Ben Carson Jr. has had a successful career in the alternative investment industry that is very distinct from the road taken by his father, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the famed neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate and Cabinet secretary. As co-founder and partner at FVLCRUM Funds, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm that invests in minority-owned businesses, Carson Jr. is responsible for the company’s portfolio and overall strategy. The firm’s goals include promoting sustainable economic development in underserved communities and reducing the racial wealth gap at scale.
In 2016, Carson Jr. was a member of the board of his father’s presidential campaign and continues to be involved in public initiatives in support of entrepreneurship, workforce development, and minority- and female-owned businesses.
What are the main obstacles to achieving financial security that racial and ethnic minorities face? Are there cultural barriers to wealth creation?
The greatest obstacle is access—historically and today. Access starts with awareness, and, in many instances, minorities do not know what we do and do not have access to or what we should be striving to reach. Awareness of financial best practices, resources, industries, strategies and ideas needs to be incorporated into the foundational ethos of minority communities.
As more of the country’s population identifies as minority, it is imperative that we have open and honest conversations about socioeconomic disparities. America has made a great deal of progress on racial equity, and I hope to see continued improvement.
What’s the most important thing HR and company leaders can do to help workers, including minority workers, build financial security and wealth?
For human resource managers who want to foster financial security, the concepts of awareness and access also apply. Encourage a culture of self-responsibility. Empower employees with relevant knowledge that will promote financial security and a wealth mindset. There is no one-size-fits-all, but teaching people how to talk about money and providing access to proper financial advice can lead to tremendous results. It can greatly improve the probability of financial security for employees.
How effective have corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives been in addressing pay inequities in the workplace?
There is a natural misalignment between corporate interests and DE&I because corporations are focused on one thing: making money. To expect executives of corporations to prioritize issues of DE&I over profits would be unnatural. While I applaud DE&I initiatives, there is an accountability and authority concern when corporate interests are so misaligned with DE&I goals.
That being said, there is a strong corporate rationale for DE&I, especially now that more spending power is in the hands of minorities. This shift in demographics will require extensive planning to address DE&I concerns—and to align those efforts with corporate interests over time.
What life lessons have you taken from your father that you apply today?
My father is my hero to this day and has accomplished incredible things over his lifetime. He has been successful in several careers, the latest being his foray into government [as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021]. In each of his careers, I witnessed an unwavering commitment to excellence, intense ethical and moral fundamentals, and a desire to serve those in greatest need.
Interview by David Ward, a freelance writer based in North Carolina.