Celebrating Black History Month and Honoring Those Who Paved the Way in the Finance Industry

As RiverFront continues our own journey to build a culture that provides justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for our employees, our clients, and our community - we would like to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting some of the trailblazers who have paved the way for their peers in our industry. We wanted to reflect and celebrate the progress that has been made and honor a few of the individuals who were “firsts” in the finance industry.

O.W. Gurley
Known as the founder of Black Wall Street. Greenwood, a community he built in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1906 became a thriving hub of businesses that spanned industries such as retail, healthcare, restaurants, professional services and more. In recognizing Gurley, we also want to honor the lives lost when the town was devastated in 1921 during the 18-hour Tulsa Race Massacre. Also known as the Tulsa Race Riot, a white mob committed what is still one of the worst acts of racial violence in U.S. History.[1]

Throvald McGregor, Lawrence Lewis, and Lilla St. John
Throvald McGregor and Lawrence Lewis share the title of first registered black security salesman and Lilla St. John is the first black woman licensed stockbroker. [2] [3]

Norman McGhee L. SR.
Was the first African American, licensed stock dealer in the Midwest and founded the first black-owned brokerage firm in the nation. [4]

Maggie Lena Walker, First Female Bank President
Born the daughter of slaves, Maggie Lena Walker started as a teacher before beginning her career as a businesswoman and eventually becoming the First Female Bank President. The Maggie Walker Historic Site in Richmond’s Jackson Ward is only a few minutes from RiverFront’s Downtown office.

Alonzo Herndon
An African American barber and entrepreneur, Alonzo Herndon was founder and president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, one of the most successful Black-owned insurance businesses in the nation. [5]

Commitment to Building a Talent Pipeline

As part of RiverFront’s justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) initiative, we recognize that building an inclusive, equal, and diverse culture starts with a diverse talent pool. To support building a diverse talent pipeline in our community, we have committed to a corporate partnership with Cristo Rey Richmond High School. The school is dedicated to changing urban education in the US by combining four years of rigorous academics combined with a Corporate Work Study experience to ensure students are college and career ready. RiverFront hosts four student interns annually, providing a hands-on professional experience. Additionally, RiverFront associates support Cristo Rey as mentors, participating in a seminar style class to coach on professional skill development. Our partnership with Cristo Rey provides hands on experience to high school students exploring a future in finance.

To build interest and awareness of careers in finance at the college level, RiverFront has also committed to endowing a scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University (“VCU”) School of Business, The Kevin Nicholson Internship Fund. The scholarship includes a part-time summer internship with RiverFront’s investment team. Rising VCU Sophomores or Juniors with a minority background are eligible to apply.

This scholarship was initially established by RiverFront’s Global Fixed Income CIO and Co-Head of Investment Committee, Kevin Nicholson. He set this up at his alma mater because not every student has the financial situation to be able to take an unpaid internship. He recalls “Internships are especially important in finance. The field is very competitive, so you really need an internship every year you’re an undergrad. If you get one that first summer, it’s easier to land paid internships after that. When I came up and went into finance, I didn’t know anything about this. I want to make sure this opportunity is given to students today.” This fund is meant to help ease the financial burden for a deserving VCU student.

As part of RiverFront’s commitment to both our associates and our community, the firm will match any associate’s personal donation to a charity of their choice. Our Executive Committee viewed The Kevin Nicholson Internship Fund with VCU as something the firm needed to make a permanent part of our community commitment each year. It is not just good for business, but the right thing to do. It is also a great cultivator of future diverse talent in the finance industry.

[1] 10 Black Finance Leaders in History | BECU

[2] Gregory S. Bell, In the Black. A History of African Americans on Wall Street. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2002.

[3] Five African American Women Pioneers in U.S. Finance (cupblog.org)

[4] MCGHEE, NORMAN L. SR. | Encyclopedia of Cleveland History | Case Western Reserve University

[5] Henderson, Alexa. "Alonzo Herndon." New Georgia Encyclopedia, last modified Jul 14, 2020. https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/alonzo-herndon-1858-1927/