Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BE's Who's Who on Wall Street, 2011

Chris Williams of Williams Capital
After financial turmoil in 2008-09, Black Enterprise magazine decided to wait a year or two before presenting its occasional list of the most powerful blacks on Wall Street. It figured it needed to watch the shake-out in the industry and observe the impact on African-Americans.

In its latest issue (http://www.blackenterprise.com/), it decided now is a good time to update its list, although Wall Street, banking and trading have experienced many bumps and bruises in 2011.  It failed to answer conclusively whether African-Americans took unfair, backward steps in diversity progress among top banks, brokers and financial institutions.  Everybody took hits during 2009-10, all groups and genders, including African-Americans in entry and middle-level roles. We all saw the industry reduce staff by the thousands during the crisis.And we saw how some on their own fled the industry to avoid stress and uncertainty or to explore other opportunities with less strain.

With signs of an upturn in 2010 and with institutions recommitting themselves to older diversity initiatives, it's not yet clear whether blacks are returning to Wall Street in the same numbers as before. Banks are reaching out to hire African-Americans interested in banking and finance, but like many in the population, blacks may not be raising their hands as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s. Many don't want to confront anxiety, possible layoffs, and going to work not sure where the industry is headed in the next year. Many on the inside confront that now, as we head into bonus and appraisal season.

In its latest list, however, Black Enterprise observed that many senior African-Americans in the industry continue in senior roles.  The latest list includes familiar names, people who have been top players in investment banking, investment management, and private equity for the past 10-15 years; some more than 20 years.

Many on the list include top executives of familiar black-owned firms:  Chris Williams (above) of Williams Capital, John Rogers of Ariel Investments, Bernard Beal of M.R. Beal, Tracy Maitland of Advent Capital, Donald Rice of Rice Financial, James Reynolds of Loop Capital, and Calvin Grigsby of Grisby Associates.

The list also includes known investment bankers, managing directors or senior advisers at top banks--those prominent in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, municipal finance or corporate advisory: Raymond McGuire at Citi, Rodney Miller at JPMorgan, Carla Harris and Melissa James at Morgan Stanley, and William Lewis at Lazard.

It includes an impressive number who have made their marks in private equity:  Ronald Blaylock, founder at GenNx360 Capital, Terry Jones of Syncom Venture Partners, Raymond Whiteman of Carlyle, and Adebayo Ogunlesi at Global Infrastructure (a GE venture).

Most of the above have had long careers on Wall Street (more than 20 years); many started at major banks and moved on to start their own firms after gaining experience, contact and access to capital. 

The BE list includes a couple who made their names elsewhere, but turned to Wall Street in the latter parts of their careers:  Robert Johnson of BET fame and fortune is on the list for having started a middle-market private-equity firm.  Vernon Jordan, best known for his roles at the National Urban League and as a Clinton presidential insider, is a senior managing director at Lazard.

The list, for some reason, excludes Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA-CREF, the large retirement fund with over $480 billion in assets. Ferguson is also a former governor at the Federal Reserve.  And it excludes Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, arguably more powerful than all 75 on the current list. Black Enterprise couldn't have forgotten him, since it has featured him often on covers and in articles over the past two decades. 

Black Enterprise's list shows where there might be gaps on Wall Street, segments of financial services where blacks have virtually no role, are negligible in numbers or have not been able to penetrate at all--even if they have desire and interest. The list, for example, doesn't include many blacks who are sufficiently senior to be included in equity research, industry analysts who present their financial views of companies publicly and whose opinions about specific companies or macroeconomic trends can move markets in minutes.

Notably, the list doesn't include many African-Americans who are senior traders at prominent hedge funds or high-frequency trading firms or who are partners at Silicon Valley venture capital firms. That might not be an accident. Market-influencing hedge funds, high-frequency trading firms and ground-breaking venture firms are private. They operate in hush-hush environments. They tend to hire among small circles in tight networks and are indifferent to the benefits of diversity. Young African-Americans learn about these firms at business school, in exploring opportunities in finance, and from networks.But they have tough times when they knock on those doors--at least in junior positions.

Black Enterprise's list, once again, shows there are indeed many blacks--even post-crisis--who aspire to careers on Wall Street, who want to trade, invest, do research, manage portfolios, advise companies and finance start-ups, who want to help companies and municipalities fund operations, and who want to consider starting their own boutiques and shops when they are ready.

Tracy Williams

No comments:

Post a Comment