After competing against other highly qualified students to land a coveted spot in an exclusive business club on campus, Cheick Camara ‘22 noticed a glaring issue within the organization: a lack of diversity.
Camara was one of the only people of color, and he noticed this same trend in many other top finance clubs at Cornell University.
These statistics reflect a larger problem as well, as a report from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission revealed that black employees in fund management and securities roles made up 5.1 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.
To try and bridge the access gap for minorities, Camara — along with Ermias Tadesse ‘22 — co-founded BlackGen Capital, the first black investment fund on campus. While building the team, Camara highlighted diversity in both background and majors to foster a greater range of thoughts and ideas.
Following its first semester of recruitment, BlackGen Capital received 72 applications and accepted 24 members, or 33 percent, an acceptance rate unheard of among many more selective finance clubs on campus.
BlackGen Capital’s investment focus is on “small cap companies with enormous growth potential [that] will be around long-term and become dominant in their industry spaces,” Camara said. The fund looks toward four industries — tech, consumer, healthcare and energy — as their main areas of interest to invest in.
To ensure that its members are well prepared for a career in finance, BlackGen Capital hosts a 10-week training program that covers a wide breadth of topics including accounting and Powerpoint and resume building. This education series hones in on popular professional avenues for students interested in the finance industry in general, including consulting, venture capital, and real estate.
Through the 10-week program, BlackGen Capital provides a suit of educational resources to minorities interested in a career in finance. This addresses the longstanding issue of scarce resources for certain people of color in the U.S. — a disadvantage that feeds into disproportionate educational outcomes, and by consequence professional outcomes.
Outside of providing resources to bridge the access gap for minorities, addressing the issue of diversity in the financial services industry requires buy-in from the large financial institutions behind the scant statistics. Along with the other members of his team, Camara established partnerships with bulge brackets to garner funding for the organization.
In exchange for donations, BlackGen Capital offers investment banks close access to its members. Creating such a pipeline for recruitment is one solution that banks have been exploring with diversity programming and diversity-focused recruitment, as some banks have come under scrutiny for not publishing concrete data of its workforces.
BlackGen Capital is also committed to developing the financial know-how of other students on campus. One of its initiatives includes hosting personal finance workshops throughout the semester that educate students on how to invest by going over the basics of investing such as the difference between safe and risky assets.
Social progress in the financial services industry still has a long way to go, and it is often difficult to bring issues like underrepresentation of minorities to light in traditional spaces. Even some of the largest investment banks and finance firms in the world struggle with combating racial biases, stereotyping and discrimination in both their recruitment practices and the workplace.
However, the founders of BlackGen Capital are facing this problem head-on, bringing the finance industry one step closer to this goal of diversifying the financial sphere. By growing and educating a highly diverse team of underrepresented students, BlackGen Capital hopes to offer new and stronger insights than ever.