Thought leadership: Informing the Workplace and Our World

An interview with Surya Kolluri, managing director, Bank of America Retirement Thought Leadership

Longevity. Caregiving. Brain health. Diversity. Artificial intelligence. An intergenerational workforce. These are the forces that continue to change how we live and work. What can we expect in the years ahead and what impact will these trends have on individuals, the workplace and global policy? How can we navigate this evolving landscape, and what strategies can we implement to help us reach our goals?

For Surya Kolluri, helping answer these questions has been the focus of his career at Bank of America for the past dozen or more years, and it is what continues to inspire him every day. As managing director for Bank of America’s Retirement Thought Leadership, Surya and his team identify and analyze the most influential trends of today—and even look out 10-20 years into the future. The goal: to provide insights that can help inform benefit strategies, programs and public policies all in support of our purpose to help make financial lives better.

Here Surya discusses his work, the issues his thought leadership team and colleagues are focusing on now, and what this all means for you and your employees.

Can you describe the role of thought leadership at Bank of America?

Our leadership team is deeply committed to helping our clients navigate the dynamic forces that are transforming our society and in turn, the workplace. My team and I look at demographic and macroeconomic trends and challenges affecting institutions and individuals, we analyze and study these issues, and then we share our findings and insights to guide us toward actions to help improve the wellbeing of those we serve. For example, our work helps inform the development of programs across our enterprise for our clients and financial wellness content for employees—and sometimes contributes to new policies for the public at large. Because we are continuously sharing our latest thought leadership with our clients, we also believe that this work can be valuable to employers in creating workplace benefits strategies relevant with today’s most critical needs.

What are some of the priority issues for you?

Much of our work springs from the effects that the aging population has on our world. A baby born today has a 1 in 3 chance of living to 100 years old. We are exploring how living longer impacts the workplace as well as what it means for an individual’s health and wealth. Tied to our study of longevity is the issue of who is caring for this aging population. The total number of caregivers in the workplace continues to grow and that has ramifications for both employees and employers. Longevity is also fostering a more intergenerational workforce, presenting new challenges and opportunities. All of this change is fueling the critical need to collectively help people match their health span and wealth span with their ever-increasing life span.

As you can see, longevity is the common thread linking so many issues we face today. It is also my particular area of expertise and one of personal interest. My dad is a widower, and I’ve had many conversations with him about his care as he gets older. Alzheimer’s has also touched my family, and with the possibility of cognitive decline, we are concerned about maintaining his quality of life.

What other areas will you be researching?

Other focus areas for us include diversity and inclusion, gender lens, health care, financial fitness, and artificial intelligence/technology and its impact on the workplace. We are looking forward to sharing insights about these important topics in the coming months.

With so many diverse areas of study, what resources do you have available to support your work?

Our team represents a variety of disciplines and expertise. In addition, we’ve developed key strategic relationships that give us access to leading researchers, and these relationships help further our work. We partner with about a dozen prominent organizations to conduct joint research, such as the Stanford University Center on Longevity, MIT Age Lab, Wharton Business School’s Pension Research Council, Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, University of Southern California’s gerontology school, Gerontological Society of America, and Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. In fact, we just sponsored a study with the Milken Institute to understand the impact of dementia on diverse populations. We’ve also founded two organizations, the Global Coalition on Aging and a CEO Initiative for Alzheimer’s Disease. All of these relationships support our ability to conduct deep and meaningful research and add texture to our work.

How can employers use the insights you share with them?

As a tight job market has created a war for talent and continues to make it challenging for employers to attract and keep employees, our work offers insights that can help them create appealing programs and benefits to help position their companies as preferred places to work. Our research can provide a better understanding of the challenges employees face, factors important to them, and what they expect from their employers—all of which can inform strategies to engage employees and foster a satisfied and productive team. The wellbeing of employees remains a top priority for employers, and one we share with our clients. We’re investing in uncovering and communicating information that will help equip us all to be better at serving that purpose.

You mentioned earlier that your work contributes to the dialogue around public policy. Can you elaborate?

Our research often leads to pioneering work; for example, how we organize financial guidance and solutions around life priorities, or how we integrate gerontology with our advisory services. These innovative approaches often draw the attention of policymakers. Our Government Relations team often contacts us about inquiries they field from members of Congress and other organizations. We are also invited to present our latest thinking at national and global conferences. For example, I recently presented at the AARP Executive Summit on financial impact of caregiving and at the G20, an international forum for governments from 19 countries and the European Union. Lorna Sabbia also represented Bank of America at the Silver Economy Forum in Helsinki. Having a voice on these issues can help inform future policy positions.

What makes you most excited about your work?

The 21st century is going to experience major transitions―cultural, technological, political and economical. We are creating content and insights that can be really valuable to so many people and groups working toward improving the financial lives of Americans. Leaders across our own enterprise can access and use this information to help clients in every area we serve, whether retirement, banking or investments. I can’t tell you how energizing that is.

Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

Global Coalition on Aging Workshop Calls on G7 Countries to Fund Pull Incentives to Spur Antibiotic Innovation

The Global Coalition on Aging, in partnership with JPMA, today announced the release of its workshop report on the AMR crisis facing G7 countries and the world, “The Value of Pull Incentives in Japan to Encourage Investment in Antibiotic Innovation to Solve the AMR Crisis.” If strong action is not taken to address AMR, we will lose the antibiotics we need to cure infections, which is likely to outpace cancer as a major cause of death, killing an estimated 10 million by 2050.

Our National Conversation on Aging

Now that President Biden officially declared his run for a second term, what are we to make of the countless warnings about his age? Clearly, voters have already considered age a major factor – Google Search results for ‘Biden age’ hit an all-time-high just before the 2020 election – and speculation has only heightened four years on. Unfortunately, these concerns are misguided and even dangerous because they conflate age with poor health and confuse ideas about work and retirement.

World Immunization Week: Best-Kept Secret for 21st-Century Healthy Aging

The tremendous success of childhood immunisation campaigns across the 20thcentury is one of the greatest triumphs of public health. Along with advances in sanitation and antibiotics, childhood immunisation has resulted in the miracle of modern longevity: the once extravagant prospect of growing old has become the norm. Now, in our 21st century, isn’t it our great challenge to build on this achievement by realising a healthy longevity?

South China Morning Post Letter to the Editor

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the defining global problems of our time. Drug-resistant bacterial infections killed an estimated 1.27 million people in 2019. By 2050, 10 million lives annually could be lost to antimicrobial resistance, and annual global gross domestic product could fall by between 1.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent. Fortunately, Chinese policymakers, physicians and patients have shown what is possible when they focus collective efforts on antimicrobial resistance.

Medicine Price Setting Might Appeal to Voters but Will Cost Patients

As policymakers search for potential cuts to the national budget, they risk jeopardizing the country’s most cost-effective use of healthcare dollars: biomedical innovation regarding vaccines , prescription drugs, and emerging therapies, including antibodies. As the nation rapidly ages, protecting this pipeline of medicine will not only improve health outcomes but will do so at a lower cost by reducing more expensive hospital and primary care.

Global Coalition on Aging Hosts Cross-Sector Roundtable to Tackle Heart Valve Disease in Aging Societies

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and the Global Heart Hub have released a global position paper “Heart Valve Disease: Harnessing Innovation to Save Lives, Mitigate Costs, and Advance the Healthy Aging Agenda.” The report builds upon on a December 2022 GCOA-GHH roundtable of cross-sector experts and examines how behavior and policy change can best address heart valve disease in our 21st century.

New York City Twins with Ireland to Develop Age Friendly Communities

The twinning commits both sides to share knowledge on age friendly programs and builds on the 2011 Dublin Declaration of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. The agreement was signed by the Cathaoirleach (Mayor) Nick Killian of Meath County Council which hosts the Irish Age Friendly Programme and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Commissioner for Aging.

Just Getting Started at 75

In the latest charge against the promise of healthy aging, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, oncologist and bioethicist, doubled down on his infamous 2014 essay stating that 75 is the ideal age to die. Now 65, he maintains that after age 75, he will no longer receive medical screenings and interventions like colonoscopies, cancer treatment, flu shots, and heart valve replacement.