Raymond James has made good on its pledge — announced about six months ago in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the ensuing widespread protests against racial injustice — to give $1.5 million to organizations that support racial equality, financial literacy and empowerment and volunteerism opportunities.
Two of the 12 beneficiaries are located in the financial services firm’s own backyard: Pinellas County Urban League and YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. Each will receive a total of $75,000 over three years.
Raymond James, in a statement accompanying the announcement of the pledge, said it needed to do more “to attract and develop Black professionals.” It said underrepresentation of Black people is a longstanding shortcoming of the financial services industry in general, and that it would work to improve its recruitment, invest in college pipeline programs and mandate candidate pool diversity at the leadership level.
“While we have always worked to ensure we have policies, training, programs and diversity and inclusion networks in place to help address racial inequality, we recognize that it is not enough,” Chairman and CEO Paul Reilly stated in a news release. “As a firm and as a profession, we have a long way to go on this journey. We know there are no simple solutions, but we are pledging to do all we can at Raymond James to be an agent of meaningful, positive and lasting change in support of more justice, well-being and humanity for the Black community.”
Raymond James also said it would develop a mentorship aimed at supporting the professional development and business growth of Black associates and advisors. Another priority will be implementation of unconscious bias training for every Raymond James associate and advisor. Rev. Watson Haynes II, president and CEO of Pinellas County Urban League, told the St. Pete Catalyst that Raymond James has already backed up its words and dollars with action.
“We are pleased,” he said. “It’s exciting for us. We’ve been meeting with them for months trying to iron out the arrangement with them, and we’re at the point now where we are tying down the details.”
Haynes said Raymond James’ financial support allows him and his team to help find and develop workers who can work at the company. “Everything from entry-level jobs up to financial advisors,” he said. “Their help is going to give us the chance to create some training opportunities.”
The process has been both top-down and bottom-up, Haynes said, with everyone from Reilly to 9-to-5 employees offering input.
“Their commitment is organization-wide,” he said. “That’s what we like about it.”
Raymond James, Haynes said, will also identify people who can take advantage of the career services offered by the Urban League.
“We offer full services to both the employee and employer,” he said. “It’s quite a bit more than just referring somebody for a job. It’s training them, preparing them for the job … if they run into any hiccups, or the employer finds any hiccups, they can reach out to us and we can provide additional services a person might need, like counseling or entry-level skills work.”
The other recipients of funds from Raymond James $1.5 million pledge are:
- Peace Preparatory Academy, Atlanta
- Chicago Youth Programs, Chicago
- Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado, Denver
- Rhonda Walker Foundation, Detroit
- Houston Area Urban League, Houston
- 100 Black Men of America, Memphis, Tennessee
- The Collective Blueprint, Memphis, Tennessee
- College Possible, Philadelphia
- Urban Youth Impact, South Florida
- National Black MBA Association, Washington, D.C.
“These organizations span a wide variety of service areas including K-12 education, college preparation, affordable housing, economic development, leadership training and more,” stated Pedro Suriel, Raymond James’ vice president of diversity and inclusion, in the release. “With each organization, we see an immense opportunity for widespread associate and advisor volunteerism and board involvement, both of which will be key in creating fruitful partnerships over the long term.”