New Mint director sees her position as 'an incredible opportunity’
- Published: Aug 18, 2022, 8 AM
Ventris Gibson became the 40th director of the United States Mint on June 15 when her nomination by President Biden was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
At the time of the writing of this article, Gibson was en route to the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money Aug. 16 to 20 in Rosemont, Illinois.
Soon after Gibson took office, Coin World requested an interview and submitted a number of questions via email, to which she provided written responses just before heading to the ANA convention.
Question: Did you seek out the nomination for Mint director or did the Biden team seek you in particular?
Answer: I’m honored that President Biden chose to nominate me to become Director of the United States Mint. I never expected to be under consideration to lead this agency. I had a profound moment of clarity shortly after President Biden nominated me to serve as the U.S. Mint’s 40th Director. I was face-to-face with an opportunity to lead this historic agency — in a manner that reflects my personal core values of fairness, integrity, trust, accountability, credibility and transparency. I was looking at a perfect match.
Question: Were you looking forward to the challenges (of becoming Mint Director)?
Answer: Once I learned of my nomination, I certainly looked forward to becoming the Mint Director! I didn’t view it as a challenge; instead, I viewed the role of Mint Director as an incredible opportunity with awesome responsibility. The Mint has a wonderfully storied history, and the making of coins has long fascinated the American public. For hundreds of years, we have told the story of our country’s history, culture, traditions, and values by connecting America through coins. From the manufacture of superior work products to the protection of the national assets under the Mint’s control, the Mint throughout its history has executed our mission with unquestioned quality and integrity while providing outstanding customer service to the Nation. I have approached my job with keen motivation to continue and improve on that incredible history.
Question: Your background is in human resources, not manufacturing. What assets does that help you bring to the Mint director’s post?
Answer: I have four decades of experience in professional leadership and executive positions. The Mint is more than a manufacturing organization.
In addition to the four production facilities at West Point, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, I am also responsible for the bullion depository at Fort Knox.
We also have the United States Mint Police, which is a federal law enforcement agency, and at our Washington, D.C., headquarters we have offices and directorates that provide critical support to meet our mission.
These offices and directorates include manufacturing, sales and marketing, protection, information technology, human capital, finance, chief counsel, environmental safety and health, equal employment, legislative affairs, corporate communications, executive secretariat, design management, policy and analysis, and the project management office.
An organization with this broad a scope requires a leader who is a skilled executive and manager, and that’s only part of what I bring to the table.
You noted that most of my career was spent in human resources. The common denominator of all the organizations I have mentioned is they are made up of people. The people of the Mint workforce execute our mission, not the machines on the plant floor.
Question: Have you had the opportunity to visit or schedule visits to all Mint production facilities — West Point, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, as well as Fort Knox?
Answer: I have, and I have been deeply impressed with the professionalism, skill, and commitment of the United States Mint workforce at every facility.
Question: During your April 6 testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs as part of the confirmation process, you referred to a culture problem within the Mint, and that you had started addressing that since becoming Deputy Director last October. You came up with a blueprint for change. What problems did you encounter, at which facilities, and what actions are being taken at each? Is it possible to get a copy of the Blueprint for Change?
Answer: What I’ve encountered at all Mint locations are highly engaged, skilled, creative, and dedicated employees and managers who make up an incredible workforce that produces amazingly beautiful coins, bullion and numismatic products.
Our products support commerce and delight our customers. The commitment of the Mint team is evidenced by the fact that during the first two years of an ongoing global pandemic they produced nearly 30 billion circulating coins.
We were the only world mint to operate continuously under the pressure of COVID-19. I developed what I call a Blueprint for Change with the goal of making this great institution even greater by improving the work environment for all our employees. This is an internal document, but I have implemented large portions of the blueprint for change throughout the Mint, and the implementation is ongoing and continuous.
A diverse and inclusive workforce brings us a variety of perspectives and ideas that leads to greater efficiency, creativity, innovation, and problem solving, which further enables us to achieve our mission.
Question: In other April 6 testimony you addressed the Morgan and Peace dollar production for 2022 that you chose to suspend until 2023 so there would be sufficient blanks to meet all demand, rather than limit production to what blanks could be obtained. Was any consideration given to continuity of a program even with limited mintages? What is the status of securing sufficient silver blanks?
Answer: We gave careful consideration to program continuity, but in light of the supply chain issues that prevented us from obtaining an adequate number of silver blanks, we decided it would be wisest to continue the program in 2023, when we are confident that we will have a sufficient inventory of blanks.
(Background for next question: In February 2021, the U.S. Mint introduced the Authorized Bulk Purchase Program that permits 18 undisclosed buyers the opportunity to place, in combination, orders for up to 10% of the available mintage of select products at a cost of 5% above the regular retail price.)
Question: Have you given any consideration to abandoning the ABPP program, to allow all coins being struck to be available to collectors who continue buying Mint products year after year, or expanding its scope?
Answer: The Mint serves ALL customers. The Authorized Bulk Purchase Program (ABPP) has allowed all our systems to better serve what is sometimes referred to as our “B2C” or “business to consumer” market. (“B2C”is a common marketing term, and while we’re a Federal agency and not a business, it’s useful in this context).
The separation between the sales channels has allowed the Mint to increase the sales numbers for many of our products. The B2B (“business to business”) market has benefitted by having a known quantity that will be available for them.
This enables the ABPP participants to start marketing Mint products to consumers who prefer to obtain them from that channel.
ABPP participants pay a premium over the Mint’s retail price, creating a new revenue stream and ultimately allowing the Mint to keep sales prices at a predictable level for the year.
We are also seeing the prices on the secondary marketing coming down and being more predictable. At the same time, we’ve significantly expanded our Enrollment/Subscription options, which are now available on more Mint products than in previous years. All enrollment customers have been able to purchase products.
Question: If the ABPP continues, will the Mint in advance of product releases announce which ones will offer ABPP participation, removing 10% of the mintages from public access?
Answer: The Mint will evaluate how much of a product will be for sale to each channel on an annual basis. Moving forward, the Mint is committed to outlining which products will be available under the ABPP.
The ABPP allocation is not intended to “remove” product from the B2C channel. Rather, it is intended to provide the bulk dealers with an incentive to stay out of the B2C channel.
ABPP numbers are a separate forecast function, meaning the Mint looks at each channel’s demand independently of each other. As an example, some products of ours see less than 30 percent of total available product sold directly to consumers and 70 percent to B2B, and we still have unsold products.
Unsold products can create a financial burden on programs. In closing, the Mint strives to serve as many B2C and B2B customers as we can. The Mint does this to the best of our ability, by improving data collection, forecasting by channel, and production scheduling.
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