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The Impact of COVID-19 and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on the Business World

Content sponsored in partnership with KeyBank

With his experience and passion, Agapito "Aga" Morgan is uniquely poised to lead KeyBank's Commercial Banking Healthcare Team and serve as the co-chair of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

2020 was a year of tremendous change and adaptation for businesses across all industries. As one of the nation's largest bank-based financial institutions, KeyBank experienced change on multiple levels, including a companywide transition to remote work and emerging technologies.

But KeyBank's recent evolution has been driven by more than the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of last year's nationwide protests against racial injustice, the company has doubled down on its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion across the entire organization.

At the intersection of this multifaceted shift sits Agapito "Aga" Morgan, leader of the KeyBank Commercial Banking Healthcare Team; co-chair of the Commercial Bank's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Council; and member of the Bank's Commercial Credit Risk Committee.

Through his various positions at Key and other financial institutions, as well as his own personal experiences, Morgan has developed a truly valuable perspective on leadership, DE&I, and the role of financial institutions in supporting other business sectors, such as healthcare. This background makes him uniquely qualified to lead KeyBank from multiple spots as the company prepares for what lies ahead in 2021.

In an interview with, Morgan discussed the work Key's Commercial Healthcare arm is doing, as well as the dual impact the company has experienced from COVID-19 and the societal spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion. KeyBank is a full-service financial institution that works with consumers and businesses across multiple sectors to meet their financial needs. What does Key do specifically for healthcare businesses?

Aga Morgan: Our enterprise healthcare platform is unique in that we provide industry expertise to a broad set of healthcare businesses at every touchpoint of the bank, from investment banking (Cain Brothers), to commercial banking, to Enterprise Payments (Treasury Services), to consumer banking. 

Say you're a midsized or large hospital system. KeyBank is positioned to advise you on acquiring your crosstown rival. Additionally, we can help you refinance your existing tax-exempt bonds or bring you to market for a new issuance, and we can provide a short-term line of credit to provide a liquidity cushion. Furthermore, we can help you rethink how you manage your treasury infrastructure to realize cost savings and operational efficiencies. If you're building out a new surgery center, we can provide equipment financing. Also, our Consumer Banking Healthcare Team can deliver financial wellness seminars or one-on-one meetings with your employees or discuss student debt refinancing with your physicians.   

It's about deep healthcare expertise throughout our entire institution and delivering a fully integrated model. I spend all day long on the phone with my colleagues from our investment bank, our enterprise payments team and our consumer bank as we build holistic solutions to bear-hug our clients throughout healthcare.


BDC: It seems like the biggest difference is that fully integrated, holistic approach to serving your clients. What makes the Key Healthcare platform different from its competitors?

A.M.: Yes, that's our most significant differentiator. These aren't disparate teams of healthcare professionals at different parts of the bank working as autonomous individual groups. This is an enterprise platform. We are motivated to collaborate and work together on a client-by-client and prospect-by-prospect basis.

Often when we engage a current customer or a prospect, we'll invite an industry or subvertical expert from the investment bank (Cain Brothers) to discuss industry and valuation trends, acquisition ideas, and/or capital markets' solutions. We'll bring our commercial banking team to present more traditional banking financing solutions, as well as someone from our enterprise payments team to explore cash management, A/P or A/R challenges, and potential solutions. Additionally, we invite team members from our consumer bank to discuss how we deliver financial wellness advisory services and products to their entire spectrum of employees.

That's how we go to market as a unit, as a broad enterprise. We are a relationship-based institution, and for the clients [who] appreciate that and want that kind of engagement with their bank, we have incredibly strong relationships.

BDC: Within the healthcare space, KeyBank works with a number of different types of organizations, including acute care hospital systems and medical/dental practices, behavioral health, post-acute facilities, healthcare IT, and medical technology. How does your partnership with Cain Brothers enable you to work well with these different types of clients?

A.M.: We have bankers that spend all day long in specific subverticals. Behavioral health is a very good example where there's been explosive multiples. We're seeing incredible amounts of sponsor capital flying into this space. We have bankers at Cain Brothers who live in that environment all day long, [and] we really depend on the specific and targeted expertise of our colleagues in the investment bank to bring us all up to speed.

As for my colleagues in the commercial bank … they have industry expertise and can talk with equal acumen to the large hospitals as they could a physician's practice, but take something in the medtech space, where we don't spend every day – we can lean on our colleagues at Cain.

We have a broad spectrum of healthcare businesses that we cover, but we go to market with confidence in each subvertical because of the collaboration with our colleagues at Cain Brothers as well as our honed expertise throughout our commercial banking and enterprise payments teams.

BDC: COVID-19 has obviously had a huge impact on the healthcare industry, and you just mentioned that you've seen explosive growth in certain subverticals. What market trends are you seeing, and how has that, in turn, affected growth within KeyBank's Commercial Healthcare division?

A.M.: What we're really looking for are the businesses that are seeing high demand in COVID and will be sticky as the care delivery model continues to evolve. [These businesses] were already on a path of evolution; COVID has steepened the slope of that curve quite dramatically.

We are seeing continued consolidation of physician practices, particularly under an MSO (management service organization) model, ambulatory surgery centers, and dental practices. Private equity capital is flooding into these spaces to essentially realize the efficiencies of centralizing all of the administrative functions, as well as monetizing a new care model, [where] more and more patients are being treated in an outpatient type of environment.

Behavioral health is [also] at the forefront in this COVID environment and is evolving into a less stigmatized end of healthcare. Additionally, we are seeing an influx of skilled and talented operators within the space, whether it be alcohol and drug rehabilitation or mental health, etc. Further, there are clearer paths for sponsors to monetize their investments in those spaces.

In home healthcare, the model is shifting [too] with more of an aging demographic. Moreover, you've got more and more folks who've been touched by COVID or who are hesitant to stay in a hospital long-term. Furthermore, there's a broader, larger shift to home healthcare delivery, particularly around skilled nursing, so those are the markets I think are fairly obvious.

Now, we must touch on healthcare IT [and] telemedicine. While it has certainly exploded in this pandemic world, it will still be around post-COVID. The third iteration of telemedicine is what I think everyone is looking for, particularly as payers [and] providers work through a more equitable sort of payment structure for telemedicine engagement. As that model evolves, we're going to see more engagement in telehealth as a normalized path to care delivery.

Additionally, you're going to see a continued evolution and entrepreneurship on devices and DME (durable medical equipment). We're also seeing nice valuations tagged to those kinds of businesses.

Broadly speaking, sponsored capital is attracted to these subverticals of healthcare, and we are happy to help companies think about who they partner with and how they bring capital to help facilitate growth.

BDC: As we know, the pandemic hasn't been the only driving force of change in the corporate world in 2020. How has the societal focus on racial equality influenced Key's DE&I efforts, and how did you get involved as co-chair of the Commercial Bank's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council?

A.M.: KeyBank has historically had a strong DE&I effort, but the environment we lived through in 2020 brought racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of everyone's mind.

As a person of color, it's part of my American experience, and it has been for generations, but I can tell you that I'm extremely proud to be part of an institution that has really accelerated and intensified our DE&I efforts. The option could have simply been to sit back and engage as we always had, but Key chose to lean extremely forward and get in the fight against racial injustice. Our bank is engaged in the fight every day.

I was already part of our African Heritage affinity group, but I believe I am uniquely positioned within our leadership team to help drive Leadership's vision and the DE&I initiative from top of the house on down.  

BDC: What leadership lessons have you learned in your various roles throughout your career that have helped you succeed in your current roles?

A.M.: I operate, and we operate, at a high-velocity operating cadence.

Operating at that high-velocity cadence, you learn a couple of things. One, surround yourself with a great team of strategic minds and operators – people who are thoughtful and are not afraid to make mistakes. You learn from mistakes. I make mistakes every day, but it's my job to evaluate those mistakes and make change for the better.

The second thing I've learned is that partnership and collaboration are critical for how such a large institution can actually effect change. And how do you effect change? You establish a business plan or a mandate, you delegate, and you drive the bus towards that goal.

And lastly, an authentic engagement and belief that we can achieve whatever the goals are and passion for that business is huge.

BDC: Is there anything else you can tell us about Key's DE&I efforts and where they might be heading in the future?

A.M.: Our bankwide DE&I effort is really focused on three things: workforce, workplace, and marketplace. This includes attracting, retaining, developing and promoting diverse employees throughout the entire institution; creating and maintaining a culture that embraces, encourages, and respects everyone's voice and their diverse backgrounds; and focusing on how we improve our client-facing solutions and engagements in the communities where we live and work, as well as building relationships with minority-owned and women-owned businesses across the country.

Now, it's not just words. This is really about action. If it doesn't feel different, then we're not doing enough. We're all about accountability, from the top of our house through the entire organization. Accountability includes capturing the data, listening and understanding the employee and client experience, and consistency in our messaging and our dialogue.

Key's DE&I work isn't just a once-a-month or once-a-quarter engagement. DE&I is foundational and a cornerstone to our culture and business. While DE&I is the right thing to do, it also makes sense from a business perspective, [to drive it] into the forefront of people's dialogue on a daily basis.

The good news is, we're seeing engagement throughout our institution at a level that I could never have anticipated. [It's] the more institutionalized sort of data capture around hiring, retaining and promoting diverse candidates. It's that softer side of engagement – fireside chats so people's voices are heard and they're engaged. In 2020, leaders and teammates across the organization hosted more than 60 conversations and dialogues focused on racial equity and social justice. It's engaging our DE&I Council members who have been deputized to drive that level of engagement. It's senior leaders and commercial sales leaders in various markets asking our council members the questions they could never ask before.

We've created a culture where people can talk about diversity, equity and racial justice in a way that hasn't existed before. I have pride for how we go to market and service our clients in our healthcare space, as well as how we are engaging around our DE&I efforts – and I'm not alone. There's a shared commitment across the entire institution on all of these fronts, and that's what makes this place so darned special.

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