Katherine Bodoh and Ruth Batson talk about AGS’ future and role in the new retail landscape
This week, the American Gem Society (AGS) announced that current deputy executive director Katherine Bodoh would become head of both the AGS and its diamond lab next year. She replaces longtime head Ruth Batson, who announced her decision to retire in February. Here, Bodoh and Batson (pictured, l. and r.) talk about the changing of the guard and how AGS fits into the new retail landscape.
JCK: Katherine, what are your priorities when you take over next year?
Katherine Bodoh: My first priority is to make sure that we are delivering value to our members and our clients. That is why AGS exists. Our mission is to deliver ongoing education and ensure consumer protection.
My second priority is to make sure our staff has the ability to develop and grow in their current roles.
I want to focus on innovation and technology—both how we harness that to deliver member benefits and how do we use that with research and development in our laboratory.
JCK: Obviously the ranks of independent jewelers are shrinking. Where do you see AGS fitting into that?
Bodoh: We have very successful and great members in our organization. We will continue to look for members who are committed to the right things, like ongoing education, ethics, and building that critical relationship with their customers. When independent retailers can differentiate themselves and provide unique experiences to their customers, they can succeed. AGS wants to arm them with the ability to deliver those unique experiences.
Ruth Batson: I strongly believe that our mission is as relevant today as it was in 1934. Trust and transparency and consumer protection are key to success. We tend to have the better jewelers as members—multigenerational solid leaders of the industry. We are not immune to what’s happening, but it’s not affecting us as much as it is [happening] on the macro level. Our goal is to arm our jewelers with the tools they need to be successful. One of the things that we are working on with our members is a more robust online presence for consumers that want to learn more about a jeweler before they step in the door.
JCK: Do you want to expand consumer awareness of the AGS?
Bodoh: Consumer awareness is a priority. It is something that we look to enhance every single day. We launched a consumer awareness campaign in GQ, Glamour, and The Knot, and we are doing even more this year. We have a strong social media presence. We are partnering with a few organizations to reach the consumer market. That is something we are looking to enhance to spread our mission and vision to the consumer public.
JCK: Ruth, any thoughts on this transition?
Batson: I’m very excited and comforted that Katherine is taking over. She went through a very robust and lengthy interview and search process. I’m very proud of her. She is a lot like me in many ways. She has a great commitment to our members and our mission of consumer protection. She is already a member of the great team that we have here at AGS. She is going to be a wonderful new leader.
JCK: What advice did you give Katherine?
Batson: My advice is to be humble and to appreciate the big responsibility on her shoulders. She represents this organization and all of the fine jewelers in this organization. If you continue to serve your membership and your clients, you will be fine.
JCK: Anything we don’t know about her that we might find interesting?
Batson: She’s exactly the same age that I was when I took over the American Gem Society, 38. She is already light years ahead of me.
JCK: Katherine, any thoughts on this job you’re taking on?
Bodoh: I have a deep respect for AGS. The first time I met Ruth was my first year at MJSA. Someone pulled me aside and said, “You should get to know Ruth Batson, she is a prominent person in the industry.” And they looked at me and said, “Maybe one day you can grow up and have that job.” Just having the chance to work with her is a lifelong dream.
It’s a huge honor to represent and serve the membership of the AGS. I am very humbled and honored. We will work hard every single day to meet and exceed expectations.
(Photos courtesy of the American Gem Society)