Writer: Eleana Teran
3 min read September 2023 — As the financial sector continues to navigate through volatility following interest hikes and bank failures, industry experts gathered at the Invest: Charlotte 2022-2023 Launch Conference to shed light on the current landscape and explore potential paths forward.
Despite the challenges, Charlotte’s economy remains robust. According to the Q2 2023 Growth Report by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, the regional economy continues to see growth with a capital investment of $273,000,000 and 1,415 announced jobs.
Rakesh Gopalan, partner at McGuireWoods LLP, moderated the panel discussion, titled “Current climate: How financial leaders are innovating and adjusting to today’s economic landscape,” inviting leaders to share their insights into the financial industry’s trajectory. The discussion brought together Crystal German, the executive vice president at Self Help Credit Union; Holly Welch Stubbing, president and CEO of E4E Relief; and Antoinette Tucker-Harris, vice president and hub leader at Synchrony, to explore the financial industry’s challenges and prospects, particularly focusing on the city of Charlotte, a notable hub in the financial sector.
These leaders conversed about the city’s resilience amidst current challenges. Crystal German initiated the conversation, emphasizing the robust state of the sector and the importance of addressing the financial instability faced by some individuals in the midst of rising interest rates and inflation. She affirmed the growth in credit union memberships, attributing it to their cooperative and member-driven business model that allows for a more tailored customer experience compared to traditional banks. “People are becoming savvier about where they allocate their money and whom they choose to invest in,” German noted, underlining the growing recognition of the value credit unions offer.
Shifting the focus to broader repercussions, Holly Welch Stubbing raised concerns about the impacts of market volatility on low to moderate-income workers, specifically addressing the lingering high costs in essential areas such as food, housing and transportation. Welch Stubbing remarked, “Although inflation rates have decreased mathematically in recent months, these costs are likely to remain high for some time, perhaps indefinitely in certain essential areas.” Additionally, she touched upon the challenges faced by the nonprofit sector, emphasizing the pressing need for innovation and technological upgrades to ensure business continuity in the post-COVID era. She expressed excitement about the prospect of finding innovative avenues for funding in the social sector and envisaged leveraging corporate community assets for community advancement.
From the perspective of retail card servicing companies, Antoinette Tucker-Harris highlighted apprehensions about upcoming loan payments and their potential repercussions on the economy. She urged for a balanced approach to integrating technology advancements while maintaining personal relationships. “We need both technology and people today, and both aspects need to be strong,” Tucker-Harris remarked, advocating for continuous education and development to foster collaboration and innovation in increasingly hybrid or virtual work environments. She expressed optimism about future innovations at Synchrony, where efforts are underway to develop affordable solutions in healthcare and pet insurance sectors.
Throughout the discussion, all panelists identified housing affordability as a significant issue in Charlotte, urging for proactive approaches to avoid the housing dilemmas observed in other major cities. Tucker-Harris stressed, “I believe housing affordability is a significant concern in larger markets, including Charlotte, I’ve observed housing vulnerability. We should contemplate whether we might resemble cities like New York or San Francisco in terms of housing challenges. How can we prepare for this?”
According to recent dataopens PDF file , housing supply continues to be constrained both nationally and in the Charlotte region. Despite residential building permits being down 24% nationally year-over-year, Charlotte showed more resilience with more than 15,000 residential building permits in the first half of the year, down only 4/% and ranking seventh among metro areas.
Panelists also highlighted the need for inclusive solutions, including financial products and education, ensuring no one is left behind in the journey toward a greener and more digitally integrated society.
Closing the dialogue on a positive note, the panelists shared their excitement for the future, foreseeing a period of continued innovation and broader inclusive dialogues fostering transformation and community development. Antoinette Tucker-Harris shared her excitement for the potential of technological innovation and cross-generational collaboration. Holly Welch Stubbing emphasized her interest in uncovering new funding pathways in the social sector, particularly highlighting the potential in impact investments and financial innovations for affordable housing. Meanwhile, Crystal German acknowledged the results surrounding economic inclusivity, saying, “Many of the things we’ve been talking about for decades are now becoming mainstream topics leading to transformation and inclusive prosperity for our community.”
As industry leaders navigate through the uncertainty, a unified vision resonates clearly: a future fostering a resilient and inclusive financial landscape, where innovation, inclusivity and adaptability are at the forefront.
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