Celebrating Black Impact Investing Professionals
Black History Month Edition
Four Black sustainable finance professionals in our network share their experiences in both the impact investing and traditional finance industries.
Allocating capital to diverse asset managers has been a growing imperative for driving equity in the endowments investment process. However, institutional diversity efforts can often create a temporary impulse to act and then dwindle, leaving the structural problem unresolved. A Knight Foundation report shows that diverse-owned asset management firms manage only 1.4% of the $82 trillion asset management industry. Given this context, what are some of the experiences of Black finance professionals?
This Black History Month, we interviewed four Black sustainable finance professionals in our network to learn about their experiences in both the impact investing and traditional finance industries. We specifically asked about the motivation behind their career choice, the challenges they face in the field, and ways non-Black colleagues could best support them.
Monique Aiken, Managing Director at TIIP; Kunle Apampa, Head of Client Solutions at Capricorn Investment Group; Pedro Henriques da Silva, Associate of Impact Investments at Global Endowment Management (GEM); and Angela Outlaw-Matheny, Director of Investment Staff & Diverse Manager Equity at Crewcial Partners graciously provided responses to IEN. For the most part, they joined the field of sustainable investing because of their first-hand experience with the effects of inequality in their communities and their understanding of what impact investing should be. Although talented and skilled, they suggest Black professionals need mentorship and network opportunities to access career mobility and, eventually, equity in the finance industry. Responses have been edited and condensed for brevity.
Monique Aiken, Managing Director at TIIP and theCo-founder of Make Justice Normal and the ReStarter Fund was inspired to join the social impact investing sector by her desire to understand capital markets and to have more impact in the world. As a Black woman in the field, she sometimes experienced “onliness” -- being the only person of color, or the only woman in a meeting or group ---but managed to cultivate a sisterhood with other women for mutual support.
Anti-Blackness, in her opinion, is a significant threat to equity and a barrier to the sustainable finance industry. However, she thinks Black professionals, especially women, are better positioned to understand why investing should be impactful and sustainable as they continue to bring innovative ideas to the industry.
She suggests that non-Black colleagues need to self-educate on the history of extraction, contributions, and innovations of black people to be better allies. And to future Black students considering a career in impact investing, Monique says, “Sustainable finance, impact investing, and system-level investing are the future of finance, the survival of our planet depends on it……. If you want a career in finance that is future-proofed, this is where to be.” Read Monique’s full interview.
Kunle Apampa, Head of Client Solutions, Capricorn Investment Group, originally from Lagos, Nigeria, chose a career in impact investing in his journey to understand the purpose of capital in our society. He brings a unique perspective to the asset management industry as a Black professional and an African immigrant. He recognizes the need for more representation, awareness, and coaching to address the lack of equity in the industry.
Viewing the impact investing field as a relationship-driven business, Kunle plans to leverage his network to drive success for other Black professionals in the space. To the aspiring Black sustainability professionals, Kunle says, “Do not chase the job; rather chase the skill sets.” Read Kunle's full interview.
Pedro Henriques da Silva, Associate, Impact Investments, GEM, originally from the Washington, D.C. area, found his way into impact investing through sustainable innovators’ work, his sense of curiosity, and the field’s ability to create meaningful impact where other sectors cannot. His unique perspective as a Black professional has been his ability to see how capital allocation affects everyday people's lives, from the most affected by climate change to social mobility challenges and inequity in business funding.
Pedro considers the lack of exposure and support as the main barriers to equity in the sustainable investing industry. Still, he sees a future built on community, mutual respect, and support, a recipe for success in the space. He counsels non-Black professionals not to be afraid of being wrong, to be willing to listen, and to act as advocates of their Black colleagues.
To young Black students considering a career in impact investing, Pedro asks them to see capital as a tool to shape lives similar to how we use policy or technology. Hence, “If you want to make a difference, don't just look into research and policy--look into finance, and sustainable finance in particular.” Read Pedro’s full interview.
Angela Outlaw-Matheny, Director of Investment Staff & Diverse Manager Equity at Crewcial Partners, LLC, is from Brooklyn, New York. Being born the year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, her childhood community and educational experiences, coupled with the absence of a mentor, led her to the impact investing field.
Her unique perspective in the field allows her to allocate capital to women and Black investors, which she considers a pathway to equity. Angela denounces the lack of Black representation on the investment decision table which in return contributes to inequality in the investment ecosystem. She sees Black women and professionals as the fast-growing community of entrepreneurs and hopes they receive fair compensation for their skills and talent.
She holds that if non-Black colleagues diversify their programs and create a sense of belonging for Black people in their communities, it will help produce better investment returns. Angela tells aspiring Black sustainable professionals, “There will be seasons where you will learn, earn, and return to finally align your talent and interests with something that does not feel like work but is impactful; aim for that!” Read Angela’s full interview.
We may still have a long way to go before colleges and universities endowment commit an equitable portion of their assets to Black asset managers, but the few that have entrusted their money to firms owned by women and Black professionals perform just as well as their less diverse peers. To support the growth of Black professionals in the sustainable finance industry, non-Black professionals need to create a welcoming space for their Black counterparts.
They can educate themselves on the history and effects of inequality on Black people, diversifying their programs, become advocates of Black colleges in their absence, and elevate them to positions of leadership via their networks, and skills and talent recognition. Times like Black History Month should be a moment to assess their contribution toward Back professionals achievements and to authentically celebrate with them.
We hope to see these collaborative aspirations take shape and consequently help drive equity in the endowments investment space.