PEAK6, a financial technology company headquartered in Chicago, has launched a new initiative called Fintech in Action to advance hiring, promoting, and retaining more Black employees in the fintech industry. The coalition is comprised of 28 fintech companies—but it will be led right here in Dallas by newly appointed Executive Director Michelle Williams.
Born in summer 2020 amidst the country’s civil unrest and racial equity protests, Fintech in Action is based on a commitment to addressing the pipeline issues in finance and financial technology.
While U.S. corporations were outwardly stating their messages of inclusion, the executives behind Dallas-based Apex Clearing, its parent company, PEAK6, and CustodyTM (a PEAK6 operating company) wanted to do more. They wanted to actually take action.
What resulted was Fintech in Action, a group that creates and supports programs geared toward Black finance and technology students and professionals. The intent is to seek out partners that can accelerate tangible progress, innovation, and opportunity, then collaborate with those organizations to take concrete steps to fight systemic racism.
That includes universities, community stakeholders, and professional advocacy groups, like the Greenwood Project, that can actually inspire change. Fintech in Action said it has already helped Greenwood Project boost its internship program capacity by 25 percent, and expects a 100 increase in 2021.
Like the name suggests, it’s an action-oriented coalition: In its first year, Fintech in Action has already invested more than $1 million in strategic support and paid internship opportunities to further its cause. It has also added more than 30 company members to the coalition and started covering the cost of interns at startups and mid-sized fintech firms to provide opportunities of exposure.
“From an economic equity perspective, there is catching up to do,” Williams said in a statement. “I’m always looking for productive and strategic ways to bridge that wealth gap. There are stark disparities that exist in the finance and technology industries that need to change, and Fintech in Action is here to inspire that transformation.”
In her role, Williams will be tasked with forming new partnerships and increasing awareness. It’s a position she’s highly qualified for, given her past experience as a passionate advocate for inclusivity in the workplace.
“The more diverse voices and thoughts that an organization has, the more diverse solutions that they have,” Williams said. “Creating pathways for Black professionals is not only imperative, but it makes for a stronger and more competitive workplace.”
Williams currently serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board at Northwestern University and has previously held leadership positions at Voice of Hope, Leadership ISD, and The DEC Network. At the DEC, she is known for building a series of city-wide entrepreneurship initiatives that focus on economic empowerment and inclusion.
“Michelle’s background and dedication to diversity initiatives makes her a perfect fit as we build Fintech in Action,” Apex Clearing CEO Bill Capuzzi said in a release. “The program could not be in better hands, and I think our partners and the many Black students and professionals who will benefit from Fintech in Action will agree.”
The story headline was updated on Feb. 18, 2021, at 11:41 a.m. to reflect PEAK6’s involvement and the initiative’s mission.
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