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Sep
18

Brand Trust has become a “big deal” for marketers in 2019.

While some define brand trust as building trust with your customers and consumers, not everyone agrees.

A recent article in Adweek called Consumer’s Trust in Brands Has Fallen to a New Low highlights the confusion that often arises when “talking trust” from a brand standpoint, or any point for that matter. This particular article ran the “building trust gamut” from:

  • Elevating trust with consumers
  • Through data privacy 
  • Relationship building
  • To increasing transparency
  • Meeting the needs of millennials and Get Z
  • And even being good corporate citizens.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a pretty tall and confusing trust order.

So I asked the members of our Trust Council to read the article and share their professional observations about what brand trust is and what it isn’t. Here’s what five members had to say:

Bart Alexander, a seasoned CSR professional opined that most consumers, including young adults, are still choosing products and services based on functional attributes more than responsibility performance of the parent company. Similarly, most investors still seek to maximize total return rather than focus on long-term sustainability performance. But we may well be on the cusp of a tipping point where the approaches referenced in the article become mainstream. At the same time, we must acknowledge that most of the economy is continuing to operate on far more traditional views about value.

Nadine Hack, a leadership consultant and educator, concurs. All of this activity makes me wonder (hopefully, yet cautiously) if we may have finally reached a tipping point where corporate social responsibility is something businesses must act on, not just talk about.

Randy Conley at Ken Blanchard adds that in the digital world, organizations are having to constantly make deposits in the “trust bank” of their customers, because sooner or later, there will be an instance where trust is broken. It’s not a question of if they’ll break trust, but when. The vast majority of consumers are starting to realize that we only live under the illusion of privacy and data security.  At the end of the day, each of us as consumers has to decide our own comfort level of risk in sharing our information with others and trusting those individuals/organizations to keep it safe.

Linda Fisher Thornton, an ethics educator and consultant had this to say… Reputation and brand used to be considered separate things. You built your brand (what you wanted people to believe about your company) and you sought to protect the image of your brand that you had built. That approach is outdated. With social media transparency, reputation and brand have converged to the point that reputation defines and shapes the brand. People believe what they see a company doing rather than any pretty picture it has created to represent itself.The way to build trust is not to pretend to be a trustworthy brand, but to actually live it.

“The Trust Ambassador” Bob Whipple concluded with these thoughts…The thing I was reminded of is that we all need to be cognizant of the reputation of our own brands and the jeopardy we could put people in unwittingly. The real test is how diligent the company is on the front end to design a robust system and how the company reacts if and when something goes wrong. That is the test of their leadership.

Which brings us back to the question in the title of the article. What does Brand Trust mean?

I suppose it depends on one’s personal and professional perspective. If you are a marketer in 2019, apparently it’s a big deal, not unlike “purpose,” another big deal. Sadly, many of these are merely PR “campaigns” designed by those who have no subject matter expertise. The result is not only less trust, but more cynicism and confusion for both customers and consumers. 

Marketers who choose to talk about brand trust, should consider shifting their focus to helping build trustworthy and enduring brands. That’s not accomplished through data security or meeting the needs of a certain generation, and it’s certainly not the sole responsibility of the marketing department. The way trustworthy brands are built is similar to the way people build trust between themselves. It always boils down to principles and values, and either leaders, teams and organizations have them or they don’t. If brands want to be trustworthy and trusted, it’s leadership’s responsibility, along with their Board, to first clean up their own house from the inside out. Building a foundation of trust via principled leadership and trustworthy employees is the only solution to elevating brand trust. And then the marketing team can step in and craft an authentic message, not just a PR campaign.

As Bob Whipple said earlier, the real test is how diligent the company is on the front end.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic brand trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Aug
24

In this week’s Business Roundtable statement on the purpose of a corporation, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty had this to say….“Society gives each of us a license to operate. It’s a question of whether society trusts you or not. We need society to accept what it is that we do.

Yet the announcement has been met with some skepticism.

Don’t believe the Business Roundtable has changed until its CEOs’ actions match their words Fast Company

Business Roundtable Statement is Just Propaganda LA Times

Stakeholder Capitalism Will Fail if it’s Just Talk Bloomberg

Why the skepticism? Perhaps because the statement provides no specifics regarding the actions that this group of CEOs will undertake to change the way society views them and their companies, or simply that talk is cheap.

I humbly suggest, as I have been doing for over 10 years, that while “Purpose” may be easy and convenient, it does not address the “real” problem facing CEOs nor should it be the Business Roundtable’s starting point. Instead, this group of almost 200 business leaders should first take a close look at their Principles, meaning their individual and collective ethical standards, and how they apply these principles to building trustworthy organizations. Acting with the right principles leads to the right decisions, and only then can societal trust be earned. “Purpose” through check the box practices and “one off” delegated programs will simply lead to increasing skepticism.

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, offers these principles to the Business Roundtable CEOs as a guide for further discussion. A similar version designed for teams and leaders interested in starting a trust discussion has been read over 65,000 times.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, CEO Trust Across America-Trust Around the World

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Apr
01

Trust Across America has been writing about Wells Fargo and making public suggestions to leadership on how to fix the Bank’s low trust since 2016, apparently to no avail.

The recent “trust building” communications “horse and pony” show was predictably a huge and expensive fail.  Anyone with even a basic understanding of organizational trust knows that trust is internal and must be built from the inside out, not through a PR campaign. So now the sudden resignation of the current CEO comes as no surprise to us, nor does the appointment of the “interim” CEO who “by chance” happens to be a lawyer.

Over the weekend we asked members of our cross functional Trust Council to weigh in on the actions required to right what appears to be a sinking ship. We appreciate the thoughts of our Council members who took the time to weigh in.

Acknowledge trust as a hard asset: Do not assume that trust is a “soft skill” and do not attempt a fix via exclusive input from legal and compliance. Form a cross-silo team to attack low trust with the support of the “right” Board members, possibly necessitating some “reshuffling” at the highest level. In other words, clean house.

Make trust building the first priority: A foundation of trust must be built before culture can be fixed. 

Be accountable: Embrace responsibility and accountability and avoid the deadly Watergate sin of tip-toeing up to the line but not crossing it, perpetuating the sense of cover-up. You’ve got to own it—and then some.

Measure what matters: Assess the current level of stakeholder trust and use this baseline to begin attacking the weaknesses. What can be measured can be managed.

Practice and reinforce values: Saying or printing them is mere cant. You’ve got to propagandize them, talk about them in application to specific instances, hold leaders accountable for a quota of such applications.

Model humility: Place truth-telling ahead of personal or professional gain.

Be transparent: Reject hidden agendas and be transparent wherever and whenever possible.

Hire and fire: Nothing builds trust faster than firing and hiring people. Hire/fire/promote on visible demonstrations of the bank’s values. Cull out the middle managers who still think they can get away with hiding unethical behaviors. 

Erase fear: Drive out fear and ensure every voice is heard and every trust breach is fully investigated. “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.” Reward moral character and reinforce candor.

Track performance:  Define and scorecard performance against both values and value.

Perhaps the most difficult question came yesterday when someone asked me “Who would want the job of CEO?” That’s a tough one. Hiring another banker may not even be the best solution as finance is not generally considered an industry to exhibit high trust behavior. Regardless, the hope is that whoever the brave soul is who steps in to take the position begins their tenure by first acknowledging that trust is internal and must be elevated from the inside out. Only then can the required culture work begin.

PS- CNN just (attempted to) weigh in on how the bank can end the crisis. They may want to go back to the drawing board and craft a followup article.

For more information and tools to elevate trust, head over to our website at www.trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

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Mar
26

 

In a recent GreenBiz article the author asks  Is This the End of Corporate Social Responsibility? Apparently CSR doesn’t “cut it anymore” and companies are now turning to the creation of social purposes or missions as “the reason for the company’s existence.” Sounds promising except for that one “big elephant in the room.”  Can you name it?

 

 

Study after study show that low stakeholder trust continues to drag down most companies, even ten years “post financial crisis.”

  • Only 7 percent of Americans believe that major company CEOs have high ethical standards. Public Affairs Council
  • Only a minority of millennials believe businesses behave ethically. Deloitte
  • 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Gallup
  • Just 46% of employees placed “a great deal of trust” in their employer, and only 49% placed “a great deal of trust” in their manager or colleagues. Ernst & Young
  • For the first time in the six years the gauge has been reported, the US has dropped out of the “Top 10” countries for innovation. Bloomberg

Developing social purpose and mission is NOT going to fix what is wrong inside organizations.  We call these “perception of trust” fixes as opposed to authentic trustworthiness. The first is built from the outside in, while the latter is a more difficult inside out endeavor.  Focusing on social purpose before trust is like putting a clean shirt on a dirty body. And other than an “easy fix” that gives marketing and PR something to talk about, it makes little sense.

When business leaders treat trust as a tangible asset and a business imperative, the following results are achieved:

  • Employees are more engaged and retention increases
  • Innovation is higher and occurs more quickly
  • Teams are more cohesive and decisions are made faster
  • Transparency and communication improve
  • Costs decrease and profitability increases

And the opposite occurs when they don’t, which is where most organizations find themselves today. A social purpose and mission will not fix low trust. It’s up to leadership to decide when (and if) they are ready to address the “elephant in the room.” Delaying it doesn’t fix it.

PS- Elevating trust is the best kept secret of many enlightened business leaders and it is giving them not only a head start, but a clear competitive advantage. For more information on how to build trust in your organization, please send a note to me at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com. We are running our trust diagnostic (AIM Towards Trust) for many teams and organizations and, depending on the results, providing further insights on how to fix the weaknesses.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. She holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Mar
20

Are financial institutions inherently untrustworthy or is this a simple misconception? 

To answer this question we first must consider how “finance” and “trust” are being defined. Without universally accepted definitions, all financial institutions are painted with one broad brushstroke and consumers among other stakeholders, are left in an ever escalating state of mistrust and confusion. And when the “news” and the latest “study” report that trust in finance is up (or down) this only fuels the fire.

Trust? What are we trusting financial institutions to do, or not do? Safeguard our money, be transparent with fees, earn a good return for shareholders, protect our personal data, treat employees well, provide good customer service, or all of the aforementioned?

Finance? Can global investment banks, regional banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, financial planners, REITS, and/or a local savings and loans be lumped together when discussing trust in finance? Should they be?

For nine years Trust Across America has been researching and reporting on the trustworthiness of America’s largest 2000 public companies via our proprietary FACTS® Framework. We perform this analysis through a quantitative and objective lens (with no input from the companies themselves)

 

This is, by order of magnitude, the largest ongoing study ever conducted on trustworthiness at the individual corporate level. Our 2018 data (Russell 1000 only displayed below) concluded that the finance sector remains the lowest in trust, with an average score of 57 on a 1-100 scale. (Down from 58 in 2017). This dataset was finalized in April 2018. It is updated every April.

 

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

 

But what do these numbers really mean?

Our data also tells a more detailed story, and one that places us in a unique position to discuss trust AND the financial industry. Industry is NOT destiny and those more trustworthy financial institutions suffer at the hands of their less trustworthy colleagues. Take a look at this. Suddenly certain financial industry players look quite a bit better, while some look worse.

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

 

 

And dissecting the data even further reveals the following:

 

                                                 Name            Symbol    Sector                        Industry                 FACTS Score

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

 

Some of the major regional banks have high trust scores, while others do not. Again, industry is not destiny.

Trust in financial institutions isn’t necessarily “up” or “down.” That’s simply a news headline. At its core, trust is internal. It is a function of how much leadership cares about its corporate culture, and chooses to embrace the value of trust in meeting the needs of every stakeholder group. For those leaders who are interested in learning more about how to elevate trust internally, please Tap into Trust and take our sample one minute (customizable for any organization or team) quiz.

For all others, keep debating whether trust is “up or down.”

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. She holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. 

Purchase our books at this link

For more information on Trust & Integrity in Corporate America purchase our 2018 report. To be among the first to review our research and more fully engage in elevating organizational trust, please consider membership in our vetted Trust Alliance.

 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Feb
23

For the past three weeks Trust Across America-Trust Around the World has been running an anonymous one minute/one question diagnostic survey/quiz to identify the weakest links in trust among teams and in organizations. The survey is based on 12 crowd-sourced universal principles called TAP. The Principles have been accessed over 40,000 times in the past 10 months. When effectively implemented, they will elevate trust in any organization of any size.

As of today, Accountability has been identified as the weakest of the 12 Principles with 40% of respondents flagging this statement as “weak”: We hold one another accountable – we each take responsibility without regard to level or role.

If you are not accountable, why would you expect your team members to trust you?

If you are a member of a team or lead one, accountability is an essential trait. Lack of accountability leads to distrust which, in turn, leads to disengagement. When you find yourself falling back on an excuse, stop and think about the impact it has on your team and consider using an alternative response instead.

This is a list of the most commonly heard trust BUSTING excuses and an alternative trust BUILDING response.

Trust Busting Excuse #1:  It slipped my mind.

Trust Building Response #1: I won’t forget.

Trust Busting Excuse #2: Sorry, I’m going on vacation.

Trust Building Response #2: This will be done before I go on vacation.

Trust Busting Excuse #3: I’ll do it later.

Trust Building Response #3: I will do it right now.

Trust Busting Excuse #4: Keep reminding me.

Trust Building Response #4: You will not need to remind me.

Trust Busting Excuse #5: It’s not on my “to do” list.

Trust Building Response #5: I’m putting it on the top of my “to do” list.

Trust Busting Excuse #6: It isn’t a high priority.

Trust Building Response #6: I’m giving it high priority.

Trust Busting Excuse #7: It was just a white lie.

Trust Building Response #7: I admit to being dishonest.

Trust Busting Excuse #8: I’m very busy. Check back later.

Trust Building Response #8: I’m very busy right now but let’s talk in one hour.

Trust Busting Excuse #9: I thought I did it.

Trust Building Response #9: I will take care of it right now.

Trust Busting Excuse #10: I ran out of time.

Trust Building Response #10: It’s more time consuming than I thought, and I will get it done.

Take our anonymous Building Trust One Principle at a Time survey here by clicking on the Quiz button. Upon completion of this one minute/one question quiz you will see how your organization compares to others. This diagnostic survey is also being administered with individual organizations and teams. If you would like to use it, send a note to: barbara@trustacrossamerica.com (This survey can be administered in 16 languages.)

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an award-winning communications executive and the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Barbara has consulted with many Fortune 500 CEOs and their firms, and also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance . She is  the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series and TRUST! Magazine.  Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA.

 

Don’t forget to TAP into Trust!

 

Copyright(c) 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

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Feb
18

When trust is low, fear is high, and fear is very costly.

Numerous studies have shown that:

  • High-trust organizations consistently outperform their rivals
  • Trust is the foundation of high performing teams
  • Trust reduces employee turnover and increases engagement
  • Trust increases productivity and innovation
  • High trust leads to long-term business success, beyond just short-term “home runs.”

What is your organization doing to cut the losses of low trust?

The “fix” is relatively easy and inexpensive. And it begins by acknowledging that low trust is costing you money. Like a disease, if low trust is ignored, it continues to spread.

Our newest Trust Tool is based on our Trust Alliance Principles (TAP), the result of the collaborative efforts of dozens of the world’s leading trust scholars and practitioners. Since April, these principles have been accessed over 40,000 times in 16 languages. This tool will provide any team (including the Board of Directors,) or organization of any size in any industry, with a simple roadmap to track and elevate trust.

Want to learn more? Contact barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

 

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an award-winning communications executive and the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. A former consultant to McKinsey and many Fortune 500 CEOs and their firms, Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series and TRUST! Magazine.  Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. Don’t forget to TAP into Trust!

 

Copyright(c) 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Feb
05

 

The trust “talk” is increasing in frequency and volume, and that’s a good thing. Or is it?

 

At least leaders are thinking about it. Yet when it comes to defining trust, those same people are either getting stuck (at best) or using the word “trust” as a placeholder (at worst.) When trust is misdefined or misidentified, it not only gets diluted, but stakeholder cynicism quickly builds.  If you choose to talk it, keep in mind that trust takes many forms, each with it own distinct definition. Make sure you are using the right one!

Trust:  (the noun)

Trust: (the verb)

Trustor: (noun)

Trustee: (noun)

Trustworthy: (adjective)

Trusting: (gerund)

Propensity to trust

For those who want (or need) a refresher course, Charlie Green and I wrote this article, complete with definitions (and much more,) almost 3 years ago. And if you want to see how you are doing in the “trust department,” we offer this brand new one-minute quiz. How are you defining trust and how does your organization compare to others?

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Jan
31

This past week the World Economic Forum held its annual meeting at Davos and the global elite were buzzing like bees around the word “trust.” 

Overlapping was another meeting being held in a remote corner of NJ (of all places), perhaps because the “polar vortex” was about to ground the attendees’ private jets. This gathering was called “Sovad so Good” or “Sovad” for short.)

For those unfamiliar with the annual Davos event, it’s by “invitation only,” and even those who secure an invite might not be able to afford the cost of admission. Most badges require a membership to the World Economic Forum, which costs somewhere between $60,000 and $600,000, plus an additional fee of more than $27,000 per person to get into the conference. (CNBC, January 25, 2019)

Worth noting: Of the 3000 attendees almost 800 were Americans and 22% were women, up from 21% last year! Less than 5% of S&P 500 CEOs are women—that’s just 24 companies. We can’t know how many of those 24 were invited to the event in Davos, but the official attendance list includes four of their names: Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan N.V.; Adena Friedman, CEO of  Nasdaq Inc.;  Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp.; and Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. Quartz, January 21, 2019

Sovad (the other Davos) didn’t include the high price tag (or any admission fee for that matter), nor the “A” list of celebrities like Matt Damon or Will.i.am, and side deals were not being done off stage, probably because there was no stage. (Over 50% of the SOVAD group is women.) No large “trust signs” were erected at the entrance to our gathering like the one leading up to Davos. It was just too darn cold for anyone to want to climb a ladder, especially those in skirts.

CNN reported, ‘Trust is the new buzzword at Davos,” and as Dana Carvey “The Church Lady” liked to say on SNL, “Well isn’t that special.” (Dana and I lived together at one time but that’s a topic for another post.) So what was all the Davos “buzz” on trust about? These were the trust “themes:”

  1. Rebuilding trust (think Facebook.) Sheryl Sandberg was the trust “expert” on this subject.
  2. Trust and technology (digital security, AI, blockchain, etc.)
  3. Trust and innovation
  4. Trust and sustainability
  5. Trust and CEOs “taking stands.”

To the attendees at Davos these are certainly important revenue generating discussions to be having. But do they actually get to the heart of trust, or even move the needle slightly to elevate societal trust? That’s a solid “No.”  Here’s why.

It seems only one trust conversation was missing at Davos, and probably the most important one: How do we move our societal institutions from trust buzz to trust action? And that was the ONLY conversation at Sovad.

So while the fine food and drink flowed, and the planes stayed warm on the tarmac in Switzerland, the Sovad attendees arrived by auto and took the following action over a burger and a beer:

With no revenue generating agenda, we created 12 universal principles for elevating trust and began asking those who didn’t travel to Europe, how that “trust thing” is working in their organization. After all, isn’t that where trust starts (and ends)? Apparently, we struck a chord as over 35,000 unassuming folks from around the world have joined the conversation.

Will you take our brand new (one question/one minute) survey? Find out how your organization compares to others.

Note: Some believe that this year’s gathering was a disappointment on many fronts. Perhaps the word “trust” was simply a placeholder until a “real” topic can be identified for 2020. Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard economist, summed it up: “This is the flattest Davos I can remember. Normally, there is a star country or a star industry that everybody is talking about. But this year, there is nothing.”

Could it be that the “nothing” has “something” to do with trust?

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is an award-winning communications executive and the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. A former consultant to McKinsey and many Fortune 500 CEOs and their firms, Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, and is the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series and TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 she was named one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International, and in 2017 she became a Fellow of the Governance & Accountability Institute. Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA. Don’t forget to TAP into Trust!

For more information contact barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright(c) 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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Jan
26

Celebrating Our 5th anniversary!

 

Formed in 2013, we are a growing collaborative community focused exclusively on elevating organizational trust by providing enlightened leaders with the “right” tools and resources. Unlike other think tanks, we have advanced our “thinking” to action.

 

The past twelve months represented a “banner year” for the Alliance as we completed the following projects:

Trust Alliance Project Highlights

 

  • Named our first 12-member Trust Council comprised of Alliance members who have taken an active role with us in building organizational trust programs over the years.
  • Published our 10th anniversary TRUST! Magazine spring issue, highlighting good governance practices. It’s a gem and should be read by every Board member everywhere!
  • Members contributed to our growing case study library called Trustlets.
  • Dozens of hours were spent coordinating and consulting on TAP (Trust Alliance Principles). Phase II has now begun with a new project launching on January 29, 2019.
  • Global members helped construct our first annual Country Trust Index.
  • The 4th annual Showcase of Service Providers was published.
  • Our 10th anniversary report “Trust & Integrity in Corporate America” (available at www.trustacrossamerica.com ) features the work of many Alliance member, and we published this “2 pager” under the Research tab on our website.

What’s Ahead?

 

In 2019 we began arming our members with a new actionable trust “tool” delivered every month through our member newsletter.

Why Not Join Us?

 

If you are interested in rolling up your sleeves and participating with a group of collaborative global professionals, we’d love to consider you for membership.

(Some of our members have been kind enough to add their thoughts on this testimonials page.)

 

Questions or comments? Feel free to send your thoughts along.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel, CEO and Chief Trust Officer

 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

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