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Richard Bernstein Advisors launches scholarship at historically black Spelman College

April Joyner
·2-min read

By April Joyner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Asset management firm Richard Bernstein Advisors said on Monday it has funded a scholarship at Spelman College geared toward bringing more Black employees into its industry.

The scholarship will provide tuition assistance for a student's junior and senior years at Spelman, a historically Black woman's college in Atlanta. The recipient will also take part in a summer internship at Richard Bernstein Advisors (RBA).

Richard Bernstein, the firm's chief executive, said difficulty finding Black candidates prompted the launch of the scholarship. The firm of more than 30 has no Black employees. Small firms such as his, Bernstein said, lack the recruiting capabilities of larger asset managers and may be less visible to Black talent.

"If your workforce is predominantly white, you don't have access to word of mouth, so you don't have connections," he said.

Several other financial institutions have pledged money toward higher education for Black students as the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered renewed attention. Charles Schwab Corp <SCHW.N> and Synovus Financial Corp <SNV.N> announced scholarship funds this summer. On Wednesday, U.S. Bank <USB.N> announced funding to several organizations, including the United Negro College Fund, as part of a $116 million commitment to "address social and economic inequities."

Some companies' statements and initiatives on racial diversity have garnered skepticism regarding their ultimate impact, particularly on employment of racial minorities within those firms. Wells Fargo & Co's <WFC.N> chief executive drew criticism after suggesting that there was not enough qualified minority talent.

"Every organization has a laundry list of programs they are doing," said John Wilson, director of engagement at Calvert Research and Management. "But the data from these firms are still lacking in terms of representation."

Bernstein hopes RBA's scholarship will address that lack of representation within his own firm, even if it has limited impact beyond that.

"Are we going to have the impact of a bank hiring 50 people a year? Of course not," he said. "But can we meaningfully impact two or three students a year? Yeah, I think we can."

(Reporting by April Joyner; Editing by Alden Bentley and Richard Pullin)