Matthew Ruark, Head of Commercial and Healthcare Production, KeyBank, Tackles Industry Challenges as NIC Middle Market Committee Chair

by Ryan Brooks  / June 6, 2024

Middle Market  • Blog

NIC’s Strategic Plan includes objectives to ‘expand the tent’ across five key focus areas – Active Adult, AgeTech, Capital for Operations, Middle Market, and Partnering for Health. Focus Area Committees (FACs) were formed to support these efforts. The Middle Market Committee is led by Chair Matthew Ruark of Keybank. We had a chance to talk with Ruark and hear his thoughts about this important committee.     

NIC: How did you first get involved with NIC as a volunteer?

Ruark: My experience as a volunteer leader with NIC goes back to 2018 when I was asked to serve on the Fall Conference Planning Committee, which was a great introduction to the role volunteer leaders play for NIC. The chance to interact and collaborate with some of the most talented individuals from across the industry was extremely rewarding. I have been fortunate to serve on the Fall Conference Planning Committee every year since, and have led conference sessions on topics from Debt and Equity, to ESG and Middle Market over the years. In 2019, I was asked to replace Carolyn Nazdin on the NIC Board as her term was expiring. This opportunity really elevated my exposure to NIC and what it means to be a volunteer leader. I have been a part of the 5-year Strategic Plan development, navigating the pandemic and many other interesting experiences as a board member. Over the years I have served on several different committees from Active Adult to DE&I and am currently the Chair of the Middle Market Focus Area Committee. I am also the Lead Instructor for a Level 2 NIC Academy course called Debt Financing Options for the Senior Housing and Care Industry. NIC is actively looking to expand the number of volunteer leaders. I would encourage anyone that wants to get involved and be a part of shaping the industry’s future to review the information on the website and fill out the interest form. My experiences have been tremendously rewarding on both a professional and personal level.

NIC: As the chair of the Middle Market Focus Area Committee, can you tell us about the composition of the committee?

Ruark: I believe housing and caring for the Middle Market is the biggest challenge the industry faces in the coming years, and NIC has been a leader in educating and increasing the awareness of the challenges the industry faces with our Middle Market population. I was honored when NIC CEO Ray Braun asked me to lead the Focus Area Committee. I am passionate about finding a solution to this challenge society faces.

The priority after being named chair was to develop the structure of the Committee. I was very focused on creating a committee that represented a diverse group of backgrounds and perspectives on how the Middle Market challenge can be addressed. The Committee is made up of 12 industry leaders that have experience ranging from For Profit to Non-Profit, and Ownership, Operating, and Capital backgrounds. I am fortunate to have Sophia Lukas of St. Paul’s Senior Services serve as the Vice Chair of the Committee.

I viewed my biggest challenge as Chair as how to engage and keep engaged such a talented group of doers! To create engagement opportunities, we formed four sub-committees and selected Chairs to each:

  • Conference Planning – Tim Buchanan, Chair
  • Research, Data and Analytics – Bob Kramer, Chair
  • Education & Training – Kai Hsiao, Chair
  • Finance – Lee Delaveris, Chair

One of the first priorities of the Committee was to create a mission statement…Identifying scalable solutions to make housing and care more accessible for older Americans in the middle market. The sub-committees are also creating thoughts around what success looks like, all in an effort to create accountability and be able to measure success.

NIC: Why do you think it’s important for NIC to focus on the Middle Market?

Ruark: As I mentioned before, I believe housing and caring for the Middle Market in the future is the most important challenge the industry faces. As NIC Co-founder and Strategic Adviser Bob Kramer has told me on many occasions, the industry must be part of the solution! To develop a solution, we must first define the Middle Market. NIC has committed a tremendous amount of resources to defining the Middle Market. As the leading organization in the industry, I believe NIC has a responsibility to be part of the solution and to this point NIC has been a leading voice.

The Middle Market will eventually be defined by multiple cohorts with different solutions. No one approach will solve the challenge. NIC is an incubator for thought and solution development. NIC brings industry leaders together to discuss and develop solutions openly. It is critical to have an organization like NIC to be a facilitator of solutions. The Middle Market challenge is too broad for any one organization to solve. This challenge will take the industry coming together to develop new structures for owners, operators, and capital. NIC is best positioned to lead this collective effort.      

NIC: What does the Middle Market Committee aim to accomplish in the next year?

Ruark: NIC has asked the Committee to create a 3-year plan to provide advice, guidance, and recommendations on conference programming; research, data, and analytics; NIC Academy programs; and new target audiences related to the Middle Market. The Committee’s recommendations will be provided to our fellow volunteers on the implementation committees for consideration. Beyond that, the Committee is focused on being a thought leader around our Mission Statement of Identifying scalable solutions to make housing and care more accessible for older Americans in the middle market. I look forward to seeing what this group of passionately committed volunteers can develop over the next year.