Opening Doors Together | Get Involved in Diversifying the Talent Pipeline
March 24, 2022
The problem is simple. As Ammani Nagesh of Kirkland & Ellis summed it up, for many minority college students, the financial services industry is an “unconventional career path.”
Nagesh was speaking at the 2022 IAA Compliance Conference, in a conversation with Keith Shoates, Chief Operating Officer of the Student Freedom Initiative.
Shoates provided the lunchtime audience with an introduction to the Student Freedom Initiative. The non-profit seeks “to address the systemic issue of the wealth gap through the lens of education,” initially with students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), summarized Shoates.
The Initiative grew out of the vision of Robert F. Smith, the CEO of Vista Equity Partners. Smith made headlines during his 2019 commencement speech at Morehouse College, when he announced that he would take on the debt obligations for the roughly 400 graduating students.
Shoates explained that the Initiative, which launched in 2021, currently has four programs:
- An income-contingent alternative to loans, to help students defray the costs of education.
- Internships, to ensure that graduating students are career ready.
- Microgrants, to help students cope with one-time emergencies and remain on track with their studies.
- Capacity building, to increase the resilience and competitiveness of HBCUs.
While the Initiative’s primary focus has been on STEM careers, it has also been working with industry partners to pilot a program that creates an on-ramp for minority students into financial services.
The Investment Adviser Association and the Student Freedom Initiative are currently in conversations about expanding this pilot into an ongoing program that would introduce students at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions to financial services careers. The program is expected to launch in the fall.
The IAA welcomes member participation in the planning for this effort. Members who are interested in joining the conversation should contact IAA Vice President, Business Practices, Nancy Hancock. You can watch the full discussion on YouTube.