2016 Best Companies for Diversity: Prudential


CEO: John Strangfeld


The 50 companies on this year’s Best Companies for Diversity list represent brands that recognize the value in cultivating an inclusive environment, driven by company leadership through senior management and the board of directors (as shown in the B.E. Registry of Corporate Directors). Some are also taking a step further to engage employees during turbulent and confusing socio-political times.

Here we’d like to highlight Prudential Financial, the life insurance, retirement, and investment services firm based in New Jersey, and what it’s doing to push forward and nurture diversity and inclusion.

At Prudential, diversity and inclusion are not standalone programs that come and go based on changing economies. Prudential has been able to stay the course in driving diversity and inclusion as it is embedded into all of its businesses and human resource policies.

Examples of the company’s work to advance ethnic minority causes are its support of My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative launched by the White House, to ensure boys and young men of color have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and the “Titans of Industry” tour to promote African American professional success and generational wealth. Recently, Prudential published The African American Financial Experience, developed with the involvement of members of the company’s first-established Business Resource Group: the Black Leadership Forum Symposium.

5 Ways Millennials Can Overcome Financial Challenges

financialfinancial (Image: iStock.com/Squaredpixels)

Millennials are increasingly identified with disrupting the status quo—from driving change within various industries to taking on saving the world through the next hot social enterprise. Still, a large percentage of millennials face a number of financial challenges that can hold them back from achieving the life that they desire.

So Prudential teamed up with Millennial Week and sponsored a town hall focused on overcoming those challenges. Moderated by Tonya Rapley, a nationally recognized millennial money expert and founder of My Fab Finance, the interactive discussion featured millennial experts who shared tips on navigating entrepreneurship, while protecting and maximizing your financial life.

The innovators on the panel included New York City-based entrepreneur, professional speaker, and media personality Kwame Jackson; digital influencer, Chelsea Krost; and Phroogal founder and CEO, Jason Vitug.

Financial freedom, while living according to your values, was a common thread throughout the town hall discussion. Panelists, speaking from their unique perspectives, had a lot to share about their experiences in overcoming their own financial challenges to reach their individual and business goals.

Don’t keep up with the Joneses

Vitug, author and creator of The Smile Lifestyle Movement, created The Road to Financial Wellness to engage millennials in financial awareness via local grassroots interaction and social media. In the age of social media, he emphasized that the need to keep up with the Joneses causes people to focus on others lifestyle’s when the focus should be your own. “We need to break social taboos and the underlying issues that prevent millennials from achieving financial freedom,” says Vitug.

Retirement is evolving. Identify and refine your portable toolkit

Jackson, who is a serial entrepreneur and one of the first contestants on NBC’s The Apprentice, shared a number of tips for budding entrepreneurs. “Despite being a member of Generation X, I’m a millennial at heart,” says Jackson. After working in wealth management at Goldman Sachs, Jackson received the call for The Apprentice and the trajectory of his life changed. Seeing the platform as a branding opportunity, he’s worked on two to four businesses since.

He stressed the importance of developing and packaging your own personal, unique skill set. “The idea of retirement is evolving,” says Jackson. As the “backslash” generation, millennials are positioned to take those skills post retirement and parlay them into a new career.

Save, save, save

While entrepreneurship was a clear point of interest for the attendees, Rapley, whose mission is to help millennials break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck so that they can become financially free, brought the conversation back to the importance of saving. When an attendee asked if they should sacrifice their 401(k) on investing in their first business, an overwhelming reply was—NO. “Don’t sacrifice your future for [a] possibility,” says Vitug.

Jackson added, “Saving is truly important because that rainy day WILL come.”
Additionally, saving and managing money has become easier than ever with the addition of technology and access. “We are the first generation to think of our money digitally and the average millennial has about five apps connected to their credit/debit card,” says Krost.

Growing your biz

Krost, who is a speaker, author, television and radio talk-show host, executive producer, certified health coach, and entrepreneur, has been an influencer since 16. She created a radio talk show, Teen Talk Live, which spoke to some issues specific to teens and young adults, and the show was the first of its kind. A branding expert, she recommended that attendees find their passion, start executing, and more importantly, maintain consistency. “Before you start a business, do severe social listening on social media,” says Krost. She also believes that entrepreneurs should work on consistent cash flow before quitting their day job, and also hustling before going out to fundraise. “Build out your side hustle until it becomes a full-time opportunity,” she adds.

Get a mentor

The panel also highlighted the need to network and build solid relationships with mentors to move your business to the next level. “Every moment is a moment for you to network,” says Krost. Jackson encouraged attendees to venture outside of social media to find mentors, adding that conferences are great for that purpose. Vitug adds, “Find a mentor who is five years ahead of where you are. Show a vested interest in that individual’s success.”

The BE Smart Hackathon 2016 Begins!

BE Smart Hackathon

The Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit officially starts tomorrow, but the second annual BE Smart Hackathon sponsored by Toyota has just started. Already there is plenty of excitement and energy to spare.

Yesterday 10 teams from 10 historically black colleges flew into an unusually hot San Francisco. The students spent Saturday getting settled and, to break the ice, went to a nearby bowling alley and bowled on teams made up of students from different schools.

The bowling was sponsored by Prudential, and five Prudential staff bowled with the students and engaged with them, telling them about Prudential’s broad footprint in financial services and why they should consider Prudential as a potential employer or for an internship.

Historically Black Colleges

Teams of four students each represent the following HBCUs:

Alabama A&M University

Florida A&M University

Hampton University

Howard University

Johnson C. Smith University

Morehouse College

Morgan State University

North Carolina A&T State University

Southern University and A&M College

Tuskegee University

Two students won a MillerCoors contest and are attending the summit under MillerCoors’ sponsorship.

The Best and the Brightest

  • The CEO and president of Black Enterprise, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., welcomed the students this morning after breakfast.

“We are connecting black talent to Silicon Valley,” he said. “We’ve doubled the number of students and schools from last year to show tech recruiters that black talent is available for them to hire.”

Graves described how pervasive technology is, having entered just about every industry, and how these students are smart to take advantage of tech and networking opportunities like the BE Smart Hackathon.

During breakfast, I sat with students from Alabama A&M.

“I’m so glad I’m attending Alabama A&M,” Kristina Williams told me. The comp sci major is a native Alabamian. “My professors care about me. My classes are small. I was given a lot of financial aid.” Williams had spent time at the state university as a high schooler, but chose Alabama A&M because of its financial, academic, and social support.

James Burrell, a senior electrical engineering major, had transferred from Alabama’s state school and could compare the two experiences. He agreed with Williams. “It’s completely different,” he said. “There’s much more support—practical support, in that my professors have given me paid jobs.”  The other students then described how their professors had also said things like, “I like how you code,” and then hired them or provided introductions for employment.

Tsige Zergaw, originally from Ethiopia, described the campus’s natural beauty. “I’ve gone hiking in the area and it’s really beautiful,” she said. The campus is on a mountain, so it’s easy to appreciate the landscape below.

What about diversity? Will these students be prepared to work in an environment that will probably be majority nonblack?

Richard Embden, also an electrical engineering major, says yes. “Most of the students are black, but most of our professors are international.”

For more about the BE Smart Hackathon, go to the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit website.

The Financial Realities of the LBGT Community


As the Orlando shootings illustrated, we still have a long way to go when it comes to seeing the LBGT community through a compassionate and equal lens. These inequalities also play out in their financial experiences. BlackEnterprise.com caught up to Kent Sluyter, CEO of Individual Life Insurance and Prudential Advisors to discuss how people can create financial security as society still struggles to evolve around issues of gender and sexual preference.

BlackEnterprise.com: We’ve seen the country struggle with the civil rights of the LBGT community in the wake of the Orlando massacre. We don’t often think of ways in which gender preference plays out in economic rights. What are some of the main areas in which the LGBT community struggles to find economic equality?

Sluyter:  We’ve come a long way to ensure equal, basic human rights for the LGBT community, but there is still work to do. In a study Prudential issued last week on the financial concerns, hopes, and desires of the LGBT community, Prudential found that LGBT respondents are more likely to say they are struggling financially than are the general population (41% versus 27% of general population). When asked how thinking about their financial future makes them feel, LGBT respondents’ comments surface a lot of concern—many use words such as worried, nervous, anxious, and uncertain. The reasons for these emotions are often linked to a lack of savings or preparation for the future. While the income gap is commonly viewed through the lens of gender inequality, there is also a significant income gap linked to sexual orientation. On average, heterosexual women earn less than heterosexual men, bisexual women earn less than bisexual men, and lesbian women earn less than gay men. Likewise, on average, lesbian women surveyed earn less than heterosexual women.

Where would you tell members of the LBGT community to start when it comes to financial planning? What are some steps they can take right now to create financial security?

For individuals and couples looking to build a solid understanding of their finances and begin to plan for the future, education is a key first step. If you prefer to work with a financial adviser, make sure he or she is sensitive to and educated about the needs of the LGBT community. Assess your finances and create a budget to ensure you are both saving money for an emergency and for retirement. Do not forgo the opportunity to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, especially if your employer offers a matching program.

Sluyter adds that one of the best ways to create financial security for your loved ones who depend on you financially is to purchase a life insurance policy. “By purchasing a life insurance policy, your spouse and children will be protected. It is an easy, inexpensive, and quick step to create greater financial security.”

Newark Celebrates its 350th Anniversary with Alvin Ailey

Newark, New Jersey, celebrates the 350th anniversary of the city’s founding with a Prudential-sponsored celebration, Newark 350, a yearlong jubilee of unique events and festivities featuring more than 150 marquee programs highlighting the city’s remarkable achievements, rich history, diverse communities, and extraordinary culture.

[Related: [WATCH] In Honor of World Ballet Day, Celebrate ‘Brown Girls Do Ballet’]

On May 6–8 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), the celebration will continue with a tribute to Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Emerita, not to mention legendary dancer and choreographer, Judith Jamison. Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became an international star, having been the muse of Ailey himself. Today, Jamison is committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy— using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present, and fearlessly reaching into the future.

The program will include Robert Battle’s world premiere since becoming artistic director of Alvin Ailey, Awakening, a piece that is said to lead the audience on a cathartic journey of dissonance and harmony, chaos and resolution. Ronald K. Brown will also share the world premiere of his work. Open Door, and there will be a new production of Judith Jamison’s A Case of You, not to mention a performance of Alvin Ailey’s signature piece, Revelations.

In addition to Jamison’s tribute, superstar tap dancer and choreographer, Savion Glover, will introduce a night full of percussive dance, featuring Rennie Harris’ world premiere Exodus, the company premiere of Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera.

Newark 350 continues on Mother’s Day, May 8, at NJPAC where the day will feature a pre-curtain brunch at NICO Kitchen + Bar. Outside in Theater Square at noon, two youth choirs sing inspirational gospel songs from Revelations. The Alvin Ailey ensemble will perform Ailey’s Cry, an encore performance of Ronald K. Brown’s Open Door, and audience favorite Night Creature.

Click here to find out more.

Prudential proudly sponsors Newark 350 as part of a larger, rich relationship with Newark, New Jersey. “We have many reasons to celebrate this year’s achievements and we look forward to continued positive change in 2016—a year that will mark Newark’s 350th anniversary,” says Lata Reddy, Prudential vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility. “We are already seeing how this year’s developments have helped attract new jobs, a broader pool of skilled local talent, more urban consumers and vibrant streets, and we’re excited for what’s in store for the city we are prouder than ever to call home.”

What the Wage Gap Does to Women As They Grow Old

We all hear discussions about the income gap between men and women, but far too often we don’t think about the long-term ramifications.

A study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) finds that women age 65 and older are 80% more likely to be impoverished than men, while those age 75 to 79 were 3 times more likely to fall below the poverty line than their male counterparts.

“It is well documented that the nation faces a retirement savings crisis, but the pain is particularly severe for women because we need a bigger retirement nest egg than men thanks to our longer life expectancy,” said Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director and report co-author.

“This new data is troubling—it shows that a woman’s nest egg is substantially smaller than a man’s and that we’re not making real headway toward closing the retirement gender gap,” she adds.

In addition, more years out of the workforce for childcare and eldercare impact women’s ability to save for retirement and build funds in social security.

The study also found that women may be working longer in order to make up for lower retirement savings, with labor force participation among women aged 55 to 64 rising from 53% in 2000, to 59% in 2015, with a peak of 61% in 2010.

Financial experts say the financial realities facing women mean they have to take extra care with their financial lives.

Prudential Financial Advisor Alice Barnes suggests the following:

Take a look inside: “Women have to start by having a discussion with themselves and a financial professional about their goals. They need to put their goals in writing and be willing to commit to them,” says Barnes.

Create a budget: Identify your income and expenses and write them down. You can use financial planning software or apps. “This will allow you to determine the disposable income you can put away each month,” says Barnes. “In order to create wealth, you have to start with a plan; take small, concrete steps toward financial security. Pay yourself first, then determine what disposable income is available for saving and investing options.”

Get more out of your money: Investigate investment options such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds as an alternative to the traditional savings bank. You can find out more about mutual funds on sites such as Morningstar and Google Finance. “The amount a person invests is going to depend on their personal circumstances, needs, risk tolerance, etc., but the most important thing is to start growing something for yourself.”

What Hurricane Katrina Can Teach Us About Insurance and Credit Card Debt

When the first television images of Hurricane Katrina started coming in 10 years ago, it was clear that something unprecedented was happening.  Personally, I will never forget watching a man trying to explain to a reporter that his home and his wife had floated away minutes before. He didn’t understand what was happening. At that point, none of us yet realized that we were witnessing the costliest natural disaster in United States history.

[Related: Why You Need Life Insurance for Your Child]

As stories emerged about the victims of Hurricane Katrina, we learned that many in the hardest hit area, New Orleans’ 9th ward, were economically challenged, even before the storm, which caused approximately $108 billion in property damage. That means many were likely paying more for homeowners insurance building up to the storm.

A study by Bankrate.com found that homeowners with poor credit typically pay 91% more for homeowners insurance than people with excellent credit.  In addition, the Consumer Federation of America finds that just 57% of people surveyed were aware that their credit score could affect what they pay for homeowners insurance.

“It’s an unfortunate reality, but your credit score does impact your premium for car, homeowners, and rental insurance,” says Shirley Ann Robertson, a financial professional based in Schaumburg, IL with Prudential Advisors.

“It’s all about financial responsibility. Financial responsibility is determined by your credit score and being financially responsible provides you with the best rate,” she adds.

According to credit bureau Experian, most credit scores fall between 600 and 750. A score above 700 suggests good credit management. You can get a free copy of your credit report each year from annualcreditreport.com.

If you are on the lower end of the range, you need to take control of your unsecured debt, which is usually the result of credit card use.

“As a part of the overall spending plan, credit card debt payments should not represent more than 10-15% of the monthly budget,” says Bruce McClary of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. 

And one of the most important things you can do to boost your credit score is pay your bills on time. This ranks in importance with keeping your unsecured debt levels as low as possible.

As we remember the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, let’s honor the victims by making sure that our own houses and our credit are in order.

On the Move: New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center Appoint New CMO

(Image: Prudential Center)

The New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center announced today that Daniel Cherry III has been named chief marketing and innovation officer. He will helm implementation and strategy for the sports and entertainment brands’ marketing, communications, and community initiatives.

[Related: On the Move: Zola Mashariki Joins BET as Head of Original Programming]

He will be also be responsible for driving the growth of the organization’s brands and raising awareness of the company’s culture and assets via engagement with New Jersey’s sports and entertainment fan bases.

He will report to New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center President Hugh Weber.

“Daniel’s unique skill set, acquired through his eclectic experience, will be the force behind solidifying the power of our brands to drive growth for our current and future fans,” said Weber in a statement. “In finding someone with his abilities who also shares our organization’s commitment to bring transformative change, we were rewarded for our patience.”

“I am humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to continue building on the legacy established by the ownership group and executive leadership team of the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center,” said Cherry. I am also deeply committed to bringing world-class marketing, sports and entertainment experiences to the wider New Jersey community, something everyone here in the Garden State can be proud of and enjoy.”

Cherry brings more than 15 years of sports, entertainment marketing and consumer brand experience with top companies including Diageo, Ciroc, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Tanqueray. He also has experience working with top ad agencies, including Anomaly, Wieden & Kennedy, and Crispin Porter+Bogusly, and sports brands such as Nike, ESPN, and Converse.

Changing the Habits That Got You Into Debt

About half of the people surveyed in a recent study by Prudential called the African American Financial Experience cite getting out of debt as a top financial priority. This is not surprising when you consider the finding by Demos that more than 40% of black households are borrowing to make ends meet, and the fact that blacks carry higher levels of student loan debt than other groups.

[Related: Love and Money: Is Your Boo a Burden on Your Bottom Line?]

Socioeconomic challenges like higher unemployment levels, and discrimination in the job market, definitely play a role in our debt burdens. Many blacks have simply had to take on debt to level their own playing field when it comes to things like getting an education.

Still, our financial circumstances have as much to do with what we believe about ourselves, and the consequent choices we make. Changing financial patterns must be addressed in the same way as changing other patterns that don’t serve us.

“We don’t understand change,” says Dr. Sara Johnson, senior vice president of research and product development at Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc.

“Change is a process. The key to successfully changing behavior is knowing where you are in the change process and applying the right technique at the right time. We often get anxious and jump to action long before the environment is in place that will allow us to sustain the change,” she adds.

“Before you get there, you need to start to add up the benefits. What would happen if I put more money toward debt than buying those new shoes? When you’re ready, set a date, and come up with a specific plan.”

Jacquette Timmons, a financial behavior expert and CEO of Sterling Investment Management Inc., says the following 3 tips will help you get your debt under control.

1.  Don’t say, “No.” Instead say, “No, for right now.” If you’re in debt because you’re not good with delaying gratification, this will help.

2. Remember to save whilst you’re paying down your debt. It helps to see something growing.

3. Know if your debt is because of a spending problem or earnings problem. If you’re not solving the right problem, it will prolong your debt elimination efforts and leave you feeling defeated.

Timmons, Johnson, and other experts say that when it comes to changing patterns, it is also imperative that you enlist the help and support of someone you trust, and ask them to help you stick to your debt elimination plan.

AAF Preview: Black Enterprise and Prudential Want You to Get Out of Debt

(Image: Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt)

Prudential and Black Enterprise are joining forces to bring attendees at this year’s African American Festival perspective, planning, and best practices when it comes to taking control of their debt levels.

[Related: 2015 African American Festival to Take Place in Baltimore]

BE’s Senior Editor for Personal Finance, Stacey Tisdale, will moderate a panel titled “The Impact of Debt on the African American Community,” Saturday, June 20 from 3:00 PM  – 3:45 PM.  The panel features,  The Honorable Joan M. Pratt, Baltimore City Comptroller, Dr. Deforest Soaries Jr., author of “dfree: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery,” and Khalilah Harris, Deputy Director at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

The panel takes place at the Black Enterprise Empowerment Zone tent.

Among the topics panelists will discuss are:

Ways to reduce student loan debt:  This is an issue of significant importance to the Black Community considering more than 40% of African American families have student loan debt.  African American families also carry more student loan debt that other groups: $10,295 on average compared with $8,020 for White Families, according to the Urban Institute.

How to turn our improving economics into ‘debt free’ wealth: According to Nielsen research, Blacks earning more than $75,000 a year are the fastest growing income group in the country, yet Demos finds that more than 40% of Black households are borrowing to make ends meet.

How to improve economic circumstances for those in Urban Communities: Research shows that urban economic circumstances are directly correlated  to rioting and violence in those communities.

Please join us for this thought provoking, insightful, and empowering discussion so that you can get your financial house in order.