What exactly is the American Dream? To me, growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where I was surrounded by industrious neighbors, the American dream was the ethos that led to almost all my neighbors owning their homes, taking meticulous care of their lawns on the weekends and us kids having weekly lemonade stands. The American dream is that unique guiding principle that promises every American, irrespective of their social standing, race or ethnicity, that if they worked hard enough they had a chance to prosper limitlessly in every facet of life. I have always embraced the inherent optimism of the American Dream that seems naturally to lead to fairness and justice. What I didn’t know growing up was that with the increasing control exerted by corporate America that the “Greed is good” business culture would become the embodiment of success that permeates cultural norms to suppress the essence of the American Dream as I envisaged it.
With the advent of the Internet and social media, it seems the corporate world has finally begun to embrace transparency and has focused on customer experience as the fundamental principles of long lasting business success. This is a lesson that some still haven’t learned and for others it has taken years to figure out. For me, however, this crucial realization, which is at the heart of the American Dream, came right from the first day I stepped into the corporate world.
I was assigned as an inbound phone representative responding to calls from irate customers of a 70 plus year old Chicago based national insurance company that had sold accidental death policies to unsuspecting and trusting people by luring them through a free trial offer. The only problem was that the fine print, which hardly anyone could decipher, stated that the policy had to be canceled or the charges would be billed monthly on their credit card. Unfortunately, some people didn’t discover these charges until months afterwards and all we could offer was a two-month credit. I quickly realized that patience and sincerity went a long way with people and became quite good at disarming my callers. But every day that went by, I lost a bit of idealism at the expense of cynicism and kept wondering if doing business in this misleading manner was the only way to achieve success. The insurance company I worked for was very large and quite successful, but was there a sustainable way to balance the need for maximizing profits with beneficial business practices.
Over the next 20 plus years of my career, I gained valuable experience in marketing, technology, servicing and entrepreneurship working for and with industry leaders such as Aon, Rohm and Haas, Maximus, Deutsche Bank and AIG. This led me, over the last decade, to focus on learning and practicing financial business models that place just as strong an emphasis on ethics and social responsibility as they do on revenue and profitability. This well rounded professional journey, from corporate America to start ups, has positioned me well to holistically embark on an ambitious path of developing and transparently executing on financial initiatives that are inclusive and inherently good for all. This is why I launched SORIN as a socially responsible initiative aimed at filling the gaps in our financial lives.
It is no wonder that financial gaps exist and seem to be ever increasing. At least when Gordon Gecko originally said “Greed is good” (Wall Street, 1987) he knew it was not acceptable, but in his next incarnation even he realized that the world had changed when he said of greed: “Now it seems it’s legal.” (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2010). By changing financial laws through “legal” lobbying in favor of corporations and basically legalizing speculation, our government and regulatory bodies relaxed rules and oversight to such an extent that the result was a global financial meltdown that rocked the foundations of governments, destroyed giant multi-national corporations and, in my view, ultimately caused more harm to the common hard working person than anyone else. To some, it may have represented the end of the American Dream but as an entrepreneur at heart, I see hope and opportunity because at least now more and more people have realized that apathy and indifference do not solve problems, they fuel them.
My hope is that SORIN will take a leading role in bringing lasting change by showing that social responsibility is the way to achieve lasting success in life and in business. Before SORIN analyzes and presents solutions to fill the gaps in our overall financial lives, I believe it must provide immediate support and healing to deserving individuals and families in need. Therefore, the first SORIN will be a Gap Fund that will help people who are in dire need of immediate financial support to address the gaps left by their insurance policy; a need, that especially the common everyday middle class family, has no systematic or organic way of addressing. A comprehensive solution must be presented for these gaps because the effects of the recent financial crisis compounded by the unpredictability of major storms and man-made catastrophes have resulted in rising premiums and increasing gaps and reductions in coverage. With the SORIN Gap Fund, there will now be a sustainable mechanism that can begin to tackle this problem even if it is one family at a time.
With time, SORIN will present solutions for the different aspects of our financial lives but for now, I am glad to declare that our American Dream is alive and well; it is ready for a great comeback!
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