tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg April 17, 2021 9:00am-9:30am EDT
♪ david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i often thought of as private equity. then i started interviewing. i have learned how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted. he said $250. david: and how they stay here.
♪ david: one of the most impressive young men i have met is wes moore. he grew up in baltimore, became a rhodes scholar, white house fellow, afghanistan war veteran, and he has been running the robin hood foundation. he is likely to run for governor of maryland. he is someone who will clearly make a mark in this world, in fact, has already done so. welcome to our show. wes: thank you. david: tell people what the robin hood foundation is because recently people think robin hood is a stock trading. you are not that robin hood. wes: it was amazing! during the whole gamestop episode, people were blowing up my inbox saying " unblock my trades!" the robin hood foundation is a
32-year-old organization with an explosive goal of ending poverty. it was started by paul tudor jones and a collection of other people who were in the investment business. they started this foundation where they said " we want to be able to take metrics and invest in the organizations we think have the highest probability of ending the scourge of poverty." they started out making $40,000 worth of investments. 32 years later we have allocated just shy of $4 billion into this fight. anywhere where poverty is either the cause or the consequence, we will find, fund, build if necessary all these mechanisms that we think will put us on the path to a more equitable
society. david: how much does robin hood giveaway annually? we ended up raising wes: wes: $42 million last year -- wes: since i have been ceo, we raised over $675 million. there are certain foundations that will say " we will take a portion of rn doing meant -- our endowment - robin hood's endowment is essentially zero. every dollar we get in, it will go out within the time period of that next calendar year. on january 1, it is like press go again. david: you have staff -- who pays for the staff and administrative processes? wes: the other unique model, the
other unique mechanism of the model is our board covers all operational expenses. david: but covid must have made it harder to raise money or figure out how to give it away. how did you do that? wes: covid was remarkable. there was a lot of uncertainty, uncertainty about what does that mean in terms of how do we continue to move at a fast pace? how do we consider the fact that we know how damaging this was going to be on our community partners? we saw 11 years of job growth go away in 11 weeks. we knew what communities would be hit hardest by that. it was our communities. i am so proud of the way we responded and rebounded. we activated the relief fund,
which only in the -- it was only the third time in the organization's history we have activated the relief fund. the first was after 9/11, the second was after hurricane sandy. these were all the organizations doing work in the city that needed it. the second piece was emergency cash assistance, just getting cash into people's hands. we knew that over 40%, around 43% of people could not afford a $400 shock of cash. that shock was here and it was more than $400. we needed to get cash support to people who needed it most, specifically people who we saw government intervention was not touching. david: during covid, nonprofit
organizations have suffered because their donors do not feel as wealthy as they did before. did your donors say " not now," or did you get more money from your donors? wes: people stepped up significantly. we learned, one, the reality is that not everyone was getting financially hurt. while you had certain people who did see their incomes increase decrease -- their incomes decrease or go away, some saw it increase. how -- this wealth divide, how it shows itself, that reality showed itself --the
♪ david: let's talk about how you became the head of robin hood foundation because you worked in new york but you are from baltimore and you are minding your own business, you were living in baltimore, how did they come to cure a view? -- come to hear of you? wes: i call myself the most accidental foundation head you
could possibly imagine. i had no background in philanthropy. they were like " we would like for you to consider being the ceo of robin hood." i said, " i'm not sure that makes sense. i live in baltimore -- i am a marylander and i do not plan on moving. i do not know how i would run a new york-based company. i enjoy the work i'm doing here in maryland. i have been critical of philanthropy historically. the head of the search committee said 'it is all over the internet.' wes: -- david: let's talk about your incredible life story. most people when they hear about it say " who can do all this?"
you were born in baltimore. your father died when you are young. wes: he died when i was four years old. he died in front of me from a rare but treatable virus. david: your mother said " ok, we are going to move you to new york." wes: she was having a difficult time with the transition. she became a widow in her 20's with three children she had to raise on her own. eventually she called up her parents who lived in the bronx. my father -- my grandfather was a minister in the bronx. both immigrated to this country. their house is barely big enough for them. david: she moved up there and you are the perfect child. is that right? wes: in my own mind! [laughter] wes: that was a really hard
transition for me. i found myself hurting people who cared about me to impress people who do not care about me. the first time i was handcuffed i was 11 years old. after years of threats of sending me away to this school or that school, when i was 13, my mom made good on her threats and sent me to military school. david: i assume you are not dying to go to a military school. wes: it was not my first choice. david: did they straighten you out? wes: it took a while. i think i ran aw five times in the first four days. david: you went to a military college. wes: i did. a lot of the men in my life who were my mentors at that point and people i admired, they all
had one thing in common -- they all wore the uniform of this country. i joined the army and i went to a military college. david: you eventually went to johns hopkins and at johns hopkins you must have done reasonably well because you were elected as a rhodes scholar. sometimes people who enrolled scholarships go to oxford then come back and say " i am going to go to harvard, yale, i'm going to go into something important like private equity." how come you didn't go to harvard or yale or some other great law school? how come you decided to do something that not many rhodes scholars are doing? wes: i went into the world of finance and i was there working for deutsche bank in london. it was nice. i remember getting a phone call -- i was a brand-new analyst and it was from my good buddy,
at that time major mic with the 82nd airborne. he said something to me -- " when are you going to get into the fight?" i am a paratrooper. i had gone through all my training with my soldiers, and as my soldiers are now deploying to afghanistan and deploying to iraq, i was working in high finance. i literally went back and thought about it and prayed on it and i went back and called him back up and said " mike, i'm in." i ended up doing a binding request and -- by-name request and left finance. i went to fort benning to do my training and moved up. around nine months after that
conversation i had in the stairwell of deutsche bank, i was getting ready to deploy with the 82nd airborne to afghanistan. david: did you ask for an office job there? wes: no, not at all. i was very clear. i went over and i led a group of paratroopers as a special operations officer working information operations, psi ops, and we were very much in the field. so much of the conversation at that time in 2005 was iraq. we had troops in iraq at the time. in afghanistan we only had 17,000 troops at the time. i had a lot of folks saying " at least you are not going to iraq," not knowing about the fighting going on in afghanistan at the time.
in afghanistan i started seeing firsthand, what kind of fighting was going on. david: how long were you over there? wes: i was there 10.5 months. david: then you came back to the united states? what did you do then? wes: i did a white house fellowship. i came back from a mission one night and a guy said " i want you to apply for a white house fellowship. it is important for people in washington to get an idea of they gear you are having right now -- year you are having right now." i had the privilege of working under condoleezza rice and her team, which was a life shifting experience for me to go through that. david: after the white house fellowship, your mother said "
now can you get a serious job that is a full-time thing?" is that what you decided to do? wes: my mom said " slow down, start preparing a family." i was newly married. i started thinking about the things i was interested in, the skill sets i had. i decided maybe i should give finance a shot. i had the pleasure of working at citi first as an analyst, then as vice president. david: but you moved to new york? yes wes: -- wes:wes: yes. david: when did you move back to baltimore? wes: i had a conversation with another mentor at the time.
i went to him and said " i think it is time for me to do something different." i inis writing a book called -- i finished writing a book called " the other wes moore." i made the decision i wanted to leave finance and focus on these issues that are my life's burning issues. david: you are shortly leaving robinhood. will you pursue the higher calling of private equity or will -- are you thinking of doing something else? wes: i'm thinking about what is the right platform. ♪
and a white house fellow is not enough. you have to write about to make everyone else feel bad! tell everyone watching who " the other wes moore" was. wes: someone wrote an article about this local kid on the board who got this scholarship. there writing this series of articles about four guys who walked into a jewelry store and attempted to rob this jewelry store in a botched robbery and murdered and off-duty police officer. there was a 12 day manhunt for these guys and after 12 days they were all caught. one of these guys was living in the same area and his name was also wes moore. i reached out to him and i wrote him this note. he wrote me a note back.
that singular note turned into dozens of notes. i have now known wes for almost two decades. at the same time i was going to england he was beginning to start his life sentence. " the other wes moore" was a book that evolved from our friendship and these two kids, this split that happens between these two kids with the same name. david: you have written several books, one was about freddie gray. he was put in a paddy wagon and on his way to the police station, died, causing riots in baltimore. what is your own view on whether the racial situation in the united states because of examples like freddie gray have gotten worse then when you were growing up or do you see
progress being made? wes: i see the potential for progress being made into the potential for progress being made is the fact that we are now understanding and talking about this not as isolated incidents but understanding the longevity of jeff george floyd was not just the fact that we watched a homicide -- longevity of this. the damage of george floyd was not just the fact that we watched a homicide. it comes down to the fact that we watch how these acts and issues of systemic racism to show themselves in not just policing, whether you are watching about educational attainment, wealth, maternal mortality, basic asset allocation, it is race.
it is impossible to understand this without disaggregating the importance of it. the platform for progress is the fact that we are now having immature and honest -- having a mature and honest conversation about what it will take to move into a more honest space. a space where it is not just oppressed populations demanding justice. david: many african-american men of your age or older have told me of their own life experiences where they were stopped by police or things -- for things that did not seem appropriate to them at the time. have you had -- appropriate to them at the time. have you had those experiences? wes: absolutely. it is the fact that the sound of a police siren has a pitch depending on what neighborhood you are in. your heart rate speeds up in a
different way when you are anticipating that this encounter could go wrong, and how it could be interpreted i other people. -- interpreted by other people. as a father now, i know i will be forced to have conversations with our children. wes: -- david: you will be leaving shortly robinhood. it you will go live in baltimore. will you pursue the higher calling of private equity or are you thinking of doing something else? wes: i am exploring running for governor of maryland. i am thinking about it in terms of -- i know i want to focus on true systems change. we are at a crucial point where on issues i have spent my entire adult life on whether they be ending child poverty,
eliminating the racial wealth gap, how we think about education in a fairway, that we are providing real pathways for our students, we are making generational decisions right now. i know the issues i want to get done, i know the work i want to do. i am thinking about what is the right platform. there is not just a unique potential, but there is a unique way. david: suppose the president of the united states is watching this and he says " why don't you come in, i will give you a senior position." do you really want to run for the governorship of maryland? wes: i have a deep admiration for folks who choose to serve in the administration. i am at the stage of my career where i know my skill set and i know what i am good at.
i am a pretty good executive. i know how to run things and run large organizations. i have worked within and with government to entire career. for me this is not about i want to go into politics. this is about the fact that the executive role who controls the budget, who has the chance to change the destiny for children and families. that makes my heart beat faster. david: for folks watching who say he has written five books", happily married, two kids, this is a perfect picture. make us feel we are not so inadequate ourselves." tell us something where you have failed so we do not feel like we are watching a superhuman.
♪ francine: the coronavirus pandemic has changed billions of lives in countless ways. it's marked our day-to-day beyond recognition, converting the impossible to imagine into daily routine. barren offices have left the busiest sections of cities abandoned, while unemployment and uncertainty plague economies. faceless, masked populations have served "to social distance," one of the many terms coined in the year of the pandemic. and while the outbreak has taught us a lot about limits,