The 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair Matt Elliott led planning with Detroit Regional Chamber leadership this year as it developed the conference theme and agenda. The Detroiter connected with the President of Bank of America Michigan on the philosophy and ethos behind “the Power of &” and what it means for our state.
What does “the Power of &” mean to Bank of America generally, and in Michigan specifically?
For Bank of America, the easiest way to think about “the Power of &” is through the lens of profit and purpose. We must do both to be successful. That means we can deliver for shareholders, while also solving bigger societal problems and being responsive to the needs of our communities.
A good example is the work we’re doing to increase access to affordable housing in Michigan. It drives mortgage volumes up for the Bank, but more importantly it changes the fabric of communities in Detroit and improves quality of life for residents and their families for generations to come.
How are you implementing this philosophy as you lead the bank in Michigan?
The way I lead is by using the playbook of our Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, who insists that all Bank efforts are executed with a responsible growth strategy.
This means that all Bank programs must be led in a sustainable way. We are tying together the goals of delivering for shareholders and delivering for our communities, both of which are necessary. We are all participants in the same economy and cannot succeed without each other.
Some of our work involves supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy. This change will take a lot of time and capital, so we are building a business case around that.
Bank of America is also deeply engaged in the transition of the traditional automotive industry to electric vehicles, a change which will boost the state’s economy for residents while also delivering dividends for businesses.
Why is it so essential for banks and other institutions to invest in the communities they serve?
Banks play a unique role in Michigan’s economy by being a key connector — bringing together savers and borrowers, businesses, and communities. And most companies in all industries understand that the more closely they are connected to the community, the more successful they are.
Also, at Bank of America, we’re not just a business — we are part of the community. I’ve been a Michigander for over 20 years. It’s not just a corporate thing, it’s personal to me that our economy and people thrive in Michigan.
We also focus on making Bank of America a great place to work, as people want to know that the work they do is meaningful. We must serve the community’s needs, in addition to feeding our own success, if we’re going to be successful over a longer period.
BofA’s Community Homeownership Commitment continues to invest in making affordable homeownership attainable across the country. Tell us more about the impact of these programs for Michigan homeowners.
The biggest challenge for first-time homebuyers in Detroit and throughout Michigan is to overcome the obstacle of covering the down payment and closing costs required to become homeowners. So many people in Michigan can easily afford the monthly payment of a house, which can be even less than rent in some situations but struggle with the up-front costs that are hurdles to home ownership.
Our Community Homeownership Commitment program offers qualifying residents grants to cover these upfront costs and are already helping convert renters to homeowners in our state.
The domino effect is that as we convert renters to homeowners, we help that person create wealth. And as their wealth grows, the more Bank of America can continue to help them grow financially. By helping people in our communities become homeowners, we are helping the bank in the long run. It’s a win-win scenario, an excellent example of “the Power of &”.
We also offer support to residents who do not quality for mortgages due to low credit scores, and work with them to improve their financial literacy and credit rating.
What will you ask of business and civic leaders to bring “the Power of &” message home from the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference, and make it a reality for communities in Michigan?
It starts by understanding that we may need to relearn some important facts about key areas of our society and explore new viewpoints. For example, we must have discussions about how we’re doing on education and where we can improve. We’re trying to spur constructive, even uncomfortable conversation at times, to move dialogue forward both on the island and beyond.
We will engage with business and civic leaders to determine what numbers they view as essential for success, while also engaging them to find at least one tangible assignment they can take home and act on immediately to help the community grow in the spirit of “the Power of &”.
If everyone attending can remember just one thing, it’s that “And” is much more powerful than “Or”. We want them to find more of the story and explore deeper, find viewpoints that are not their own and come up with solutions that benefit more than the bottom line.
My hope is that we’re able to have engaging conversations that people will want to attend and stay for more of the content, and that these discussions spark relationships and start conversations that continue for the rest of the year.
Our ambitions are to start important conversations at this event that are continued throughout the year back home, and will continue through next year’s conference, at which point we can assess how far we’ve come.
Which speakers or topics are you most excited about at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference?
In terms of speakers, I’m very excited to hear from our Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan about how we use “the Power of &” as a guiding philosophy for how we run the company, to mutually benefit our communities as well as our shareholders. This lesson is one I hope our attendees will take to heart and apply in their own operations.
I’m also excited to hear our speakers drill deeper into topics like education that too often turn into rote conversations. Instead, the best minds in our state will talk seriously about ways we can get better, and the multiple paths to success.
Most important, so many of the crucial changes taking place in this state — from the conversion of automotive manufacturing to an EV focus, to the increased support for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives — all have essential “And” element; and our experience has shown that “And” is more fun and better for businesses and communities than and “either/or” approach.