Morgan Stanley

How can we address underinvestment in women and multicultural entrepreneurs and small business owners? By building community and providing the content and capabilities for leadership and action.

I look forward every year to June, for a variety of reasons, and this year, June is indeed a very special month. Not only are we getting into the swing of summer, June is when we hold our Senior Multicultural Leaders Conference in New York City. This year, we're bringing together more than 300 senior-level multicultural entrepreneurs, including Fortune 500 executives, investors, and civic leaders for our third annual conference.

It's an exciting time for us in other ways. We've launched a new podcast, Access and Opportunity: Connecting Capital and Communities, hosted by yours truly, which focuses on the gaps—and opportunities—that exist in the marketplace for women- and multicultural-owned businesses that are so often overlooked.  In our first episode, Richelieu Dennis of Sundial Brands will share how he grew his small community-based health and beauty products business into a multimillion-dollar company with zero outside capital before bringing in investment partners to scale globally.

Indeed, on our first season of the podcast, we've lined up a fantastic guest list of successful entrepreneurs, developers and executives who are going to share what they’ve learned over their careers and help point the way toward real solutions to issues tied to unequal access to capital. I have learned a great deal from our guests and I know you will, too. You can subscribe here.

Those podcast conversations, however, are but a taste of what makes our Senior Multicultural Leaders Conference so special, not only the topics and caliber of discussion, but also the people in the room and the perspectives they bring. It’s a unique gathering of seasoned executives who are driving some of today’s most consequential organizations for provocative and enlightening discussions on how we can optimize growth with just the right measure of risk, and how we navigate the economic cycle within the margins.

We’re going to talk about what’s going on in the global markets and bring the conversation back home and talk about how to leverage innovative technology and multicultural talent to drive competitive corporate results and transform communities.

Lessons from the Chairmen

First up, I’ll be asking former American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault—in one of his first public appearances since stepping down—about how he prioritized innovation at American Express, his foray into the venture capital world and his perspective on the most pressing issues facing the financial services industry today.  

Later, Dick Parsons, former Chairman & CEO of Time Warner, will take the stage to give an up-close and personal account of steering companies through crisis, based on his considerable experience doing just that on several different occasions. This is a chance to learn from one of the masters, if not THE master. And we’ll also hear about his efforts to change the venture capital landscape, as an investor and board member.

The Geopolitical Outlook

We all know there’s a great deal of turbulence (to say the least) surrounding diplomacy, trade, monetary policy and economic nationalism, migration, and other factors that profoundly impact the investment environment.  We’re going to hear from China, Europe, Japan and U.S. experts on the state of global markets, the rise of nationalism and populism, the impact on the global corporate agenda, and pending midterm and national elections around the world.

No Senior Multicultural Leaders Conference would be complete without our millennial entrepreneurs panel. Over lunch this year, four co-founders of HealthTech companies will talk about how they are leveraging technology in incredible ways to disrupt and revolutionize the delivery of healthcare, and also how they garnered capital, despite the underinvestment in female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.

We’re in the midst of a new era where technology companies are becoming more involved in shaping our cities, and corporations are serving a new constituency: community. Anyone who knows me knows that economic revitalization is something that I care deeply about, and I can’t wait to hear the discussion about the 21st century public-private-partnership model that’s transforming communities with innovative ideas—and capital infusion—and empowering entrepreneurs across the country. I’m hoping this discussion will help us articulate a “playbook” about how to form these partnerships for maximum impact.

Blockchain Beyond the Financial Sector

Speaking of changes: Every industry is looking into Blockchain now. But even though Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have been touted as FinTech’s new game changer, many applications have yet to be explored. Our Beyond FinTech panel will discuss how these technologies are being leveraged to disrupt industries beyond the financial sector—and how cryptocurrency initial coin offerings, or ICOs, could emerge as an alternative source of funding for tech entrepreneurs.

Closing the day, we’ll shift to the home front, when Morgan Stanley’s Tom Nides interviews Van Jones to get his take on the business impact of sharpening political divides and opportunities to address economic inequality, without sacrificing the fundamental capitalist underpinnings in our democracy.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

Everything we’re doing is part of the important work at Morgan Stanley to address underinvestment in tech startups and small businesses led by women and multicultural entrepreneurs—the same impetus that’s behind our Innovation Lab and Capital Access Fund. We’re working hard to develop the playbook for entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone else who is interested in bridging the funding gap, giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to grow businesses, scale ideas and transform communities.

So even if you can't be with us this June, we still want you to join the conversation. Follow what people are saying across the Morgan Stanley social channels using hashtag #SMLC18. Join us, tune in, and learn more about what's possible in this space from those who are making it a reality!