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Black leaders in finance, past and present

Kirsty

General Finance

Some of the most influential leaders in the world come from the finance sector. From senior banking investors to major CEOs, they take centre stage worldwide as some of the most successful people in the professional world. However, with only five Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and 67% of corporate leaders being white males, it’s clear to see that Black leaders in finance are not as prominent as they could be.

What is Black History Month?

Though it originated in the US, Black History Month has become widely recognised in the UK, and is now an integral part of our history and education. Here in the UK, we celebrate Black History Month throughout October. It is a way to remember important figures and events in history as well as promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society.

As time passes and new generations arise, it’s important to continue recognising Black History Month so that we can educate those that come after us.

Black leaders in finance

There have been some notable names over the years, and it would be impossible to name them all. But one outstanding figure is Maggie Lena Walker. Not only was she the first Black woman to become a president of an American bank, Walker even went on to start her own bank which would serve the “underserved” Black community. She claimed that white-owned banks would not do business with Black-run organisations, and took it upon herself to offer a better service for her people.

Another notable name was Lancelot Reynolds. After leaving the Caribbean in the 1950s, he went on to pass all his accounting qualifications in the UK, before becoming the first known Black accountant in the country. Because of his race, his fellow accounting employees and senior staff held a vote as to whether he should be allowed to work there. Every woman there voted yes, giving him the majority vote that would lead him to his successful career.

Then of course there’s Clifton Wharton Jr, who made his mark in history as one of the first ever Black CEOs in the Fortune 500. In the 1980s, he headed one of the world’s largest pension funds with assets exceeding $200B, and went on to be the first African-American president of Michigan State University.

These are just a few of the many names which made history in recent decades.

The future of black finance leadership

What does racial diversity in finance look like in 2021? Where are we heading in the future? As Michelle Obama once said: “History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a future of its own.”

Here at thinkmoney, we think it’s important to recognise Black History Month and help celebrate those from the finance sector and beyond. While it’s certainly true that awareness of racial diversity has grown in recent years, there’s always room for broadening your knowledge.

Happy Black History Month, everyone.

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