Jim Casselberry, known
Black people in America won their personal freedom 158 years ago. However, economic freedom was far more difficult to achieve.
Veteran portfolio manager Jim Casselberry is trying to do something about it, using his four decades of investing experience to bridge the gap between people of color and Indigenous people.
“We have to do better, and we have to do better by getting the capital in the right hands,” Casselberry said in a recent interview. “We want to help them step up and use the talent, opportunities and skills that they have.”
Juneteenth, celebrated on Monday in the United States, has been a national holiday for two years. It marks the day Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed the freedom of slaves in Texas.
While the holiday marks a terrible wrong that has finally been righted, it does not mean the end of racial inequality in the United States. Nowhere is this more evident than in the distribution of wealth.
Houston resident Prescylia Mae sings during a reenactment march of the Emancipation Proclamation ceremonies in front of the Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas June 19, 2021.
Addresses Latif | Reuters
By now the numbers are painfully familiar: Blacks make up 13% of the population but own only 4% of the wealth. The richest 400 Americans have wealth equal to that of all black people. The racial gap between whites and blacks is 6 to 1 – better than the 23 to 1 in 1870 after Emancipation, but still a massive gap. These statistics are from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve as of 2019.
Bridging this gap is part of the mission of Known, an organization Casselberry founded in 2021 along with a team of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American co-founders. Its corporate office is: “A finance and wealth management firm that works with founders, family offices and large wealth owners who value competitive returns as well as strong long-term racial, social and climate impacts.”
However, Casselberry said the target is already in the name.
“We use the term ‘known’ at all, particularly within Black, Brown and Indigenous populations, because we want them to feel known and to see that we have the capabilities to do so.” he said. “So many of the programs and so many ways… don’t work, but they haven’t necessarily been given a chance to work.”
Programs such as affirmative action have helped progress, he said, but he believes broader reforms are needed.
“Given the polarized and dysfunctional government we have, it is unlikely at best that we will see any reparations on any significant scale. Philanthropy has tried many approaches, but even these are not to the extent that they can affect the issue,” he said.
“The real solution lies in the capital markets, where the real money is found and managed, but where more than 98% of the funds under management are controlled by old-majority white firms,” Casselberry added.
Treasury Department data suggests that the wealth gap between white and black families has changed little over the past 20 years.
Casselberry hopes the efforts of such organizations can help change that.
“We’re known for being the solution for wealth owners who want to be able to invest for better results,” he said. “And it’s designed to provide access to resources and capital [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] community to access, grow and create opportunity.”