New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer held another of his workshops on Friday to encourage and educate Minority and Women Business Enterprises on the best way to do business with the city.

“We are here because we need to build a fairer New York by giving MWBEs more opportunities to compete for business in this city,” Stringer said in remarks to a gathering of business people for his MWBE University workshop at the Dinkins Municipal Building in Manhattan. “According to the city’s last disparity study, MWBEs represent 50% of firms ready and willing to do business with New York. But right now, they receive only 4.9% of city business. That’s just not right."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal to certify 9,000 MWBEs and to have 30% of city contracts awarded to MWBEs by 2021.

“That’s a smart goal. But so far, we’re falling short,” Stringer said. “Just this week, I met with Deputy Mayor Thompson, where we discussed the disparity study and ways that we can work together. And I made it very clear that we have to pick up the pace.”

NYC Comptroller Scitt Stringer talks to attendees at Friday's MWBE University workshop.
NYC Comptroller Scitt Stringer talks to attendees at Friday's MWBE University workshop. NYC Comptroller's Office/Gabriel Kinder

Stringer said his office has taken a variety of steps to increase MWBE participation.

In the area of public finance, the Comptroller’s Office awarded more than 30% of underwriter contracts to MWBEs in 2016.

Stringer also said his office is the first track the number of MWBEs on its prequalified list of auditors and that just last month they changed the criteria for the list to increase access for MWBE auditors by accepting engagement and systems peer reviews.

“That came about because we held an MWBE University class and a focus group and found that our requirements were posing a barrier to minority and women CPAs,” Stringer said. “We are looking to work with the New York State Society of CPAs to help find ways to fund firms’ first peer review, which are the industry standard.”

Stringer said the Bureau of Asset Management now has 6% of its active and passive assets managed by MWBEs.

He added that over the past four years, his office has increased MWBE spending in micro purchases to 38% from 15%, a good way for MWBEs to get their foot in the door with City contracting.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer detailed the progress his office has made in aiding MWBE firms.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer detailed the progress his office has made in aiding MWBE firms. Chip Barnett

Looking to the future, Stringer said his office will be work with its fellow fiduciaries at the pension funds to find the best way to reach a goal of investing at least 10% in each of its active asset classes with emerging managers, including MWBEs.

Last month, Stringer appointed Chavon Sutton as the first Diversity and Inclusion Director in the pension investments bureau. It was the first time the bureau had a person fully dedicated to diversity across all asset classes.

“We are also looking for ways to make our emerging manager programs more effective,” Stringer said. “The goal is to go well beyond public equities and private equities to find emerging managers in all asset classes.”

He said he will present the pension trustees with formal proposals to hire Emerging Manager of Managers for early stage funds, to include first time funds. He said this is expected to benefit successful MWBEs that otherwise would not have been evaluated.

“Much more of the economic pie has to be in the hands of the people who actually bake it,” he said. “That’s why our goal is to increase our own spending with MWBEs.”

Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett is a journalist with more than 40 years of experience. Barnett is currently Senior Market Reporter for The Bond Buyer.