Danny Ludeman is the epitome of financial success. As head of First Union Securities in the late 1990s, Ludeman moved the firm into the top three brokerages in the world. By 2014, as CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors, he was responsible for over $1 trillion in client assets, overseeing over 15,000 financial advisors. “He’s the James Brown of the securities industry,” as one of his largest clients referred to him, “the hardest-working man in show business.”
But then, Ludeman did something unexpected. At the age of 56, he resigned his post at Wells Fargo, explaining, ” I feel very much called by God to help other people.” He began taking seminary classes, and considered running for office. And it was during this time that he became aware of the overwhelming numbers of incarcerated men and women in the United States, and the high rates in which they returned to prison.
Now, Ludeman is taking tangible steps toward reducing recidivism. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he describes his efforts in creating the Concordance Initiative, which is working to equip newly released prisoners to be productive members of their communities. The initiative will address some of the major hurdles these men and women face—things like affordable housing, employment, addiction, and mental health.
“This isn’t about babying people,” Ludeman says. “This is about providing a safety net where you can address those things that have been identified as the major contributors to why people go back.”
There are two prongs to the initiative. The first, The Concordance Academy for Leadership, will be headed by Ludeman, and will focus on equipping those leaving prison with the needed support and training to succeed. The second element, the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice, will perform research on best practices for post-prison efforts, as well as policy engagement on legislative matters dealing with the criminal justice system.
Ludeman is finding support for his efforts among many of his former colleagues in the financial world, many of whom see the benefits of creating safer communities and creating an influx of trained and motivated workers. Within six months, he was able to raise the $9 million needed to operate for three years. The initiative will initially focus on reentry in the St. Louis area, with an initial class of 60 soon-to-be-released prisoners set to start in January 2016. There are plans to expand statewide, and then possibly beyond.
When asked how many prisoners he hopes to ultimately reach with the program, Ludeman simply responds, “Millions.”
It’s that kind of vision that made Ludeman a successful businessman. Should he prove as successful in his new calling, the return on his investment will be even greater, and the success will be measured not in dollars, but in lives transformed.
Prison Fellowship has a number of programs that seek to prepare prisoners for reentry into society and support them and their families after release. To find out more about our efforts, click here.