Jun 4, 2020

Michael Solberg says Bell must Listen and Act

In his weekly email to all Bell Bank staff, Bell Bank president and CEO Michael Solberg shares this message.

 

Typically, this weekly email is a mixture of information and humor to update and connect our Bell family. Today, though, I want to address the heartbreak and anger echoing across our country. Every community where our Bell team members live and work has experienced anger, fear and deep sadness. 

 

I've run the gamut of emotions as I've watched the scenes of civil unrest, and I've heard from many of you about how these most recent events have personally impacted you and your families. We've had team members express their righteous anger at the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers... and shared the pain of a co-worker whose younger brother, a Grand Forks police officer, was killed in the line of duty last week. Some of you have watched your own neighborhoods burning, or expressed fear over potential violence. I know of those who have spent sleepless nights worrying about their family members in law enforcement, and those who worry about the everyday safety of their black sons or daughters.

 

While I have struggled to know what to say to you, I want to address these events that have engulfed our country. Right now, there are as many questions as answers, but I want you to understand what we are doing as the Bell Bank family moving forward.

  • George Floyd's tragic and senseless death stems from issues of racial inequality and injustice that continue to plague our country, even after centuries of struggle. It is clear that as communities and as a country, we must come together to make changes that remove injustice and maintain our collective freedoms. That change needs to start within each of us.
  • We support the right to peacefully protest, and we condemn unlawful violence in all its forms. We respect those protesting and working for greater justice, and those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Those are not mutually exclusive beliefs - but we need to find ways to make positive changes that establish trust.

 

Moving forward, we need to do 2 things: LISTEN and ACT. Bell Bank's leadership and our team members must listen to all perspectives, and then act in ways that help bring about both healing and real change. How can we begin that journey?

  • Specifically, at Bell Bank, we are immediately forming a new task force made up of a diverse group (racially and otherwise) of employees to help lead those conversations. We want to share the burdens of those who go unheard and who need our help. These are not just words, but a human response with intentional action to help. It is, and has always been, at the heart of our approach as a company: people matter, and results matter.
  • Part of our calling at Bell is to invest in solutions that can change lives. Even before the events of the last 10 days, Bell's executive leaders had already been discussing how we could reach out to help specific communities and disadvantaged neighborhoods (for example, Midway in the Twin Cities) - many of which have been devastated in recent days. Now, we are putting that effort on steroids, mandating our task force to take action and help communities quickly rebuild. As a bank, we can help reinvest and rebuild, look at more neighborhood branches or programs, and support and promote small businesses, home ownership, bankability, and other efforts to help people become more financially secure. All of those will be a priority for Bell - and our initiatives will be done in consultation with and listening to mayors and neighborhood leaders who want to partner with us for change.
  • Before the protests and unrests hit, we had already drafted a job description for a community development officer with this purpose in mind. That position was going to be in Phoenix - and now we're actively assessing that need in several Bell Bank markets.

 

Bell Bank is a family-owned business that exists for the purpose of helping people. That mission is embodied in our core values of family, service and giving back. We intend to live out those core values in the coming days, months and years - as long as it takes to effect meaningful change - in ways that benefit not only our owners, employees and customers, but also the communities where we live and do business. We continue to pray for justice and for peace - and we will actively reach out to find out how we can help, wherever we see the greatest need.

 

Michael Solberg

President & CEO