Jeff Bornstein, CFO of GE – Keynote Address at the 2014 buildOn Gala
First and foremost, Jill and I want to thank everyone of you for supporting this event and buildOn. Your generosity and, for many of you, your participation with buildOn is the difference between tens of thousands of kids around the world succeeding and realizing their dreams or continuing to struggle.
In my humble opinion, buildOn has proven to be the most effective model for impacting the crisis of low expectations in our country’s toughest neighborhoods. The organization does not tutor, it does not deliver test prep, it does not offer after school recreation . . . what it does offer participants is a sense of self-worth, a sense of community, a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to expect more of themselves and others – all of this realized through organized community service in their neighborhoods and building schools in the poorest places on earth.
More than 4,000 kids participate in buildOn every week delivering service in their communities. . . 92% of those kids complete their high school education and go on to higher education . . . 92% ! The schools they build educate nearly 100,000 children, parents and grandparents every single day . . . 50% of which are girls, mothers and grandmothers. In most of these communities, buildOn schools represent the only opportunity for girls to receive an education. Without question, education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, as Jim often preaches . . . it is true in Bridgeport and the Bronx and it is equally true in Haiti and Senegal, Africa.
GE has been a part of this organization from its inception. Jim Parke and Keith Sherin were the foundation that allowed Jim to launch his vision. Jim, as a matter of fact, was in GE’s Financial Management Program when he decided to head down this very different path. Today, GE employees and their families are involved on both National and regional boards, local school chapters and in building schools.
Several years ago, I challenged the FMP’s in the GE Capital program to take up buildOn as a focus for their community service efforts. They were organizing many community service engagements but there was really no focus to it and when I would ask them what the lasting impact was, they struggled to articulate it. Since that discussion their involvement has spanned working with local chapters and building schools. Their leadership has expanded the effort to the FMP’s around the world, our Corporate Audit Staff and many of our individual businesses. To date these teams have raised in excess of $400K on their own to support local chapters and build seven schools.
The benefit to buildOn and its kids is obvious and the experience and satisfaction our employees get is also straightforward but what I think is actually more interesting is the value the Company is accruing.
In today’s world, the battle for the very best talent has never been fiercer. Globalization, technology and connectivity have made competition for the best opportunities and the best minds ever more challenging. The truth of the matter is that younger generations want to be about more than just a job and a paycheck. They want to know they are making an impact, not just inside their employer but in the world they live in. When you speak with members of the FMP program or our Corporate Audit staff about their participation in buildOn, they normally start with descriptions like “life changing” or “exhilarating.” I honestly believe they view our Company very differently today . . . I think they view the Company as a “GOOD” company . . . a company that is about, more than, just revenue and earnings . . . a company that encourages their leadership in these programs . . . and allows them the time and flexibility to build schools and make a difference. I think it both enhances and changes our Brand.
Ultimately, I believe the benefits to our Company are and will be more satisfied leaders with a broader sense of accomplishment and purpose . . . a more attractive company to compete for the very best and brightest . . . and thousands of kids, all over the world, whose lives have been massively changed by buildOn and GE employees . . . hopefully, will seek their dreams with us.
This year we launched the “Corporate Challenge”, an effort to incent more companies to make the commitment that we and Deutsche Bank have made . . . to make a difference, broaden their employee experience and compete for the next generation of talent. The challenge involves committing to funding $50 to $100K to sponsor and participate in an after school chapter . . . even for a corporation the challenge is not a small consideration. I am extremely excited that, in fact, 18 companies have done exactly that. Thank you to Credit Suisse. CSI, Goldman Sachs, Jones Day, KPMG, Pitney Bowes, Weil Gotschall, Angelo Gordon, Bank of America, Centerview Partners, Citi Bank, Lee Cooperman, Deliotte, E&Y, JP Morgan, Ludwig Family, Morgan Stanley and PWC.
I am very confident that your experiences will be every bit as rewarding as ours and Deutsche Banks has been.
I leave you with the sub-title of Jim’s book “Walk in Their Shoes” . . . “can one person change the world ?” They most certainly can . . . in fact, many people, together, can change even more of the world. You are doing that tonight. Please do more . . .