the aforementioned Brookings report which sources research from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the racial wealth gaps within our society are stark. In 2016, the average net worth of a White family was $171,000 versus $17,150 for the average net worth of a black family – a 10:1 ratio reflective of a wealth gap that was widened due to various forms of inequality and injustice.

Using a more recent report from the Federal Reserve Board’s SCF in 2019, a typical (median) White family’s net worth increased to $184,000, while a typical Black household net worth was $23,000 and typical Hispanic household was $38,000. This paints a broader picture speaking to “systemic barriers like asset poverty, the legacy of wealth stripping tactics in housing markets, and discriminatory practices.” Black and Latinx people historically have not had the same access to resources and rights that have been freely granted to others. The numbers tell a story of years of setbacks that we now have the knowledge and social consciousness to stand up against. Financial literacy is important to me as a member of the Black community because it represents an opportunity to empower our community with tools to build and eventually thrive in a system that was not created for us to even survive.

Anecdotally, I grew up in a household with a rather unconventional financial experience, which made financial literacy incredibly important to me as I grew up. Financial literacy is also incredibly important to my experience as a black individual especially knowing the historical context. Various injustices can be synthesized and maintained within the structures that we intrinsically depend on and that needs to change.  

What resources do you feel can help break the barriers to education on financial literacy for the Black community?

Resources are the name of the game here! Theoretically, the more resources become accessible to others within various underprivileged communities, the sooner the wealth gap will close and more equitable our society will be. More equal access to wealth is better for everyone involved, despite the culture that we have been raised in that makes it seem like nearly the contrary is true.

As for resources themselves, I am a firm believer that all the information one could ever need begins at your fingertips in the era of the internet and socialization of knowledge. Whether it is reading publications or financial news like CNBC, going to sites dedicated to finance and the markets (i.e. Nasdaq.com, MarketWatch, Bloomberg), financial instruments like ETFs (i.e. TrackInsight, ETF Trends) or social media, there is plenty of knowledge out there and resources to ensure you are getting the right information. I am actually a fan of financial information on Social Media, because I think it is more crucial than ever before for investors and people interested in any form of finance to be well-informed. More conventional business platforms like LinkedIn, but also less obvious platforms like TikTok and Instagram have experts and influencers who are creating content like there is no tomorrow. Granted that we do our due diligence and make sure the information is accurate, information is getting circulated at an all-time high. Maybe it is time we dial in.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.



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