18. Selwyn Rayzor discusses being a capitalist with a socialist agenda and how the 2020 election will impact the future of work.

SELWYN RAYZOR | PRESIDENT OF RAYZOR COMPANY

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Selwyn discusses the impacts the 2020 election will have on companies companies with a shift left, towards more environmentally focused initiatives, healthcare changes, and parental leave policies.

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Selwyn Razor with glasses, brown hair and white jacket

Selwyn Rayzor is President of the Rayzor Company, a real estate and investment company, and is on the Board of Directors of Suderman & Young Towing as well as G&H Towing, harbor towing companies in the Gulf of Mexico. She is also a member of the Westpark TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) Board with the city of Denton, Texas. Before returning home to Texas, Rayzor was a Managing Director within the investment banking division of the ABN Amro Bank in London. Prior to her time in London, she was a mortgage derivative trader in New York.

Rayzor’s passion for helping underprivileged women and children was deepened after traveling with UNICEF USA to Uganda and Nepal. She is the founding Board Chair of the North Texas Board of UNICEF USA and serves on the National Development Board of UNICEF USA. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas as well as board chair for talkSTEM. Rayzor is a proud graduate of Duke University, and now serves on the Duke Alumni Association Advisory Committee as an alumni interviewer and on the Duke University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative Advisory Board. She is a founding member of the Duke UNICEF Innovation Accelerator. She has chaired fundraising events for UNICEF, Family Gateway, Texas Women’s Foundation, Annie’s List, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, the Lamplighter School and the Greenhill School.

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] – Selwyn Rayzor
I always think that creativity should be the driver, and if you allow creativity to be your driver, then you end up in a lot of different places. As soon as you think that everybody’s smarter than you in the room and they are smarter than you in the room.

[00:00:20] – Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, yes, you’ve guessed it, the future of work. It’s brought to you by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and Rocket Fuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behavior specialists who use technology to help us humans on our digital journey from disruption to transformation. For more information, you can check out their website. That’s WNDYR.com.

[00:00:46]
If it’s your first time here, welcome. And if you’re returning, then nice to see you again. I’m Doug Foulkes and, along with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar, we regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future. In this episode, we connect with Selwyn Rayzor, a capitalist with a socialist agenda. Selwyn is currently active in real estate and investment, as well as harbor towing in the Gulf of Mexico. She started her career on the trading floors of New York and London before returning home to Texas. Her passion for helping underprivileged women and children was deepened after traveling with UNICEF USA to Uganda and Nepal. Claire, all yours.

[00:01:29] – Claire Haidar
Like politics, the financial backbone of any country, is one of those major levers that, if you could significantly overhaul it, you could make serious change happen at a highly theoretical level, because we know this is you know, it’s not something that’s going to happen. It’s not one of those issues that changes overnight. It’s years and years of work. But if we could overhaul the entire financial backbone of America, how would you do it and how would you do it in such a way to bring about very specific changes?

[00:02:11] – Selwyn Rayzor
I don’t think I would ever want to, you know, overhaul the entire financial backbone, because I think the backbone—and obviously, it’s my opinion—I think the backbone is our driver. I mean, that’s what allows us this stabil—that’s what allows the US to be, you know, again, we’ve got to stop—we’re looking at the current chaos. This example that was given to me resonated and it made it easy for me to explain to different people, because, you know, if you look at capitalism like—I was going to say a sporting thing—like a football game, you want the players to be on the field, you know, being aggressive, being dynamic, being energetic, and competing.

[00:03:01]
But you need rules and regulations that are enforced to keep it fair. And if you have too many regulations, then the game gets slow and it loses its dynamic factor. And it doesn’t have the energy. Make the rules, the right rules at the right time with the right amount of people enforcing them. And then you can have capitalism that is a fair fight and endless creativity and energy and can lead us forward. And I think right now, if you looked at regulation, I mean, I do think we need, you know there are a lot of monopolies and there’s too much income discrepancy and there’s too much you know, there’s not enough regulation on, you know, what the lowest employees make. And then there’s not enough you know, health care has become a cost that has strangulated a lot of companies. Health care costs and health care are a real problem in the with the financial backbone right now. And I think that if you change and some of the regulations on paid maternity leave and paid leave and company pay and so incentives and people making, you know, the CEO making a billion times more than the employee.

[00:04:39]
But, you know, I am a capitalist and I just think that the regulations need to be tweaked and enforced and, you know, making it a more fair playing field. And I think that will allow the US to do what Americans naturally do, which is, they’re bold. They try things and they’re not afraid to fail. Again, and you know, living in Europe and seeing that, and spending time in Asia, I see that’s what Europeans admire of Americans. They’re not afraid. They learn how to, you know, public speak. They learn how to stand up and have confidence, even if they shouldn’t have confidence to do something. It drives Europeans nuts when they’re like she doesn’t even know, you know, he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. But he goes up there and he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about and everybody believes him. I go, well, that’s part of the game, right?

[00:05:39]
So, I mean, you don’t want to take that part out of our financial backbone, you know, not being afraid to fail and not being afraid to file bankruptcy. That’s also what makes America, you know, strong and what drives our economy.

[00:06:02] – Claire Haidar
It fascinates me. You are fully capitalist and you really do drive that agenda. But your work is so social. And so you can see your entire life work and the way you constructing your life, it’s like let’s bring the good of socialism into the capitalist framework and let’s find that moderate in-between that’s a good place for the world to be in.

[00:06:28] – Selwyn Rayzor
Right. And I think that that is the US. Like, if you looked at a lot of the programs that we rely on, they’re, you know, Social Security, these are socialist programs, free education. And people forget that it’s just a continuum, right? I mean, it’s not like we’re left and right. We’re we’re all in this continuum somewhere. Right?

[00:06:50]
And it’s like and we’re always kind of fighting back and forth. It’s not like adding paid maternity leave is going to make us all like—or increasing it or, family care—like all of a sudden we’re in a communist country. I mean, that’s not where we are … I think at every step, like, oh, should two years of community college be free? I mean, what’s the difference between going to high school and really thinking about two more years of school to educate your workforce, right? It’s just somewhere on the continuum. We’re never going to be a socialist country. It’s just not in our nature.

[00:07:34]
Yeah. So in turning to this upcoming election, there’s a lot on the line. And I want to zero in specifically in terms of how this election can dramatically impact the future of work, because actually our customers, our clients, our audience who listens to this podcast, that’s why they’re tuning in. Share your thoughts: what exactly is on the line regarding work with this upcoming election?

[00:08:05] – Selwyn Rayzor
I guess I’m going to think about it as you know, looking at it with my Texas lens on and then maybe a little bit more nationally. I mean, I think what we are seeing and I think what a lot of companies are preparing for that, that the Democrats will likely win. And then, you know, obviously they’re going to get more seats in the House. They’re going to, if you looked at the current polling and Biden will win and Kamala and, you know, the Senate could also flip. And then in Texas, we are nine seats away from flipping the Texas House. And that will also be an important election because then it will no longer just be a straight red state.

[00:09:00]
I think what is going to be for the future work is that we are moving left. We are moving towards a more environmentally focused—but if you looked at how is that going to affect Texas versus Massachusetts, it’s going to be different. So I do think that what happens with health care, we’ve got to assume that there will be a change in allocation of money more towards health care, probably less towards military. That’s kind of what I think, going forward.

[00:09:44]
But I think also, if you looked at what maybe not is getting as much attention, you know, outside of kind of Democrats. Is that what the dynamics—let’s say the Democrats do have you know, they win all three, three sides. Then it’s a fight of where are we within the Democratic Party? The last class of Democrats that came in the House, a lot of them came from swing states, a lot of them came from swing districts that are not liberal districts. They’re mostly moderate districts and with many more conservatives in the district than liberals. And so you’re kind of creating, for the first time in a long time a really a moderate Democrat base. And as long as they have a stronghold or as large of a class as they did in the 2018 election, I think it’ll be a slower move to the left mainly because of swing districts and many moderates actually voting Democrat as opposed to Republican. So I think you’ve got to expect that many of the policies are going to go left, but there will be a battle internally and hopefully we don’t waste [time] fighting and not get much done in the first two years.

[00:11:11] – Claire Haidar
Do you believe that that equality that you’re fighting for, the words you used was, this is my battle. Do you believe that they’re critical to work specifically to jobs?

[00:11:25] – Selwyn Rayzor
I do. I think if you looked at—[let me us an] example. I mean, let’s look at countries where there’s more or—and then you could look at it specifically as states—where there’s more equality, representation of women. You see that the economies that have more women in government positions and leadership positions, you know, they’re a more vibrant economy. So you can’t say that—I mean, I can’t remember the fact exactly, but something like a third of our women in Texas in childbearing years are at the poverty line. And so they raise children at the poverty line. And then what does that do? Think about the children at the poverty line in Texas, just being specific to Texas, what’s happening with their education right now? You’re losing an opportunity.

[00:12:23]
So, the same thing if you looked at companies moving to Texas. I’m involved in real estate and you see that they don’t come. A lot of them are like, “oh the land’s cheap.” There’s lots of regulations, taxes, but a lot of the high tech ones don’t come because we don’t have the high tech, well-educated, abundant workforce. We can’t ignore that percentage of women or lack of access to health care or, you know, Planned Parenthood—what that does to women and then what that does to their children.

[00:13:05] – Claire Haidar
It’s kind of like, it’s the fabric that ties everything together. And when that falls apart, everything falls apart.

[00:13:12] – Selwyn Rayzor
Yeah, and it’s short term versus long term. I mean, you can say, oh, it’s—and again, there are numerous studies like just looking at I think UNICEF published this or that. Just think that if women are at the peace table, you know, after a war, it’s a more lasting peace agreement and the peace accord lasts longer. They’ve just they’ve shown studies of saying that, you know, the diversity works.

[00:13:46]
You know, there’s a reason why it’s important. Again, it goes back to your teamwork. You know, the better your team, the stronger you are. And you’re stronger with with more voices challenging you. I really think that having female and diversity and LGTBQ+ representation, you know, makes for a better workforce, makes for a more innovative workforce, and more possibilities.

[00:14:21] – Doug Foulkes
Selwyn, thank you for those comments. It’s very enlightening from my side, certainly. I’d like to take you back in years. Could you describe for us the world of work that you inhabited, certainly on Wall Street, why that bothered you maybe? And what eventually led you to to exit from it?

[00:14:39] – Selwyn Rayzor
I went from I was an economics major at Duke University, I wanted nothing more than to to work in New York City because why wouldn’t you want to work in New York City when you’re in your 20s? It’s so exciting. I worked as an analyst in mortgage backed trading, and I ended up being a junior trader on the mortgage derivatives desk. At the time, I thought it was extremely exciting, being the only female trader and, you know, being tasked age, you know, given at age—I think I was—twenty-five and being able to commit capital, and the millions of the dollars just with my voice, giving a price on something. It’s kind of an awesome responsibility with that. And it definitely taught me a lot.

[00:15:33]
And then moving to London, doing the same thing, I switched companies, I switched products, my …. My husband, he had moved out a year earlier and we were long distance dating. So I decided to take a chance and get a job in London. And my kids say that I was chasing him, but maybe I was, you know, he was—I think they have a word for it now. But he was. Yeah, why not. He was. And I remember a friend of mine, you know, as a female mentor, pulled me aside in New York when I was trying to decide whether I should go to London or not, or maybe he should come back and work in Chicago. And, you know, she just gave me a great long term view. She basically said, “look, you could stay here and your career here is great, but you could also go to London and who knows, like, open your mind. You could do different things and your opportunities could be greater. And again, if you’re going to be living in London and traveling Europe with your future husband and having really lots of good memories and, you know, like, why not?” And I’m thinking, yeah, why not? Instead of being—take a risk, take a risk and try it.

[00:16:48]
And so I moved to London. It was eye opening because it was a different culture. It was a different product, working on a same thing, not only are you one of the only female trader[s], you’re the only female American Texan as well. So I was there for 10 years and working for a European company versus the US was different. I got a lot of experience working within you know—at the end, I had people who reported to me that lived in France, who lived in Germany, who lived in Italy, who lived in Hong Kong, in Holland. And it contributed to my cultural understanding and understanding working in teams. And also the difference of, when you’re looking at politics, looking at, how to do business and how too much legislation in France can really make things really challenging. So companies make decisions of not investing in France because they don’t know if they can get in or out or they can make changes easily and versus, same thing, doing it in Italy.

[00:18:01]
So, it allowed you to kind of understand the different ways that government and business work together and how we work across on teams like that and culturally, how you integrate different teams together too. There are obviously some elements that I look back on and say, “OK, so maybe that person wasn’t such a great person” and maybe that there are plenty of sexist issues that happen. But in general, I found it, as a very important part of my life that actually drove me and helps me today in doing things that aren’t always for profit.

[00:18:48] – Claire Haidar
I see a lot of parallels in my own life where technology was very much seen as like the place that I would never go to. And interestingly, like Wall Street, the technology industry has a lot of those similar things. You know, there’s a lot of sexism. You know, there’s definitely some bad players in it, etc. But as you say, there is equal amounts of good and so much to learn and take forward from. And like you, you know, it was kind of like one of those areas where I didn’t ever see myself there. I landed there very much by a series of accidents, which are very happy accidents now, when I look back on them. And it’s incredible how it’s actually formed the foundation of everything I’m starting to do now and starting to invest in now. So, yeah, I think it comes back to that first point that you made. I think when you wake up and allow creativity to kind of navigate you, you end up in these places where you’re just open to learning.

[00:19:52]
You’re one of the most flamboyant, outspoken characters in my world. And, if somebody asks me what does someone do? You simply can’t be pigeonholed into anything, you’re everywhere. But the places where you are, it’s places that really matter.

[00:20:09] – Selwyn Rayzor
Well, thank you for that, Claire. I appreciate being the most flamboyant, outspoken person in your world. I’m not quite sure that’s always positive, but I’m going to take it as positive. What drives me is, strangely enough, creativity and doing different things. So if you looked in my–how I grew up, I grew up in Fort Worth. I went to Duke. I was not too creative. I was an economics major. But I had a I was one class away from being a double major in art.

[00:20:45]
And I always think that creativity should be the driver. And if you allow creativity to be your driver, then you end up in a lot of different places and you end up in places where you don’t necessarily imagine yourself being. But it also allows you to be very flexible. And as you kind of go through this life, the more flexible and the more creative you are, the more enjoyable your life is. And so I would say that, really, creativity drives me and creativity can be found in, what some people might say, boring work or doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got to be creating, you know, installations of flamboyant artwork. But it can mean a lot of different things. It can mean being on a board of a charity and creating different ideas on how to raise money or different ways to include people. And it can be bringing groups together, different parts of your life and creating something new.

[00:21:49] – Claire Haidar
So your mom and your children are entering a very new world of work, one that just a few months ago, I don’t think any of us were truly imagining. And I’m curious because your kids are very, very interesting ages. I think they fall into the age group that’s really feeling the impact of the world that we’re currently moving in. Shed some light on some of the conversations that are happening at home. What are you and Rich preparing them for?

[00:22:23] – Selwyn Rayzor
In some ways, you look at what’s happening now and it shouldn’t be that much different than what you were always preparing them for, because we all knew that only thing in a lot of ways what the pandemic has done is it’s just accelerated the world by 10 years, I think. So, it’s accelerated technology. It’s accelerated how global health is going to be delivered. So I don’t think you should look at it as all of a sudden we’re in this new dilemma. I think this is what we were preparing our kids for from the beginning.

[00:22:58]
And I take a lot of that from, it started out at our children here in Dallas went to the Lamplighter School. And if you looked at their mission, they first were leading with, creativity and teamwork, and having confidence to do something. And you kind of focus on all those things. You look at this situation that we have now, this challenge, and you can face it with, OK, we’ve got to be creative. We’ve got to figure out ways for you to engage in the class or opportunities that maybe you didn’t have before, but now you do because you’re at home and you have more potentially free time. Or, we can spend time in a different location or doing thinking differently than than what we did before.

[00:23:49]
And the same thing with teamwork. And I say teamwork, a lot of times when you hear teamwork, you think like sports teams. And I was never some great athlete, so I don’t always think of it in sports teams. But when you’re working in a group, when you’re working in a team, you’re more powerful than alone. And so it’s important for you, for us to understand that being in a team sometimes means that you might be doing 90 percent of the work on something (or you feel that way) but it makes sense for you to give credit to somebody else because then you’re more powerful together than you are alone. And I think that’s a real difficult challenge or concept for children or even adults to understand, because we think we’re all rewarded for what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished.

[00:24:42]
But in life, you’re really rewarded for what your team and your greater group does. And then the last thing is just the confidence. You’ve got to have the confidence no matter what you do. And I do think this, I mean, I was asked this one time at a UNICEF conference by some young professional women, what advice can you give to young women in the workforce? And I said, you know, really having confidence, understanding that when you walk into a meeting or you get on a Zoom call you’ve got to realize that. You’ve got to accept that you are as smart, if not smarter, than the people in the room and on the call and have the confidence and not be afraid to speak or add value because you were invited. You’re there for a reason. So I think as soon as you think that everybody’s smarter than you in the room, then they are smarter than you in the room or the Zoom call.

[00:25:41] – Doug Foulkes
I know that you spend a lot of time working with female issues and certainly in the political arena. What would you like your long term impact to be with the work that you’re doing?

[00:25:51] – Selwyn Rayzor
I’ve always, when I was young and in high school, I always defined myself as a feminism—feminist—and understanding and feeling like that was that was my battle. And to kind of fight for equal rights and equal opportunities. And as I went through Duke and then I went to New York, I worked on a mortgage trading floor, and then I went to London. And I was also a a fixed income structured products trader and then into investment banking.

[00:26:26]
And I kind of looked at it from the workforce. I think through my work through UNICEF and then coming back into Texas, working in politics, especially like I got involved in Wendy Davis’ campaign back when she was running for governor. I got involved in Annie’s List, which is a political PAC to help support women, like training them to run for office, helping them run a campaign, helping them when they’re actually in office. We are making great strides. The last election, there were a lot more, you know, a wave of women that were elected. And I think a lot of our candidates, especially in north Texas and across the country, female candidates, they have a great once in a lifetime opportunity right now to kind of change the face of power.

[00:27:14] – Doug Foulkes
It sounds that you are actively working on a legacy, not the sort of person that stands around and lets things happen around you. What is your legacy plan?

[00:27:25] – Selwyn Rayzor
I don’t really think of it as a legacy, but if I had to take it back to my grandparents on my paternal side. My grandfather grew up in Denton, Texas, moved down to Houston after his law degree. And, you know, in the 40s and 50s, they were very instrumental on kind of fighting anti-Semitism and racism in Houston. And my grandfather was on the board of Rice University. He was on the Regents board of Baylor. And there’s a recording of my my grandmother in 1975. She raised, even though she was a Baptist, she helped raise money for the synagogue and she fought to end school segregation. And she had a great quote saying that, people would call and threaten her in the middle of the night. And, you know, she was in River Oaks area, a wealthy area in Houston. And people would spit on her when she they were trying to end segregation and she was handing out pamphlets before the school board vote.

[00:28:41]
And so I do think that it’s important. It inspires me. And sometimes you think of that and I’m like, well, no one spit on me today, so I guess I’m not doing enough. So I guess a legacy is just to try to, without putting stress on your kids and the rest of your your family, just to encourage them to continue to give back and to continue to try to lead a life that will make the world a better place.

[00:29:12] – Claire Haidar
Selwyn, that is so interesting. I didn’t realize that about your grandparents. That’s, you know, in the conversations that we’ve had and shared, that hasn’t been one of the things that have come up. It’s fascinating that, you know, they were doing that type of work in the time that they were because it was a seriously difficult time to be doing that work. I think what you’re getting at, which you haven’t explicitly said, but I think it’s worth calling it out, is I think the stakes today are as high as what they were back then.

[00:29:47] – Selwyn Rayzor
Yeah. But it also tells you it’s not ending. You know, some people think that, oh, we know we did that in the 60s or, you know, oh, World War Two is over and now there are no more anti-Semitic people in the world. No, that’s not true, right? It’s kind of an ongoing struggle and it’s something that it shouldn’t—and then you shouldn’t feel like necessarily overwhelmed right now. Right now, I think a lot of people can feel just like overwhelmed. It’s doom and gloom. And it’s good to kind of look at history and look at the past and say, actually, we’re less violent than we were. I mean, like we keep making progress. And sometimes it’s important—you get so consumed by, you know, the chaos of today and just look at that one little spot of chaos. But if you step back and you zoom out, you can see that there’s so many other times of chaos. It should be an energy that is motivating us right now as opposed to, I should say, overwhelmingness.

[00:30:54] – Claire Haidar
I can talk to you for a very long time, but we do have a hard stop. And so the last question that I want to throw your way today is where are you currently pulling inspiration from?

[00:31:08] – Selwyn Rayzor
Social energy, the social justice energy, the political energy … That is inspiring right now. And I think just the engagement, like the level of conversations I have with people about what’s happening in our country is inspiring. And I don’t mean like because I want everybody to vote as a Democrat. I mean people need to get involved and they need to understand and they need to take ownership of their decisions. And I think before, maybe more of my generation, is that we weren’t as focused on on public policy and. And our history as much and the effects of the future, and I think we are now and our kids are going to be profoundly changed by what’s happened now and I don’t think they’re ever going to not be involved in public policy and understanding. And so I find that inspiring. And I think that will lead to a better for our environment, better for social justice, a more fair world. We will rise like the Phoenix out of this and take a step forward to me.

[00:32:27]
That’s really inspiring. And you can wake up and look at the news and as soon as you pull out your phone and you’re like, “oh, that’s just awful. Oh, my God, that’s another—oh, I can’t even get up.” And then you’ve got to think, alright, but, hey, you know, I also have friends, groups of friends sending messages saying, how about let’s focus on this. How about this idea? Let’s do something. And that’s just—the energy’s inspiring, it just is.

[00:32:54] – Claire Haidar
Selwyn, thank you so much for this.

[00:32:56] – Selwyn Rayzor
Well, thank you so much fun. I appreciate it. Hopefully I didn’t go off topic too much.

[00:33:03] – Selwyn Rayzor
Not at all. You didn’t.

[00:33:05] – Claire Haidar
And I didn’t embarrass my kids.

[00:33:07] – Claire Haidar
You didn’t embarrass your kids. They didn’t come up once.

[00:33:11] – Selwyn Rayzor
Well we still have time, we can throw in something about them that’s embarrassing. All right. Well, thank you very much.

[00:33] – Doug Foulkes
Well, Selwyn, you might not have embarrassed your kids, but you’ve certainly given us plenty to think about. Thank you. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast and found it of value, please don’t be a stranger. Make sure you pop back for more top of mind conversation soon. Just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services they supply, you can visit their website. That’s WNDYR.com. And so, as always, from me, Doug Foulkes, and Chaos and Rocket Fuel, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

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