The Greenwood Project’s mission to create a more diverse Wall Street
Angelina Carreras, 20, a junior student at DePaul University in Chicago, recalls the intense four-week training she underwent last summer before working as a stock trading intern at Charles Schwab.
“We started with financial modeling. I didn’t know anything about financial statements,” she said. “It was definitely a big learning curve.”
And, the most important lesson learned, she said, was to find a new career path.
“I hope to be a wealth management advisor in the future,” Carreras said. “Without the Greenwood Project, I wouldn’t even have known it was available to me.”
The Greenwood Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit, aims to expose black and Latino high school and college students to careers in finance beyond entry-level positions by providing financial literacy training, internships and mentoring.
Project Greenwood Fellows learn the intricacies of finance through an intensive four-week classroom training program.
“I wanted to make sure there was access and pathways for students who may not have known opportunities existed in the financial industry,” said Elois Joseph, 43, a former FINRA senior examiner. who founded the Greenwood Project with her husband Bevon, 44. .
The name honors the historically prosperous community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also known as “Black Wall Street”. On May 31, 1921, a mob of white residents destroyed Greenwood and murdered over 300 black residents.
Eloise and Bevon say they too are building a vibrant community of future finance professionals. “We’re not just internships, not just summer high school programs. It’s really bigger,” Bevon says. “That’s why we describe it as a family.”
While Latinos make up 18% of the US workforce, only 10% of CFOs are Latino, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blacks make up 13% of the US workforce, while only 9% of CFOs are black.
Bevon calls the Greenwood project an instant success – 20 years in the making. With over 40 years of combined experience in the financial services industry, throughout their careers, Elois and Bevon have too often noticed the lack of diversity.
“I looked around the room and not a lot of people looked like me,” Bevon says.
As his career has progressed, the lack of diversity has worsened, he says, and it’s an environment that discourages minorities from seeking careers in financial services.
They launched the Greenwood project in 2015 in Chicago, Elois’s hometown, after Bevon left his position as CTO of a hedge fund.
Many of their students don’t grow up talking about Wall Street at their table, according to Bevon. Their motto is “You can’t be what you can’t see”.
Create a new generation of wealth
Project Greenwood works with corporate partners, including Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab and Janus Henderson, who invest in Project Greenwood and hire their students as paid interns.
The Josephs hope that by exposing students to careers in finance, it will ultimately allow them to create generational wealth. High school students enrolled in the program are encouraged to think about finance before choosing an academic major, and although they are not required to pursue a career in finance, nearly 80% of graduates currently work in finance.
Bevon (L) and Elois Joseph, co-founders of the Greenwood Project
The Greenwood Project
Currently, the university program attracts students from across the United States, with interns in cities including Chicago, Denver, and New York. The nonprofit high school program serves children in the Chicago area. High school students spend six weeks during the summer learning about the finance industry by visiting different businesses each day.
The pilot class consisted of five students in 2016. Since then, Project Greenwood has served over 400 high school and college students and plans to help 220 students in 2022. Today, students are recruited nationwide through online advertisements. Alumni serve as ambassadors by recruiting students and showing them the opportunities available to them.
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“They provide you with a network that you could never access,” says Hayes Bynum, 26, Project Greenwood alumnus, fixed-income partner at Piper Sandler. “I always felt like I had talent and I always felt like I was going to succeed. I just felt like I didn’t have enough information or enough exposure to the necessary career paths. “
“What we’re doing is we’re planting seeds in the whole industry. Our young people are going to keep getting promoted, going up the ranks, and they’re going to bring people with them,” Bevon said. “We tell the young people in our program, ‘The Greenwood project is going to open a lot of doors for you, once you get into your job, you have to keep the door open.'”
Everything changed after George Floyd
Initially, the couple relied on their social capital to find business partners. But everything changed in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. More companies wanted to partner with the Greenwood project.
“In the summer of 2020, we went from having 20 partners over three years to ending the year with 30 partners. Bevon said.
Today, the Greenwood Project partners with 55 companies, and more are on the waiting list.
“More and more people are realizing the need for diversity of talent, diversity of people, and we’ve become something of a diversity provider,” says Elois.
This year, The Greenwood Project announced a new partnership with Citadel and Citadel Securities to expand its high school summer program. With funding from the Chicago-based hedge fund giant, the project will expand to more than 60 high school students on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Bevon says students and corporate partners benefit from these programs. Students learn more about the industry and have access to mentorship. While businesses, especially small businesses, have access to an untapped pool of talent.
One of the flaws of modern recruiting, according to Bevon, is its lack of diversity. “They keep fishing the same ponds and don’t watch a lot of small schools. We’re disrupting financial recruitment,” he said.
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