Our Spotlight Series column highlights individuals and organizations
making an impact in the finance industry.
How do you think the investment industry has changed, in terms of diversity, since you joined? What challenges still lie ahead?
Incremental improvements have occurred since I have joined the industry. Support groups have become much larger and more varied, relative to when I joined the industry. Groups such as SEO, NASP, NAIC, Toigo and The Consortium for Graduate Students have a much larger footprint and are more influential. Having not worked at a large institution since 2017, it is hard for me to say if any improvement has occurred in this area, but it seems like numerous initiatives have been announced. The challenge for the industry remains nurturing the best and the brightest and making sure they feel welcome at the largest global institutions, while also providing support to those who start their own endeavours.
I'm not sure being African-American has impacted my career choices directly, outside of getting a later start than some. As an undergraduate student at a large public university on the west coast, my group of friends weren't as focused on careers in asset management or investment banking, and it certainly wasn't an area that anyone in my family worked, while I was growing up.
Is there a program or programs you'd like to highlight that are doing a great job in this space?
I think the Consortium for Graduate Student Management does an excellent job of helping to finance graduate study. This removes the burden of graduate student debt from MBA students. This flexibility allows MBA graduates to enter the world of finance in non-traditional ways, or possibly pursue post graduate internships, which may not be possible when facing a large amount of graduate student debt.
With respect to industry groups, I think SEO and NAIC do a wonderful job of mentoring and providing a network for managers.
How has being a diverse individual been an asset to you and your career?
I think diverse employees in finance have a constant spotlight on them, for better or worse. People notice when you do good work and people also notice when you aren't doing good work. Very early in my career this was a challenge, as I switched careers after graduate school and probably didn't understand financial services as well as some of my peers who had worked in finance before graduate school. But as time went on, I feel some of my accomplishments were possibly noticed more than they otherwise might have been the case. While there are certainly few diverse individuals in financial services and asset management, this can be a positive for those who are doing exceptional work, as they will be noticed.
What values or policies can companies adopt to promote diversity and inclusion?
At my firm, we have a simple policy of making sure that we interview at least one woman or minority for any open position. This pushes us to interact with non-traditional sources of candidates and increases the diversity of thought in our business. Further, we push the boards of the companies where we are invested to achieve some level of diversity. This initially manifested itself in us pushing our boards to appoint additional minority candidates, but has branched out to gender diversity as well.