25 years of blacks in financing.

Author:Scott, Matthew S.
Position:Coverage by B.E. - Countdown To 25

Not too long ago, if you wanted to convene a meeting of black America's financial all stars--individuals with power and influence in the banking, finance and insurance industries--you probably could have fit them neatly into one small conference room. In fact, Granite Broadcasting CEO W. Don Cornwell, then a top trader at Goldman Sachs, convened a meeting in 1978 between National Urban League President Vernon Jordan and blacks in corporate finance. Only 17 people showed up.

How things have changed! Even though many financial gurus and deal-making wizards, including Cornwell, have launched successful business ventures moving them out of finance, a steady wave of newcomers has replaced them. This new army of financial whizzes has engaged the financial industry with a "take-no-prisoners" attitude, leading to a series of economic breakthroughs.

The financial warfare of the past 25 years has been fought with an arsenal of MBAs, law degrees, business plans and venture capital. African-Americans led an assault on the financial services industry with this weaponry. They received key support from such market forces as interest rates, legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act and good old-fashioned wisdom. The results are undeniable.

For 25 consecutive years, African-Americans have improved their economic standing in America. During those years, BLACK ENTERPRISE has chronicled and celebrated the achievements that have spurred that growth.

In 1973 when BE began listing the top black-owned banks, savings and loans and insurance companies, their assets totaled less than $2 billion. Twenty years later, the assets of black-owned financial institutions were an impressive $4.2 billion. This steady growth has occurred despite an overall decline in the total number of black financial institutions, from 123 in 1973 to 76 in 1993.

The same phenomenal growth has occurred on Wall Street. The investment banking landscape has changed since 1971 when Daniels & Bell became the first black-owned investment bank to secure a seat on the "Big Board" of the New York Stock Exchange. Black investment bankers have been the architects of some of the biggest deals on the Street. People are still talking about BE's exclusive coverage of the late Reginald F. Lewis' leveraged buyout of TLC Beatrice International in 1987.

Such shrewd deal making prompted many Wall Street executives to start their own investment banking firms during the 1980s. Success came quickly, and BE was there, beginning our annual listing of the nation's top black-owned investment banks in 1991. In 1993, firms on the BE investment bank list co-managed bond issues worth $162.7 billion.

With billions of dollars in trading activity, BE sought to discover which black traders had the hottest hands. The BE October 1992 cover story, "25 Hottest Blacks on Wall Street," put money mavens such as William Blair & Co. 's Michelle L. Collins, one of only two women on our list, in the limelight for the first time.

Capital has even been flowing in the venture capital markets. Once, federally funded Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Corporations (MESBICs) served as the...

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