Black CEO on the “rocket fuel” needed to close racial wealth gap

Entrepreneur and investor Eddie C. Brown is no stranger to adversity. 

In an op-ed written for The Washington Post titled “I’m a black CEO. I’ve been discounted on Wall Street because of my skin color.,” Brown detailed his rise through the Jim Crow South to the top of the finance world, all while being “doubted, discounted and judged reflexively” because of the color of his skin. Brown discussed the rampant inequities that exist in corporate America, and his reservations amid loud pledges to change from many of the country’s top companies during a mass movement against racism. 

Speaking on CBSN on Friday, Brown said “equity” is the “rocket fuel” that can propel Black households toward closing the racial wealth gap. 

“That is sorely lacking in big percentages in corporate America,” he said. “At Brown Capital, we made sure all our employees have equity ownership in the firm.”

There are currently only four Black CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. Brown Capital Management, which Brown founded 37 years ago, manages more than $14 billion in client assets. 

He said there were minority and Black-owned investment firms with “stellar track records” that “don’t get a fair shot.”

“What has been really surprising to me, and this is true with other minority-owned, especially African-American owned investment firms —is you can do it, it is very quantifiable, it is not judgmental — and yet we don’t gain a fair share of that $69 trillion out there, of assets to be managed,” he said.

Brown said one major hurdle is the “gatekeepers,” or consultants, around major financial assets that hold lists of trusted investment firms. He said minority-owned firms rarely, if ever made the list. 

“It is alarming that the situation exists,” he said. 

Brown’s firm employs predominantly Black candidates to expand representation in the financial sector, which is sorely lacking diversity.  He said a “common refrain” in the corporate world is that they cannot find enough talented, diverse candidates. 

“You have to look for it,” he challenged.

According to Brown, company decision-making begins in the boardroom, and that is where the push for representation has to start.  “That’s where the asset decisions are made,” he said. “You need more representation at the center of power, where the major decisions are made.”

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