Mellody Hobson and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Courtesy photo)

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, joined Ariel Investments, the nation’s first African American-owned Asset Management, for the firm’s 40-year celebration. Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, invited Waters and others to celebrate the significant milestone.

The Congresswoman also stressed her commitment to supporting Black asset management firms and outlined her efforts to increase and expand wealth-building opportunities for Black communities across Los Angeles County and close the racial-wealth gap.

Investment firms provide a wide array of services, and among them is the management of assets. Investment managers collectively handle trillions in assets, including the investment savings of nearly half of all U.S. households. People saving for retirement, education, or to buy a home often rely on the professional services of asset managers for advice and guidance to help secure their financial future or meet their investing goals.

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For years, Waters has sounded the alarm on the lack of diversity in asset management. She has also been concerned that despite public racial equity commitments following the murder of George Floyd, the diversity and inclusion of women and people of color working at investment firms did not increase substantially between 2019 and 2020, this includes the general workforce, executive level leadership, and board diversity.

To improve the situation, Waters took several actions in her position as chair of the House Financial Services Committee when Democrats were in charge including holding hearing on workforce diversity, board diversity, and the need to increase diversity in the asset management segment of the industry. 

Under her leadership, the Committee conducted a year-long investigation that was informed by documents and data that the Committee requested from 31 asset management firms. This research led to the Committee’s publication of a groundbreaking report entitled, “Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Largest Investment Firms Accountable,” which verified the need for U.S. investment firms to take immediate action to address the lack of diversity.

The findings showed that on average, firms spent less than 4 percent of their total asset management services on minority asset managers.

In December 2022, then-Chairwoman Waters and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office urging the agency to examine the lack of diverse asset manager representation in our nation’s federally managed pension funds.

Despite the barriers and lack of diversity that persists in this space, Waters said that she is continuing the effort to support Black asset management firms “so they can continue to do the work to close the wealth gap and help Black communities manage their finances and build wealth.”