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Financial services has a diversity problem and this company is working to solve it

CEO of Apex Clearing, Bill Capuzzi, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss his company's initiative to increase Black inclusion in finance and fintech.

Video Transcript

- One of the issues that we are all confronting right now is how we bring in more people of color, become more inclusive and more diverse, especially in the financial services industry. And joining us to talk about steps that are being taken right now to do that, we invite into the program Bill Capuzzi, who is the Apex Clearing CEO. And you raised, what is it, $1.5 million, which is going to be used by the Greenwood Project to implement the kinds of things people are talking about nationwide, but using money to create action now. Is that accurate?

BILL CAPUZZI: That's right. It's actually 1.75 million. And a little context for that for folks that don't know Apex Clearing, we're a custodian. And the way we raised the money was to commit to sort of accepting or donating $1 for every client that traded over the course of a week. And that amounted to roughly 1.75 million.

- You know, it's not lost on me the irony, the four of us who are talking about this are white men. But I point that out because what we hear in the discussion of inclusion and diversity, certainly white men are going to be part of that. There's the issue of intentional, in which we hire people-- well, we don't, because I'm not hiring, but intentional steps by management to hire, but then there's retention. How do you create an environment within your organization to retain people who you've hired? Does Greenwood do that?

BILL CAPUZZI: Yeah, so Greenwood Project-- so let's start, Apex Clearing is partnering with Greenwood Project. It's a nonprofit that's based in Chicago, a husband and wife team that started a number of years ago. And the focus of Greenwood Project is specifically around the pipeline. And so we'll talk about retention next, but when I say pipeline, it's how do you create a pipeline from high school and college students into financial services.

I think the biggest challenge we have is there's not enough, right? When we go out and try and hire for these positions, right, part of it's retention, and we'll talk about that second, but a big part of it around-- is around making sure that the pipeline grows, that there's more-- there's more candidates when you're looking to add new positions inside of financial services.

- [INAUDIBLE] when you get the executives, though, right, that's one of the big problems that I think a lot of people are looking at, is everybody is talking about adding more diversity, but if you don't have it at the upper ranks of a company, then you're-- it sounds like you're paying lip service, right? How do companies avoid that?

BILL CAPUZZI: Yeah, well, look, one of the stats I saw coming into this is, since 1999, there's been 18 black CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Right? Let that sink in. 18 over 20 something years. It's staggering how, you know, sort of pathetic that is, to be honest. And part of it is obviously continuing to sort of promote these people within the organization.

Our-- what we see from our side, though, is this is a long play. This is not, hey, we're going to fix this tomorrow. This isn't about getting up and saying we renounce racism today, write a check. It's about creating action, which is really what [INAUDIBLE] and Apex and our coalition are about, is we've got to create some movement here. So we have 20 companies that are part of this, and the focus of what we're doing is to get placement, get these interns, and then obviously get them into full-time positions.

Another challenge is obviously continuing those people up through retention and then promotion. But the focus for us, and I think one way we can make a meaningful change, right, if we continue to look at this and continue to lean in here, is increase the pool, increase the top of the funnel, so to speak.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Bill. Rick Newman, self-conscious white guy here. So when you're talking about enlarging the pool or enlarging the pipeline, you're talking about the education system, which is woefully subpar in many minority communities. Where do you start? I mean, how do you-- how do you start getting more good candidates into the pipeline?

BILL CAPUZZI: Yeah, look, this is where, to your point, you know, you know, the four of us, four white guys on this is-- and this is where the partnership with Greenwood is really important, right? It started two African-American, [? Eloise ?] and [? Devon ?] Joseph, and they've created pipelines into the high schools and into the colleges of America to pull folks from the Black community, from the brown community into this program and provide opportunities.

I mean, the four of us-- I'll speak for myself, right-- we were afforded opportunities just simply by the color of our skin that aren't necessarily afforded to others. And part of our efforts here is to create those opportunities, not just, obviously, for college students with internships in financial services, but go deeper into high school, because oftentimes, when they get to college, they've already decided to head towards a different path in life than finance.

- Do you ever have discussions with firms, or even has Greenwood shared with you the discussions with the firms that want to bring in more people to have more diversity, what they're sharing about the difficulties they've had doing that or the successes they've had doing that?

BILL CAPUZZI: Yeah, so look, one of the things I said before and I'll just reiterate here is I think there's a willingness. I think part of the challenge is that, when you go out to hire for a position, the candidate pool is not diverse. And this isn't-- you know, obviously we're talking about-- focusing on the Black community, but there's also a gender challenge within financial services. And the challenge is around the candidate pool.

So what do you do about that? You're not going to just find people that are, you know, 40 something years old that all of a sudden want to start in the financial services industry. You've got to start at the bottom and build the pipeline. And I think the part for us, PEAK6 and Apex and part of this coalition is action, not words.

So what we've asked every member-- we have 20 firms that are part of this in the financial services industry, my expectation is we'll get this to over 100 inside of the next let's call it six months-- and they ask for every one those companies, right, great, you can donate money, money is always important, but the bigger ask here is about action. It's about taking interns into their organization. That's action. That's what drives change. And it's not going to be-- there's no quick fix. You're not going to write a check and turn this around. It's got to be about sustained action.

- Bill Capuzzi is the CEO of Apex Clearing. We appreciate your being here. And while the era of four white guys talking about diversity is soon to be extinct, dinosaurs are coming back after the commercial break.