Greenwood Project Bridges Diversity Gaps for Young Professionals in Financial Services

Greenwood Project

Before he was a fixed income analyst at Piper Sandler in New York, Hayes Bynum was a student at the University of Iowa, wondering where his newly claimed math major might take him. That’s when he met Bevon Joseph, co-founder of the Chicago-based nonprofit Greenwood Project.

“It’s an understatement to say it’s a long way from the South Side of Chicago, where I grew up, to Wall Street,” Bynum said. “But as a scholar with the Greenwood Project, I learned about careers available to me in financial services, learned skills to succeed at a highly competitive internship, and developed a network of professionals who I rely on today for mentoring and guidance.”

Greenwood Project was founded in 2016 by Bevon and Elois Joseph, who wanted to address a lack of employee diversity in the financial services industry. After spending their careers with financial services firms, the two recognized a need for industry-specific skill building and networking, particularly for Black and Latinx high school and college students. 

“We find young people who are disconnected from financial services, prepare them, then connect them with firms who have internship opportunities,” Bevon explained.

Seventy-five percent of Greenwood Project’s students transition to full-time financial services careers, and all students receive a mentor and a fully funded brokerage account. The organization also offers two paid, six-week summer institutes — one focused on the FinTech industry and the other an overview of the financial services industry — for high-schoolers.

The organization is named after the prosperous Black Greenwood neighborhood, known as “The Black Wall Street,” which was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

“I wanted our scholars to see that they can carry on the legacy and spirit of resilience of the Greenwood community,” Joseph said. “This year, we are launching the Greenwood Centennial Scholars Fund to support 100 Greenwood Project Scholars in the 100th anniversary year of the event. We hope to raise $1.2 million, and support in any amount is so appreciated.”

Greenwood Project works with over 40 partner firms and many volunteers who share their expertise in order to support young people entering the financial services industry.  

“It’s imperative that corporations take a more active role and support the Greenwood Project, which equips Black and Latinx scholars with the proper skillset to thrive in the financial services industry,” said Kwesi Smith, senior research analyst at William Blair. “Not only are you being a good corporate citizen by focusing on an often-overlooked population, you are literally supporting your future employees.”

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Donations can be made through donorbox.org, or at the Greenwood Project website.

Follow @greenwoodprochi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and greenwood-project on LinkedIn. This short video also helps bring the organization’s work to life.