Home Social Impact Heroes Maxwell Young of US Financial Services On How They Are Helping To...

Maxwell Young of US Financial Services On How They Are Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion

An Interview With Orlando Zayas

Create inclusive, welcoming environments. Signals of inclusion, such as being greeted with a smile, being offered multilingual materials, and seeing a diverse workforce are all cited by consumers as key actions to create better customer experiences.

Most of us take it for granted that we can open a bank or a credit card. But the truth is, according to the World Bank, close to one-third of adults — 1.7 billion — are still unbanked, and have no access to a transaction account. About half of unbanked people include women in poor households in rural areas or out of the workforce. What can be done and what is being done to promote more financial inclusion? To address this Authority Magazine started a new series about Companies Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion.

As part of this series, I had the pleasure to interview Maxwell Young.

Maxwell Young is the Intellectual Property Manager for U.S. Financial Services. He has practiced the fundamentals of public affairs through international and grassroots projects, leveraging different subject matter expertise relating to ESG, cryptocurrency, private equity, insurance, and retirement services. Maxwell has counseled clients on message and campaign development, media strategy, digital content, event outreach, executive visibility and more. With Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report: Addressing Racism in America’s Financial System, he worked to expand Edelman’s IP tradition, blending quantitative and qualitative sensibilities to address financial institutions’ discrimination against communities of color.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Hello — it is a pleasure! I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I grew up with my twin brother. We lived in our own world, Alex and I, drafting menus for our mother’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, organizing a basketball league with our neighbor and Rice Cakes Football Club in high school, make-shifting guitars out of cereal boxes and rubber bands to strum along to original songs. We enjoyed the drama of it all and were entrepreneurial by nature.

My parents are responsible for my rearing. My father gifted me a little black journal when I was about eight years old and said it would be a good idea to start recording my life in case I forgot. While I am grateful for my recall, this was the first time I considered the practice of writing and archiving, processes I honed through my education and rely on today.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Certainly, a writer must read. The Color of Money by Mehrsa Baradaran chronicles the history of America’s financial system since the emancipation of slaves, and focuses on the policies, terrorism and racism that has stymied Black families for generations. As I work in financial communications, Baradaran’s book illuminated historical context that directly implicated the participation of my clients in an inequitable sector. I felt empowered to find solutions to a centuries-old issue and The Color of Money became a critical reference leading inaugural research from the Edelman Trust Institute’s Special Report: Addressing Racism in America’s Financial System.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” — Zora Neale Hurston

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

We rally around leaders: people who are concerned about the well-being of the collective and act with conviction, an inner trust that guides them to be altruistic.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Maybe the first week of my return to Edelman, my boss handed-down a mug that says ‘I Don’t Work Here.’ I have kept it as a reminder that I am not defined by my occupation.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of our readers are on the same page. What exactly is Financial Inclusion?

Since the emancipation of Black people in 1863, the framework of constitutional law has been amended to accommodate the civil liberties and justices of all people and yet barriers to free enterprise and wealth accumulation have stymied the growing affluence of multicultural communities. Financial inclusion remedies inequity as institutions own the existence and extent of disparate financial outcomes, address structural and cultural barriers, and propel systemic change by assessing products and customer experiences.

What does it mean to be “unbanked”?

By way of a financial system that is exploitative, prejudice and condescending, there are Americans (many of whom represent Black, Latinx and Asian communities) that are refused access to bank accounts, credit cards — loans of all sorts — and indeed, cash.

For the benefit of our readers, can you explain some of the typical reasons why a person might be unbanked? Why can’t they just walk into the local bank and open an account? Why can’t they simply open an account online?

There is the ‘American Dream’ and the ‘American Dilemma’; our pursuits in this melting pot are disconnected and disenfranchised by colonial subjugation, eroding the latticework of money.

If you are required to deposit money into the very account you are opening, but have no funds to dispense, you might be unbanked. If you do not have valid identification to present to a teller, you might be unbanked. Such prerequisites are not the norm for every American, which leads to alternative measures taken such as pawn shops and payday loans.

The internet is not ubiquitous. It is infrastructure that some have the convenience to use because they afford the utility and access a computer, smartphone, video game console, etc. — or are employed to leverage such resources. You can’t participate in this mobile banking revolution if this is not your reality. Policy that improves technological infrastructure (i.e., expanding broadband access in underserved communities and rural areas, providing public WiFi) empowers people to participate in the financial system.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your work to promote Financial Inclusion? Without saying names, can you share a story about a person who was helped by your initiative?

I am connecting the dots like I was taught, translating experiences lived and mediated. The research published by Edelman surveyed over 2,400 Black, Latinx, Asian and White Americans to localize the barriers to wealth accumulation and free marketed capitalism, while actionizing tangible solutions for banks, lenders, financial advisors, and institutions writ-large, to ameliorate their culpability for generations of economic deprivation. The battery of questions quantified emotional and psychological sentiments, reconceptualized risk, and gleaned customer insights about their relationships and experiences with financial services.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for businesses to promote financial inclusion?

Black, Latinx and Asian respondents report disproportionate discrimination across the financial services spectrum, including in mortgage and auto lending, banking, credit cards, asset management, and insurance. This ingrained partiality imposes barriers to entrepreneurship and wealth creation, and it prevents later generations from building on prior generations’ success. As a result, racially and ethnically diverse consumers are choosing to avoid financial institutions that could use their business at a time when Black and Brown families are rapidly emerging as a significant source of affluence in America. Discrimination has measurably hurt the U.S. economy, which has lost $16 trillion to it, in segments including education, healthcare and lending since 2000, according to Citigroup.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps Businesses Should Take To Promote Financial Inclusion”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Committing to give racially and ethnically diverse customers the same treatment is the most important step financial services providers must embrace. Taking action, financial services providers can help create a more equitable system that strengthens the American economy and unlocks economic opportunity in diverse communities. Firms that do this well will win trust, grow customer relationships with empathy and intent, and gain competitive advantage in an evolving financial services marketplace. The Edelman Trust research identified the following steps financial services companies can take to effect change:

Committing to give racially and ethnically diverse customers the same treatment is the most important step financial services providers must embrace. Taking action, financial services providers can help create a more equitable system that strengthens the American economy and unlocks economic opportunity in diverse communities. Firms that do this well will win trust, grow customer relationships with empathy and intent, and gain competitive advantage in an evolving financial services marketplace. The Edelman Trust research identified the following steps financial services companies can take to effect change:

  • Build representation into the workforce. Sixty-four percent of Black Americans, 52% of Asian, and 51% of Latinx Americans say they’re more likely to work with banks if they see people who look like them working there.
  • Offer ongoing bias mitigation training. Fifty-nine percent of Black Americans and 50% of Latinx Americans say that training financial services employees to mitigate bias would help them manage their personal finances.
  • Review credit criteria for potential bias and invest in minority-owned businesses. Sixty-one percent of Black Americans think changing credit evaluation practices that make it difficult for certain groups to obtain loans would be helpful in growing their money. This would open capital access to the majority of Black businesspersons who have entrepreneurial pursuits, additional sources of income, and small business incubators that are supported by families, not just individuals.
  • Increase the exposure of education and financial literacy in community engagement. Half of survey respondents said they would like their financial services providers to help them learn how to manage debt and build long-term wealth. Many said that establishing a presence in multicultural communities is a meaningful factor in choosing a financial services company.
  • Create inclusive, welcoming environments. Signals of inclusion, such as being greeted with a smile, being offered multilingual materials, and seeing a diverse workforce are all cited by consumers as key actions to create better customer experiences.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want people to be more humane; considerate of each other and their surroundings. This means practicing patience and heeding the needs of those who are underrepresented.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Zora Neale Hurston, but she has passed. The way she transitions from vernacular to prose in her work is masterful, especially in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I would like her to tell me about the Harlem Renaissance.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

@poppy__baker on Instagram, that’s two underscores.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Maxwell Young of US Financial Services On How They Are Helping To Promote Financial Inclusion was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.