Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, joined New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and activist and rapper Michael “Killer Mike” Render for a conversation on race during this year’s annual DealBook Summit.
Smith talked about the need for more diversity in our education system and the pressing need to address the student debt crisis, which disproportionately impacts Black students.
“In my life, I’m an engineer, I have never had an African-American science teacher my entire life,” Smith said. “I would love to see more people become teachers in our neighborhoods. But if they have crushing student loan debt, that’s a travesty. The federal government can make changes about this.”
He also touched on the critical need for reforming and updating our country’s finance system to ensure that the Black community is able to access capital.
“Our community does need some help,” Smith said. “We need a modernization of a banking infrastructure that gets to our community.”
This was especially critical earlier this year when Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) meant to deliver much-needed aid to small businesses. However, because of our outdated and inequitable banking system, too many Black businesses were shut out or a process that was built around established business relationships with banks. Smith worked hard to ensure Black business owners received the loans they needed and that future federal relief would reach communities of color.
Read more about Smith’s DealBook Summit discussion in the New York Times.