Making real change that impacts businesses and communities.
Art Basel in Miami Beach and South by Southwest in Austin are not locations where you would expect a bank to offer financial literacy workshops to young, diverse entrepreneurs. But Ally Financial is no ordinary bank.
Ally, a Detroit-based digital financial services company, hosted sessions at the two events over the past year as part of a new collaboration with UnitedMasters, a music distribution company and marketing agency based in New York.
“This is a fabulous example of how we’ve gone about supplier diversity,” says T.J. Lewis, who launched Ally’s supplier diversity program. “Everything we’ve done with our events—it’s not standard supplier diversity. We want to be authentic in how we approach this so we are partnering with suppliers who get it and can help us really change the industry.”
Creating Events Targeting Young People
Ally’s strategy to engage diverse suppliers to target younger consumers is based in part on demographics, says Erica Hughes, the bank’s director of multicultural marketing. In 2020, minorities became the majority of the nation’s 74 million children under age 18, according to the U.S. Census. By 2045, whites will become a minority of the overall population.
By partnering with companies such as UnitedMasters, founded by Black businessman and marketing veteran Steve Stout, Ally believes it can better reach a racially diverse base of younger customers. That was one of the goals in creating the financial education events at South by Southwest in March and Art Basel last December, Hughes shares.
“Your message lands better when it’s built by people who innately understand the communities that they are serving partly because the people are in the communities themselves,” Hughes says. “And so, they can speak from a place of authenticity that I don’t think you always get from other agencies and partners.”
Offering financial education to young musicians, artists and spectators at Art Basel and South by Southwest attracted a racially diverse audience that historically hasn’t had access to information about investing, capital markets, home ownership, and other financial topics, Hughes adds.
“This is not a logo slap,” says Chaucer Barnes, the chief marketing officer at UnitedMasters. “This is very real in-demand intelligence that Ally is uniquely suited to deliver. They are more than financing this. They are directly helping us fulfill on the promise to help our audiences close the gap between them and their dreams.”
Introducing Supplier Diversity Month
Another new initiative Ally has developed is supplier diversity month. This July, Ally will recognize its second annual supplier diversity month, which is intended to highlight the bank’s efforts to increase its number of diverse suppliers.
During the month, Ally spotlights internal employees, certified diverse businesses, and leaders of diversity councils that certify these businesses who all make significant contributions to the supplier diversity community.
“One of the things that businesses ask all the time is, ‘What’s the value in it for me to go through certification because it does cost money for small businesses,’” says Lewis, Ally’s senior director of supplier diversity and sustainability. Businesses that become certified through diversity councils can be identified as potential suppliers for Ally and other companies. “A lot of diverse businesses don’t see the underworking of how we work with those organizations and by us bringing that to light creates value.”
Lewis hopes that other companies will join in celebrating supplier diversity month so that it has an impact on all industries. “We’re trying to raise the profile of supplier diversity programs for all companies, across all industries and get more people involved,” he says.
Supplier diversity month is just one of several programs that have shown successful results at Ally in the two years since Lewis created the program. Last year, Ally’s spending on women-owned businesses increased by 49% while its spending with minority-owned businesses jumped by 50%.
“We’re off to a great start,” Lewis says. “We set out to raise the profile of supplier diversity and innovate the way diverse businesses, corporations and councils interact with Ally. We’re making real change that impacts businesses and communities.”