Gen Z is the future. Born between 1996 and 2012, this generation is the most diverse cohort on the planet, and collectively, they represent over $140 billion in purchasing power. Brown Advisory's Katherine Kroll speaks with Gen Z experts Ziad Ahmed, Joel Flory and Denise Villa to talk about Gen Z's priorities—before and after the pandemic—and how Gen Zers are writing the future through their insistence on authenticity and massive online influence.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:


Episode Introduction

Katherine Kroll: I’m Katherine Kroll, and I’m a Sustainability Specialist at Brown Advisory. I’m not a Gen Z’er, not quite, so I’ve been fascinated to take time to learn about people who are only slightly younger than me, but very different in a number of ways. I’ve spoken to members of Gen Z, to people who work with them, and to people whose job it is to understand what makes Gen Z’ers tick. In this podcast, I want you to meet three extraordinary people. There’s Ziad Ahmed who is an activist and entrepreneur, and CEO of JUV Consulting and still only 21 years old. There’s Denise Villa, the Chief Executive at the Center for Generational Kinetics, leading generational researchers, and Joel Flory, the Founder and CEO of VSCO, the photography app that has become hugely popular with Gen Z’ers. All three of these incredible business owners are at the intersection of Gen Z and the rest of the world. And so we are clearly in very good hands as we navigate the future.


Read the Full Transcript



Ziad Ahmed

Ziad Ahmed

Founder and CEO, JUV Consulting

Ziad Ahmed is an 20-year-old junior at Yale University. He is an unapologetic American-Muslim-Bangladeshi student activist, entrepreneur, and speaker. He is the CEO/Co-founder of JUV Consulting (, a Generation Z consultancy that works with clients to help them reach young people. The company has worked with over 20 Fortune 500 companies, has been profiled by The New York Times, and has established full-time offices in Times Square. As a result of JUV, Ahmed was named to the 2019 Forbes #30Under30 list at 19-years-old. Ahmed started the company in 2016 (while in high school), and JUV keeps growing as the need to better understand young folks is just getting greater. Ahmed also founded a nonproift, Redefy (, committed to furthering equality in 2013. Redefy has reached hundreds of thousands of young people digitally, has established chapters in 10+ countries around the world, and has been honored as a part of the Facebook Community Leadership Program. Through Redefy, Ahmed has been recognized as a 2017 Global Teen Leader, a High School Trailblazer by MTV, and a Top 15 Young Prodigy Changing the World by Business Insider. Additionally, he has given four TEDxTalks, has spoken at forums such as the Council on Foreign Relations, has commentated for networks such as CNN, has written for publications such as Teen Vogue, and serves on boards such as the Marketing Advisory Board for He tries to use his voice wherever helpful to push the envelope -- and tries to pass the mic as often as possible.
Joel Flory

Joel Flory

Co-founder and CEO, VSCO

As the co-founder and CEO of VSCO, Joel Flory leads the company on its mission to help everybody fall in love with their own creativity. Flory and his co-founder, Greg Lutze, combined their passions for photography and technology to build VSCO in 2011. Prior to founding VSCO, Flory was a successful commercial and wedding photographer. A Bay Area native, Flory is deeply involved in the local Oakland community. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in industrial technology.
Denise Villa, Ph.D.

Denise Villa, Ph.D.

CEO, Center for Generational Kinetics

Denise Villa, Ph.D., is the CEO of The Center for Generational Kinetics. She leads CGK's global research, speaking, and consulting services, which now serves over 700 clients worldwide. Dr. Villa has delivered CGK’s research findings to audiences across the U.S., from HR Summits to global media companies. She has served as a Gen Z and Millennial expert on corporate panels and presented research at SXSW Interactive and at events in industries including student housing, real estate, technology, and financial services. Her Gen Z research led to a feature story in The Washington Post, and she’s been quoted as a generational expert in The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Villa has led several organizations, served on non-profit boards, actively advises startups, and was recognized as a Profiles of Power and Women’s Way finalist. Dr. Villa began her career as a middle school science teacher before becoming a middle school and high school administrator. She worked in urban, rural, and suburban schools. She continues to follower her passion for education by serving on the Women @ Austin Advisory Council, Philanthropitch Advisory Board, and as the incoming President of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Austin. A first-generation college student, Dr. Villa completed her undergraduate work at The University of Texas at Austin and her graduate work at Texas State University. She enjoys running marathons, adventure races, and attending sporting events, especially UT football. Dr. Villa is passionate about Gen Z and how they will change the world. Her forthcoming book, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business—and What To Do About It, will be released by HarperCollins in September 2020.



Katherine Kroll

Katherine Kroll

Director of Equity ESG Research and Strategy, Brown Advisory

Open configuration options Katherine is the Director of Equity ESG Research and Strategy. She is responsible for ESG integration, adoption and research across Brown Advisory’s institutional equity investment strategies. Additionally, she leads the ESG engagement strategy and supports the expansion of sustainable investment solutions at Brown Advisory. Previously, Katherine was an Investment Specialist for the Large-Cap Sustainable Growth Strategy and a Senior Institutional Sustainable Investing Specialist. She was recognized as SRI’s “30 Under 30” sustainable investing professionals and was a leader of Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy (WISE). Prior to joining Brown Advisory, Katherine led the shareholder advocacy efforts for Green Century Capital Management.



Background Reading


Listen Next

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speaker(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Brown Advisory. These views are not intended to be and should not be relied upon as investment advice and are not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. The information provided in this podcast is not intended to be and should not be considered a recommendation or suggestion to engage in or refrain from a particular course of action or to make or hold a particular investment or pursue a particular investment strategy, including whether or not to buy, sell, or hold any of the securities mentioned. It should not be assumed that investments in such securities have been or will be profitable. There is a risk that some or all of the capital invested in any such securities may be lost. This piece is intended solely for our clients and prospective clients, is for informational purposes only, and is not individually tailored for or directed to any particular client or prospective client.

ESG considerations are one of multiple informational inputs into the investment process, alongside data on traditional financial factors, and so are not the sole driver of decision-making. ESG analysis may not be performed for every holding in every strategy. ESG considerations that are material will vary by investment style, sector/industry, market trends and client objectives. Certain strategies seek to identify issuers that they believe may have desirable ESG outcomes, but investors may differ in their views of what constitutes positive or negative ESG outcomes. As a result, certain strategies may invest in issuers that do not reflect the beliefs and values of any particular investor. Certain strategies may also invest in companies that would otherwise be screened out of other ESG oriented portfolios. Security selection will be impacted by the combined focus on ESG assessments and forecasts of return and risk.