Citigroup recently became the first major U.S. bank to name a woman, Jane Fraser, as its chief executive, laying bare the continued dominance of white men on Wall Street.
For people of color, it has also been an uphill battle to enter the highest levels of management, despite their qualifications.
Wall Street Bound, a nonprofit organization, is on a mission to knock down the barriers that prevent students of color from starting a finance career and reaching the top echelons of power on Wall Street. It provides them with the resources, internships and professional connections needed to succeed in that environment.
Exposure to Wall Street
In 2019, Wall Street Bound launched its inaugural Introduction to Wall Street Bootcamp at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights. Since then, the organization’s training programs have grown and expanded in reach.
During the summer, more than a dozen students from St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights participated in the bootcamp. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the organizers to deliver training virtually. It consisted of a three-week curriculum of workshops and guest speakers that focused on building the students’ professional skills and provided them with mentorship.
“Our students are extraordinarily talented, but many do not have the exposure to Wall Street that makes it easy to imagine a career for themselves there,” St. Francis College President Miguel Martinez-Saenz said in a statement.
He continued: “Wall Street Bound introduces students of color to successful women and men — including many who are Black and Brown — and equips them with knowledge that can set the stage for lucrative and fulfilling lives in investing fields.”
Inspiring aspiring entreprenures
Martha Lakhan, a St. Francis sophomore who participated in the bootcamp, told BK Reader that there was a lot of energy between the students and the presenters, even though they were forced to use Zoom because of the pandemic.
“We were all very eager to learn,” she said, “and the speakers were very inspiring.”
Lakhan is an aspiring entrepreneur who has an interest in finance. She plans to launch a filmmaking and photography business.
“There are so many ways I could use the information I received from the bootcamp,” said the communications major. “I may or may not change majors but will take economics and finance courses in the coming semesters.”
Although she had never thought before the bootcamp about working on Wall Street, Lakhan added, “if the opportunity arises, I will surely take it.”
Dedicated to opening doors
Wall Street Bound founder Troy Prince has a laser focus on helping to create those opportunities. The former Wall Street institutional equity trader had a successful career as one of the few Black professionals working in the capital markets.
Prince started his Wall Street career working part-time while in college, he told BK Reader. The only diversity he recalled back in the late 1980s was in operations (back office and support), but not on the coveted trading floor where “paychecks were 10 times bigger” and almost exclusively white and male.
For about 15 years, he contemplated creating an organization to help urban youth achieve their Wall Street dreams. Prince, who had been living in Vietnam for five years, finally acted on his vision after returning home to New York for a short visit.
While traveling on the subway, he saw some kids dancing on the train for money.
“Nothing has really changed,” he recalled, thinking about what he saw. “I was 48 years old and said to myself that there’s no better time to do this. It’s definitely needed,” Prince added.
Since then, he has dedicated himself to actively finding new ways to open doors on Wall Street to marginalized people. In June, Prince announced a strategic partnership with Maverick Trading to launch Wall Street Bound’s Diverse Trader Training Program, which is now accepting applications.