In this episode, host Julia Streets is joined by Dorien Nuñez, Speaker, Author, Researcher, Consultant and Principal and Co-Founder of The OMNIResearch Group and Paris Prince, Director – Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion for The Intentional Endowments Network.
Both from the United States, Dorien shares his experience of five decades on Wall Street and together they chart the changes through diversity, equity and inclusion. They explore furthering the ESG debate within financial services and make fascinating comparisons between the US and the UK. Paris takes the diversity discussion to new bounds with his views on JEDI and both offer listeners practical suggestions to drive real change.
Dorien Nunez is a Speaker, Author, Researcher, Consultant and Principal and Co-Founder of The OMNIResearch Group. Nunez began his career on Wall Street 50 years ago and earned his CFA 30 years ago. He’s been an Equity Analyst, CIO of an Emerging Hedge Fund of Funds and a PM for a Fixed Income Emerging Manager Fund of Funds. He’s a recognized expert on Trustee Education and Performance Measurement and a Subject Matter Expert Witness on litigation cases on Alternative Assets and Hedge Funds. He has been a Service Delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business under President Bill Clinton, a Consultant to the U.S. Commission on Minority Business Development under President George H.W. Bush. He has served as an Advisor to various Governors, State Treasurers, Mayors, City Councils and public officials nationally.
Paris Prince (they/them) was born and raised on Chicago’s south side, and studied in Worcester, Massachusetts where they attained a BS in Business Administration (Becker College) and MBA in Social Change (Clark University). Paris has successfully led a vast variety of strategic justice, equity, diversity & inclusion (JEDI) initiatives at leading institutions of research, inquiry and education in diverse learning communities across the world. Paris currently collaborates with institutions of higher education around sustainable investing as Director of JEDI at the Intentional Endowments Network in the Crane Institute of Sustainability. Previously, Paris served as Director of Inclusion at the global health equity nonprofit GlobeMed, where they developed partnerships for a diverse global health workforce in concert with USAID and the Public Health Institute. They have also served as faculty at the Department of Management Information Systems at Mississippi State University and as Special Assistant for LG
Series Fifteen, Episode Four Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast talking about equity, inclusion and diversity in financial services.
On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. And before we get started today, I just want to take a moment to thank our friends at City A.M., who have given DiverCity Podcast a new home at Impact AM. Their page is dedicated to ESG, Impact Investment, DE&I and more. We really appreciate that they publish and promote both our episodes and our supporting blog series so that their readers can stay right on top of the very latest diversity, equity and inclusion debate. So thank you to City A.M. Now, I’ve been so looking forward to this episode because I’m joined by two greats, Dorien Nunez and Paris Prince.
Dorien Nunez is a speaker, author, researcher, consultant, and principal. He’s the co-founder of the OMNI Research Group and the co-founder of OMNI Wall Street Advantage, which is all about promoting DE&I from the boardroom to the classroom.
He started his career on Wall Street some 50 years ago, and he’s been an equity analyst, CIO of an emerging hedge funder funds and a PM for a fixed income emerging manager funder funds. He’s a recognised expert and advisor on trustee education pension funds, and he also conducts ESG research. Dorien has been a service delegate to the White House Conference on small business under president’s Bill Clinton and a consultant to the US Commission on Minority Business Development under President George H.W. Bush. And he served as an advisor to various governors, state treasurers, mayors, city councils, and public officials. He created and taught a course on black entrepreneurship in addition to teaching entrepreneurship and investments as adjunct professor at various universities. We’re delighted he’s here. Dorien, thanks for being on the show.
Dorien: Thank you for having me. Very excited about being here.
Julia: Joining Dorien is Paris Prince, Paris who prefers to be known as they or them, has successfully led a vast variety of strategic justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. And when we talk about justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, you’ll hear it referred to as JEDI. Those initiatives have been at leading institutions of research inquiry and education in diverse learning communities right the way across the world. Paris currently collaborates with institutions of higher education around sustainable investing as Director of JEDI at the Intentional Endowments Network at the Crane Institute of Sustainability. And previously they served as director of inclusion at the Global Health Equity Nonprofits, GlobeMed, where they developed partnerships for a diverse global health workforce in concert with US AID and the Public Health Institute. Paris has also served as a faculty of the Department of Management Information Systems and Mississippi State University and a special assistant for LGBTQ initiatives and senior LGBTQ Equity Officer at Virginia Commonwealth University. What I also would particularly call out, is they’ve also served as compliance officer at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Paris, it’s wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks for being with us.
Paris: Thank you, Julia. I’m so glad to join you all around the world in this conversation that something I care very much about, and that is JEDI.
Julia: As I was saying about Dorien as well. I’ve got so, so many questions. But let me start by coming to each of you. I’m so intrigued about what you are focused on right now, and Dorien, perhaps I could come to you first of all.
Dorien: Right now I’m pulling much of this together and right now we’re going global. That’s what we are doing and that’s part of our presence here. Through the magic of technology and Zoom and the internet, we’re able to do that.
I’m focused on promoting more diversity on boards. A group of my fellow classmates from Harvard University and Harvard Business School, where I attended, both institutions have come together and we’ve created a group called Black and Crimson Passport to Boards made up of experienced alumni who are serving on boards, interested in serving on boards and want to help others serve on boards. So that’s taking a large portion of my time. At the other end of the spectrum, because I started on Wall Street 50 years ago when I was a high school student at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, we are focusing on opportunities for high school and college students to get entered into the investment industry.
When I’m not doing that, we work on what I call the messy middle, which is promoting opportunities for emerging managers, diverse managers, the new CFA guidelines. Those two ends of the spectrum, boardroom, classroom and in the classroom we start at the high school level and a number of these groups are doing things globally, including in London.
Julia: That’s wonderful. And to hear that whole career journey, and I love the fact that you focused on the classroom. I had a fantastic episode recently with some students aged about 14/15 and hearing their thoughts about the pathway into financial services. So much of that I’m keen to get into. Paris, may I ask you, what are you focused on right now?
Paris: The financial space is so entrenched, much like the educational space, where I had problems entering into college campuses and also entering into workplaces. I, myself, became interested in JEDI work, due to those persistent barriers and challenges I faced as a student matriculating through predominantly white institutions. So very much attuned to that now in the financial space as well.
Julia: This is really interesting because it plays on a number of areas we focus on in the podcast. One of them is about this fascinating intersection between ESG impact investing and the role of D&I in driving change and impact. And I’ve heard some people talk about, this is so heart and centre to resilience, particularly when we start thinking about measurements and standardisation of impact investments. The second thing is also about representation. Representation of role models and being able to go out and extend one’s influence even further to encourage others into the industry. I was amused by your remarks, or I smiled, should I say perhaps at your remarks there about being joined today by Dorien. And Dorien, may I start with you? I would be very, very curious to pick up on the point that you came into Wall Street some 50 years ago. Talk to us a little bit if you would, about your experience about some of the progress and achievements you’ve observed and how you’ve been involved in promoting D&I.
Dorien: First, let me start by saying the hardest job to get on Wall Street is your first job. I was very fortunate that even though I came from a family that when my mother did not have a college education, I got a scholarship to go away to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Very prestigious boarding school, Andover, Exeter, St. Paul’s, England has its own set of elite boarding prep schools. While I was there, as a 10th grader, on the board was the chairman of Morgan Guarantee, now known as JPMorgan Chase and an executive at Banker’s Trust, now known as Deutsche Bank. And an astute teacher said, “Some of our inner city kids that are here could use summer jobs.” I’m giving you the short version. And so we went into the employment office, filled out papers, went to the movies afterwards, and then two months later we were told we all had jobs on Wall Street.
That was my first job as a messenger. And as a messenger I worked right across from the Stock Exchange, 14 Wall Street, and delivered commercial paper, foreign exchange notes. I would go to the FED every day and you see the Wall Street on the news every night, the Dow Jones, and I’m going, “I know what’s going on there. I work there. I work around there.” So that was where the seed got planted. 50 years later, I’m proud to say that NASDAQ recognised our efforts in promoting high school students and put us up on the big tower there for OMNI Wall Street Advantage for the work that we did. So that’s why you have to start young, start early, and then be persistent. There’s certainly been progress. To say that there hasn’t been progress, would not be accurate, but to say that there’s been enough progress, would be equally inaccurate.
What I like about today is that there are more people than ever focused on the issue of diversity. And the UK has really led with its gender diversity effort in the industry. It took a while to get over to the United States, and now it seems to be spreading its wings more into racial and ethnic diversity, which is still lagging behind. There’s a group called NASP, that I was originally part of, still part of, National Association of Securities Professionals, started by Maynard Jackson and others, former mayor of Atlanta, which focused on women and minorities. And that has spun off into New America Alliance. There’s the Asian American Investment Managers Association, so are a lot of groups that are focused on this. But the drawback of two things, one, not enough assets are being allocated to diverse and emerging asset managers despite the fact that my alma mater, Harvard Business School, has done a study showing that they perform as well or better than their non-BIPOC or non-diverse peers.
We overlook the importance of jobs in the brokerage industry. That gets overlooked all the time and I’m always beating that drum. And that’s where most of us got started. That’s where most of the consulting firms got started. And so we have to reduce barriers to entry there. The SEC has done that with what’s called the SIE exam. If I may take a moment, in the past in order to get your brokerages licence, you had to find a firm that would sponsor you. Well, white shoe firms, if I could use that old term, they were less likely to sponsor BIPOC individuals and others. But now you can take the SIE exam for $65. You don’t have to be sponsored by anyone. You sign up, you take the test, you get the exam, and now you go to an employer and you can say, “See how serious I am. See how ready I am. See how prepared I am.”
So these types of things are super important and that’s what we try to emphasise with Wall Street Advantage, is the free opportunities and low cost resources that are out there to improve diversity within the industry, at least in terms of entry points. Getting promotions of course, is a whole other challenge that has to be worked on and continues to be worked on.
Julia: I love the fact that the focus is very much on lowering those barriers to entry, because there have been so many barriers that have stood in the way. So just that they’re just taking away some of that. I absolutely agree with you, which is that those whole career journey pathways, and that’s why I also love the work you’re doing from boardroom right the way down to the classroom because enlightened leaders recognising that actually by creating diverse teams, will ultimately drive better performance because that’s what everybody cares about, whether you’re on Wall Street or anywhere in business, it’s all about outperforming your peer group on your competition.
Dorien: Not enough energy is put onto the requirement or the opportunity to develop a committed and enlightened Board of Directors, too often DEI, JEDI is a compliance issue, it’s an HR issue. No, it is a corporate leadership issue. And that’s where you really must start. Hats off to Financial Times. Two years ago, they put out a directory through one of their publications called Agenda that focused on diverse board members of board ready people. And that was part of the spark for us to create Black and Crimson Passport to Boards, because there are 10,000 black Harvard alumni and there are 3000 African American Harvard Business School alumni who are eager, available, waiting, well-trained, just to give one school’s example. It has to start at the board level. And I think JEDI officials should not fool themselves into thinking that they can be successful without starting at the board level across the board.
Even at the Federal Reserve, we have an effort to put JEDI and diversity at the Federal Reserve in the United States and all of those district banks. I would encourage every Central Bank, take a look at your own diversity at the top and then start there and then figure out how to get it to filter down.
Julia: Paris is nodding, which is always very encouraging. Paris, I wonder if I could just bring you in here at this point to think about not only how you see the world having changed and also your outside view in, also for the benefits of the audience. We now start talking not about equity, diversity, inclusion, but it’s about justice, equity, diversity, inclusion. Talk to us a little bit about your observations of how that has changed.
Paris: Absolutely. To Dorien’s point, leading with justice and equity is significantly different than diversity and inclusion because it really requires us to think about systemic barriers to access, engagement and success in our work and how we can transform and eliminate these barriers. Of course, the language constantly evolves, both in DEI and ESG. People and organisations also just have varied phases of maturity as it relates to their orientation and approach to these concepts. 30 years ago, socially responsible investing as it was called, or D&I, was generally ignored by investors and business leaders as a tool for making decisions. But more recently, the concept of ESG has been introduced in a sweeping institutional investment. I think that sustainability, the status quo and the view, still assumes sustainability is only about environmental degradation and engineering new solutions, building clean energy and so forth, infrastructure and recycling.
And this is a view of sustainability primarily associated with liberal white, middle class elitist and is flawed because it provides a grossly incomplete definition of sustainability that only focuses on environmental factors and fails to see the socioeconomic and cultural elements. So to address sustainability challenges, we’ve had to evolve to a view that is about creating systems that really work for everyone. And that’s where that J really comes in.
I think we do see, in recent years, the sustainability movement has shifted somewhat towards ensuring that adequate emphasis is given to social justice concerns. One publication that I actually was participant in with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Racial Equity and Social Justice Anthology, is that sustainability is a global issue. It touches all themes of social justice dialogues and very essential to consider sustainability as a subject that does address multiple interconnected human issues such as racial injustice, gender equality, distribution of wealth and so on, because social justice and sustainability do go hand in hand because sustainability is about so much more than the planet.
Intentional Endowments Network is a rare organisation, particularly because IEN has chosen to distinguish itself around the recognition of that J, that the environmental challenges we face are inextricably linked to issues of growing social inequality and economic inequity that we’re finding in our country and the world. So with me joining as the first ever Director of JEDI, we did shift DEI to the back of justice and at a time when many organisations are backpedalling currently on DEI, we are thinking more deeply about the language we use to describe our work and our approach. Our job has to be to examine these systems and structures and to reimagine policies and practices that would seek to produce equitable outcomes.
Julia: I think there are a couple of big things that come out of that, your remarks there. One of them is really thinking about the biases that we apply when we think about social, the S of ESG, and recognising that when we talk about the justice element of social is that to be looking at through a middle-aged white person of privilege point of view needs to be checked. We talk about bias in business, full stop, but actually even looking at the S, we have to recognise and check our biases and be very, very mindful of that. When I talk to many people and I’m very privileged to host City A.M.’s Impact A.M. show of all about sustainable investment, is that standardisation and also the regulation that’s going to come into this.
And I can’t help but think this is a great opportunity for any regulators or policy makers who are listening into the show, also should be paying attention to the work that you are doing, particularly when applying the J of justice, because I think there’s one cog shift to go, “Oh, we must now think about DE and I or ED and I, but actually what you’re saying is it takes one step further to be truly enlightened and think about JD & I and to be conscious of those biases that exist when we think about that. Really fascinating.
Paris: I would love to take a moment to respond to that too, Julia, and to really explain why for so many decades we’ve been doing DEI work and we’ve been talking about bias without any accountability because we talk about bias, while people essentially can say, “Hey, I’m not biassed, there’s no accountability with that,” but DEI really is a model for just ensuring everyone feels welcomed, essentially, that they have a voice, that their uniqueness is valued. But moving from DEI to JEDI is so much different than just a change in language. It just moves from espousing. We value our differences to connecting those values to accountability and ensuring our goals are accomplished.
One good example is Black History month or another Heritage month celebration. That’s DEI. However, JEDI is an acknowledgement of the contributions of black individuals, how we can honour them every day, not relegated to a month. In the higher education context, it could be a focus on supporting black faculty staff, students, and an interrogation of the curriculum to make visible those biases we have and reproducing whiteness in the curriculum and making changes to it. So the JEDI really is about actions that recognise environmental and climate justice is a civil rights issue and that not all people are equally impacted.
Julia: So gentlemen, as much as I would love to keep talking to you for a while, I do have to bring in Cynthia Akinsanya who has some wonderful research to support today’s discussion.
Cynthia: Enlightened leaders are pivoting to more holistic social justice frameworks, which value the voices of new types of stakeholders. The World Economic Forum leads with a 2022 article on five ways to drive social justice in the workplace, starting with leadership. Number one, engage. Create committed leaders aligned to DE&I values. Number two, diagnose. Root and embed the strategy, improve data and analytics. Number three, take action. Integrate DE&I into policies, practises, and programmes. Number four, accountability. Set goals, measure progress and share transparently. And number five, change management and communication. Establish a strong foundation for the future.
Julia: Once again, Cynthia Akinsanya, thank you for the research. It’s always incredibly valuable. And let me take a few minutes to remind everybody how to find DiverCity podcast. Links to the research could be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com, where you could find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Do also sign up for our newsletter called DE&I That Caught Our Eye, where we share news, stories and updates so you can stay on top of what’s current. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. And by the way, we are immensely proud to have a five star rating and we would love it if you rated and gave us your comments. What would you like us to talk about and do please share it because it all helps extend our reach in this important conversation.
Dorien, Paris, loving the discussion so far. Listening to you talk strikes me that there are incredible resources that our audience can turn to. Dorien, can I come to you first of all. Where would you recommend our audience look? Where should they go to really get involved, get engaged as leaders and also as listeners who want to accelerate their careers?
Dorien: Well, thanks. First, if you’re looking for programmes that can help the beginning investor or high school investors or others, Youth Investor Society, YIS, is a resource that’s available. National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Rock the Street, Wall Street focuses explicitly on girls and women at the high school and college level and they’re participating in London right now. Nifty is also global. And then there’s the American Association of Individual Investors. It costs you $2 for a 30-day trial and you begin to learn about things there. That’s one thing, the other thing is the CFA has some low cost programmes. CFA foundations and also the Climate change finance certificate that are low cost. Some of them require no maths and that’s a great place to start. And lastly, contact us at Wall Street Advantage, www.wallstadvantage. Do not spell street, it’s ST, wallstadvantage.com, and we’ll be happy to put you on our mailing list and send you more information as we continue to compile it.
Julia: That’s wonderful. And we’re big fans of the CFA Institute. We were delighted to have the CEO on the show, who has talking to us about their codes of conduct, which are incredibly important, particularly as we go into thinking through how investment managers can really change the dynamics of Wall Street and indeed financial centres all around the world. We have listeners in all the 55 countries so that they’ll be fascinated, I’m sure, to think about the changes, the practical changes and guidance that they can find. Thank you for that. I really appreciate that. Paris, let me come to you. As you are thinking about changes in the world of JEDI that we’ve talked about, where would you recommend people go for information that would be practical?
Paris: I have some practical tips for changes on the organisational level and for progress. I think we really need to see more fully staffed and resourced and dedicated climate risk, ESG and DEI teams in financial institutions, appointed at top senior levels, reporting to the executive committee, the CEO, with board sponsorship. Another practical shift is seeing ESG as a significant business opportunity for acceleration and focus and investment. I think that involves looking at DEI and ESG through the lens of what’s in it for me instead of an appeal to human reason. So that’s a focus on making money, saving money, meeting institutional goals.
Relatedly, organisations can delve into their own customer data and that’s useful to customise changes that fit their business model and to assess their evolution and meet sustainability goals. Practically speaking, financial institutions should review the principles behind ESG and JEDI against their organisation’s values and practises, so they can really be intentional on proactive instead of reactive to ESG rule developments relevant to the asset management industry, including finding ways to assess and measure and disclose ESG financial risk and continued focus on board diversity and human capital management. I think that even incremental change can be a positive sign to stakeholders like current employees, potential ones and investors on how serious an organisation is about DEI and ESG efforts.
Julia: Every organisation’s on a journey. I think that’s the important thing and the signalling that we put out. But it has to be genuine, it has to be sincere. I really pick up on and echo the comment made earlier about has to start at the board level, has to be really, really taken seriously. What I love in both of your remarks there, is specific things organisations could focus on and specific things that individuals and resources that individuals can go to as well.
I’m going to ask you the question as we close out this wonderful discussion and I really feel we could talk for hours. One of the downsides of this podcast is I never have enough time, I just genuinely wish I did. But I would love to ask you the question that I ask everybody and particularly as we begin to navigate these really challenging times is, I’m concerned that the JEDI debate, if it’s not even on the board level, it’s fullest terms, the J, E, D and I, but I’m concerned that it might fall down corporate agendas. I would love to hear your compelling reasons why it absolutely must remain high. Paris, may I come to you first?
Paris: Absolutely. Well, in regard to the relationship between ESG and JEDI, financial institutions have to do the work and the future is now. The planet doesn’t have time for complacency. We all know valuing DEI repeatedly has shown to be to an organisation’s benefit. The McKinsey report showed more diverse and inclusive companies outperform those that aren’t by 35%. So it’s just wildly irresponsible to stop investing in DEI during tough times, particularly when it’s widely shown in the data that organisational investments that are driven by DEI priorities have such a positive impact on the bottom line and sustainability. I’ve worked with a number of organisations and universities and with students, generation Z. I see how this new generation is changing things and doing things differently. And there are consequences for business leaders who see trends but ignore them.
From a sustainability perspective, either organisations are going to adapt, or they’re going to go under. So thinking about sustainability, it’s about relevancy to your user group, your customer base, in the coming years because of generational diversity. From that view, DEI and ESG is accelerating, it’s not going away. And we really are the future and the only way to get to sustainability is through inclusion. But even if there is a lull and commitment, I think the marketplace will respond, given this new level of enlightenment we see. Ultimately I can personally say I would like to see DEI be a temporary role. I would like to move on and I look forward to the day when offices can move past the D&I and the JEDI and all those letters can drop off altogether because my definition of success is progress that really just puts me out of work
Julia: So often I say, “I would really enjoy the day that I no longer have to make this podcast.” I look forward to that day very, very much. Thank you Paris. Really, appreciate your thoughts to see us out of the show. And Dorien, may I come to you? Your compelling reasons after 50 years in Wall Street. Come on, see us out with your expectations and your message to the board actually about why D&I absolutely must remain high on the corporate agenda.
Dorien: Well, it’s simple. If you plan to sell products and services to a diverse population, then you need to make sure that that’s reflected throughout your organisation. Secondly, if you plan to hire and retain, not just hire and have them quit and leave, then you have to adjust your corporate culture. Millennials are driving this. Black Lives Matter was an inspiration because it was multiethnic, multicultural and global. And that is so exciting and fascinating to see all of that. So it’s the future. You could can be the CEO of a horse and buggy company and fight against the automobile, or you can get into the transportation business and push further ahead. Two last things if you don’t mind. One, Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust but verify” so we have to collect the data and we have to make sure that people are accountable to their many promises that are being made.
And secondly, a place to go to get a lot of information, is your website. The CFA Institute says that they’re the leading certificate, leading organisation in the industry. Then do what leaders do, as I learned at IBM and be a leader and continue to be a leader. And the financial service industry at least would be one place where we’ve made a lot of progress. And in a capitalist world, if you aren’t focused on the flow and access to capital, then you’re missing out on two thirds of what makes this world work.
Julia: Inspiring thoughts from both of you. Thank you both so much for coming on the show. I can’t tell you how much I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. It’s really set my mind spinning in so many fresh angles and fresh ideas because after 15 series of DiverCity Podcast, I’m always keen to hear new angles and you’ve certainly given us pause for thought in many areas, but also really practical places to go and really focused areas that we can all take into our businesses tomorrow. So Paris Prince, can I come to you first on just say thank you so much for your time.
Paris: Thank you all so much. It was a pleasure to be here.
Julia: Dorien Nunez, thank you also for joining us. It’s been a joy.
Dorien: Honoured to be here. Thank you.
Julia: And to all our listeners at DiverCity Podcast. Thank you. We are always grateful for not only the privilege that give us when you listen to these episodes, but also the support, the questions you place and also for sharing these episodes as well. I’ve been Julia Streets. Until next time, goodbye.
This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by Roshan Roberts on behalf of Julia Street’s Productions. You can find out more about the guests from this week’s show on our website. That’s www.divercitypodcast.com. That’s Divercity with a C and not an S. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. All our episodes are available in Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favourite podcast app. If you enjoy Divercity Podcast, remember to share on social media and give us a rating or review. And finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.