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Meet our new board chair – James Speed, President & CEO of NC Mutual Life Insurance Company

James Speed & Abdul

How long have you been a member of the Initiative’s board of directors?
About 5 years.

What originally compelled you to want to be involved with the Initiative?
First of all, it was Abdul Rasheed. I had known him for a couple years before I joined the board. That’s how I knew about the great work that the Initiative does, providing affordable homes and standing in the gap for those underserved business people who couldn’t get traditional financing for projects. It is such a great way that we could empower those underserved neighborhoods to be able to expand the economic base in those communities.

How does the work you are doing with the Initiative compare to the work you do with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company?
It compares very closely, because [NC Mutual Life Insurance Company was] founded for purposes of insuring those underserved populations, and we continue to provide financial services to those populations. And that’s what the Initiative does. I think both organizations go beyond the minority roots, if you will, because when we say underserved, we serve all, regardless of race or ethnicity.

How does your involvement with the Initiative line up with your values and/or your interest in NC communities?
I grew up in Oxford, in Granville County, and it is one of those communities that fits in with my personal philosophy of helping the underserved. Growing up as a part of that population, I truly understand the challenges that you have in those underserved and economically challenged areas of the state. And I never, ever want to forget that. So this allows me another way to give back. And one of the organizations that the Initiative has helped is Central Children’s Home, in Granville County.

What excites you the most about beginning your tenure as Initiative Board Chairman?
I think one of the exciting things right now is to look at where the Initiative is now, and to be able to build on such a solid foundation; to help the organization to move strategically to the next level, and even do greater works than what we have done in the past. But, also, to be able to assist in helping identify those needs and challenges of those ever-growing underserved communities and find solutions to those needs and challenges.

Any additional comments about the Initiative, serving on the board, or the challenges we face this year?
We’re in a time where not only not-for-profit organizations, but for-profit and governmental agencies are all challenged economically with restrained budgets. That’s where we’re going to have to be very vigilant in finding ways to expand our revenue base, because the economy is going to be a real challenge.

We have a great board. There are some very talented people on the board with tremendous experience and skill sets. I think we have group of employees and officers of this organization that, together, we’ll be able to meet whatever challenges come our way.


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