Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Emerging Markets

On Dec. 1, nearly 100 Bremer bankers, managers and other employees gathered in St. Cloud to attend the company’s first ever Emerging Markets Conference. The one-day conference included speakers and interactive learning sessions on how to best capture the business of emerging markets in Bremer Bank’s footprint.

The day began with an address from Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy (pictured below right), who talked to the group about the “new normal” for not only Minnesota, but all of the United States. Gillaspy shared numerous data points that focused on how economics and the changing population in our communities is shaping how we need to start doing business and advancing forward.

His formula for the “new normal” comes from taking the “old normal” and adding to it the Great Recession and the long run demographic changes we are experiencing. The “new normal” will result in slower economic growth, lower rates of return on investments, chronic government deficits and cuts in services, worries about how to pay for past promises, creative destruction/disruptive innovation will change the way we deliver services, more uncertainty about the future and a whole new set of opportunities.

The group also heard from Dr. Bruce Corrie (pictured left with Cindy Verschaetse, Kelly Elkin and Shotsy Johnson), dean of Business at Concordia University in St. Paul. Dr. Corrie talked about the power of an idea and how capitalism needs to be re-defined. He discussed the buying power of the new immigrants into the United States and his ideas about ethnic capital. Read more on his blog at

Lunch included an authentic selection of ethnic foods from the four demographic areas emerging in Minnesota: Hmong, Native American, Eastern African and Latino/Hispanic. Carol (Coke) Smith, was also on hand to share a traditional Native American prayer and speech at lunch along with her traditional dress and dance.

Following lunch, employees were divided into four different groups to hear and learn first-hand about the four different ethnic groups. Leading the discussions were: Pao Yang, a Hmong citizen who is a home ownership specialist for Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority; Nimo Farah, a refugee from Somali and a new markets mortgage manager for the African Development Center in Minneapolis (pictured above right); Rick Smith and Andy Favorite, Native Americans from the White Earth Indian Reservation and Enrique Vasquez, market manager in downtown St. Paul and Alejandro Ojeda Estrada, personal banker in Willmar, both originally from Mexico.

The interactive sessions showcased a number of different things, including how best to work with clients from these four ethnic groups. This involved everything from their banking history to how you should address them in a public interaction. Following the sessions, Anita Patel, vice president of racial justice and public policy for the YWCA of Minneapolis, led employees in a group discussion exercise.

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