Sustainability in Action - AltFinance: Investing in Black Futures
“Alternative investment firms are managing public money – of teachers, firefighters, people who work hard for the benefit of their states, towns, and communities. It’s important that the people who are investing that money reflect the people whose money they’re investing.”
– Marcus Shaw, Chief Executive Officer, AltFinance
Numbers don’t lie: the asset management industry hasn’t done enough to increase diversity in its ranks. More than 98%1 of the US-based industry’s assets under management are held by firms owned by white men, and over 86% 2 of the industry’s managing directors are white, according to recent surveys. Black professionals, in particular, are woefully underrepresented in asset management, especially in leadership roles: fewer than 3% of executive-committee-level employees identify as Black.3
Alternative asset management – which includes private equity, private debt, venture capital, real estate, and other nontraditional investment areas – is a rapidly growing segment of the asset management industry. Its $13 trillion in AUM is expected to top $23 trillion by 2026, according to Preqin, a data provider. While alternatives may offer investors a different risk/return profile than traditional asset classes, when it comes to diversity, alternative investment firms offer much of the same: Black professionals hold a tiny fraction of junior- and senior-level investment roles.
We believe alternative investment firms like Oaktree will play a key role in shaping the future of asset management. This includes helping to ensure that opportunities to enter and advance in this dynamic field are available to individuals of all backgrounds.
“Most studies would say diversity of thought and diversity of leadership lead to better outcomes. I don’t think we have to prove that point anymore. The bigger questions are how do we find the right students, how do we train, and how do we mentor and retain?”
– Milwood Hobbs, Jr., Head of North American Sourcing and Origination, Oaktree
In 2021, Oaktree teamed up with Apollo Global Management and Ares Management to create AltFinance: Investing in Black Futures, an initiative to help Black students build careers in the alternative asset management industry.
Over a ten-year period, the three founding firms will donate a combined $90 million to AltFinance. The organization will develop and run a program designed to create opportunities for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The program has three core elements:
The fellowship provides HBCU students with intensive training, mentorship, and experience in alternative investment. It was developed and implemented in partnership with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a national nonprofit focused on transforming the leadership pipelines at major U.S. companies. AltFinance initially launched the fellowship in partnership with four HBCUs: Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University.
AltFinance fellows are eligible for need-based scholarships. By reducing the financial burden of education, the program can help students devote more time and attention to developing the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed in one of today’s most competitive industries.
Students at all HBCUs will be able to access online courses through the AltFinance Institute. The courses will include curated academic content from HBCUs and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as new programming developed in partnership with the three founding firms.
“Wharton is proud to support the AltFinance Institute and to bring our world-class faculty, research, and insights to students at HBCUs. Wharton’s mission is to increase economic opportunity for all people. By partnering with AltFinance, we’re helping talented students access the knowledge and resources they need to jumpstart their careers.”
– Erika James, Dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
“I’m so excited that professionals at Oaktree will have the opportunity to be mentors and sponsors to the fellows in AltFinance. The incredible 25-year journey in the financial industry that I’ve had since graduating from college was made possible because a few people early in my life took an interest in me, cared about my development, and became my mentors. I know the power of this type of support and the difference it can make in people’s lives.”
– Jerilyn Castillo McAniff, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Oaktree
The goal of AltFinance is to ensure that students are not only better informed about possible career paths in alternative asset management but are also better equipped to seize future opportunities. Finance is an apprenticeship business. That’s why the program emphasizes the importance of making connections with industry professionals who have extensive experience and the ability to teach practical skills that aren’t typically covered in the classroom.
The program had an eventful first year and is ramping up for its next stage:
In January 2022, the inaugural cohort of 31 HBCU students began their fellowships.
AltFinance distributed more than $2.3 million in scholarships and grants.
Fellows worked with coaches from MLT and more than 50 volunteers and mentors from the three founding firms.
Nearly 70% of fellows are interning in either alternative asset management or investment banking roles.
The list of HBCU partners expanded to include Hampton University, Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, and North Carolina A&T State University.
AltFinance has planned intensive weekend educational sessions that will include trainings, panels, coaching, and mentorship in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
The AltFinance Institute will launch in Fall 2022.
AltFinance has begun to accept applications for its second cohort of fellows.
We recognize that our work has just begun and that much more needs to be done to increase Black representation in our industry. We don’t claim to have all the answers. But we hope we’re asking the right questions, and we hope AltFinance will lay the groundwork for a future in which racial diversity in the alternative investment industry will be the norm.
Spotlight: Historically Black Colleges and Universities
“Success in most industries today is dependent on finding great talent. If employers eschew HBCUs, they’ll be missing out on a deep talent pool with a ton of potential.”
– John Rice, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Management Leadership for Tomorrow
HBCUs are consistent outperformers in U.S. higher education. These institutions have produced many prominent and influential graduates, such as current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr.
While HBCU’s constitute fewer than 5% of U.S. institutions of higher learning, they account for almost one-fifth of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans and nearly one-quarter of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.4 Notably, HBCUs have achieved this success while spending less per student than U.S. universities overall (see chart below).5
AltFinance and Oaktree are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with institutions that are part of this rich historical tradition.
1 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series: Industry. 2021.
The figure is based on a survey representing U.S.-based firms with a combined $82.2 trillion in assets under
2 Money Management Institute. MMI/FundFire Survey Highlights Racial Diversity Gaps Across Asset Management Industry. 2017.
4 UNCF. HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 2017.
6 Dick Startz. When It Comes to Student Success, HBCUs Do More With Less. Brookings. 2021.
The author of the Brookings article calculated these percentages using data from the Digest of Education Statistics.
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