Ariel Investments is the largest minority-owned investment firm in the nation. Since the firm was founded in 1983, Ariel has been committed to financial literacy and promoting sound investments among minority communities.
The Raben Group was retained by Ariel to raise awareness about the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in retirement saving and investing, a project that involved civil rights, education, economic security, and fair labor issues. While the path to closing the wealth gap remains a formidable one, the work of Ariel and The Raben Group around investing and asset manager diversity continues to provide effective solutions.
Our team developed a full advocacy campaign, incorporating outreach to congressional targets, Administration officials, corporations, municipalities, labor unions, and a range of stakeholder organizations. This campaign has had wide-reaching effects that continue to influence the conversation about disparities in investment today.
To begin our campaign, we worked with the Ariel Education Initiative, the nonprofit affiliate of Ariel Investments, to secure a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for a groundbreaking study examining the underinvestment of minorities in corporate 401(k) plans. The Raben Group identified leading civil rights groups and economic experts to collaborate in the study, which is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.
We have since worked with Congress and other third parties to draw attention to the study and this policy issue. We’ve garnered widespread interest in the media and in key public policy circles. Not long after the study’s publication, the Department of Labor assigned a working group to examine retirement disparities. This working group produced recommendations for then Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, to review and implement to reduce these disparities. The Raben Group also worked with former Senator Herb Kohl’s staff and the Office of Personnel Management to conduct a similar study that reviewed 1.5 million federal employee retirement plans.
More recently, our team assisted Ariel Investments in the development of the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative (DAMI), a coordinated effort to change the culture of the financial services industry as it relates to asset managers. DAMI is working to increase the absolute number of, and assets under management by, diverse-owned asset management firms by raising awareness among institutional investors about the benefits and opportunities of investing funds with diverse-owned asset management firms. At the moment we are commissioning a baseline study to survey the use of diverse-owned asset management firms by sector, including corporations, foundations, endowments, labor unions, and public pensions. DAMI is also publishing a fiduciary guide to investing with diverse asset managers and firms.