Here are some of the key takeaways that resonated for me from the panel featuring Dr. Sylvia Rose, Interim Dean and Assistant Professor of Finance in the School of Business at Hampton University, Dr. Curtis Kidd, Adjunct Professor of the School of Business at Howard University and Director of the HPS Center for Financial Excellence, and Dr. Joseph Lyons, Executive Director of Student Engagement and Career Services at Virginia State University:

• To attract the best, you have to invest in paid internships and scholarships. These students are being approached with opportunities from so many companies, many of them can be selective.

• Deliver meaningful experiences: When you get the opportunity to have HBCU students serve as interns or employees, make sure the experience has value. They expect rich experiences where they are doing work relative to their major and can contribute right away. Start with a strong, deliberate and personalized onboarding process to make sure the relationship gets off on the right foot.

• HBCUs are looking for intensive, long-term engagements: You need to be fully engaged when you work with these schools and their students. That means building relationships with key faculty and finding ways to support their programs. Firms should consider going to universities with multi-year partnership proposals. Instead of a one and done interaction, a longer-term partnership will demonstrate your commitment and yield better results for everyone. Serious companies should be prepared to invest financially in their relationship with the school.

• If you wait, you’ll be too late: If you wait until the students are juniors or seniors to initiate a relationship, you’ve probably missed your opportunity. Many HBCU students are already building strong relationships with potential employers as freshmen and sophomores.

• Don’t flatter yourself: One panelist shared a story about a recruiter saying, “I’m here because I know you guys need help.” Successful recruiters understand that they are the ones who need HBCU students, not the other way around.

• One size does not fit all: HBCU students are not a monolithic demographic. Some of them have parents who work in private equity or wealth management. They know what they want and how to get there. Others don’t know where they are headed or may have come from more challenging backgrounds. Each university is different, and students come with a wide variety of life experiences. You need to tailor your approach for each.

• Mentorships matter: Mentorships are a great way to engage students, but they need to be authentic. Help your HBCU interns and young employees establish mentoring relationships. Make sure they consist of more than just a few casual conversations. Mentees want to hear positive feedback, but they also should hear what they need to be working on and how they can improve. A good mentoring relationship should be sustained and personalized.

Another great way to build bridges into the HBCU world is to get involved with FARE. We formed FARE because we knew we could do more together as an industry than we could as individual companies. Your firm’s participation in our activities will not only help us all drive more diversity in financial services—it will open doors for your company to build relationships with and attract the best talent. At FARE events we’re setting members up with immediate access to top diverse talent. Many of our member firms are finding great candidates for internships and full-time roles at these events. Visit to learn more about the Alliance and how your firm can get involved.

Kristi Martin Rodriguez is the leader of the Nationwide Retirement Institute and Founder, President and Board Chair of the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity.

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