This asset manager wants to build a bridge

Norman Ray

Global Courant

Jim Casselberry, known

Source: Known

Black people in America won their personal freedom 158 years ago. However, economic freedom was much more elusive.

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Veteran portfolio manager Jim Casselberry is trying to change that, using his four decades of investment experience to bridge the gap between people of color and Indigenous people.

“We need to do better and we need to do better by getting the capital in the hands of the right people,” Casselberry said in a recent interview. “What we want to do is help them step up and use the talent and opportunities and skills that they have.”

Juneteenth is celebrated on Monday in the US and has been considered a national holiday for two years now. It marks the day Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom for slaves in Texas.

While the holiday marks a terrible mistake that has finally been righted, it doesn’t spell the end of racial inequality in the US. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the distribution of wealth.

Houston resident Prescylia Mae sings during a reenacted march of the Emancipation Proclamation celebrations outside Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 2021.

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Address Latif | Reuters

The numbers are now painfully known: black people make up 13% of the population, but own only 4% of the wealth. The wealthiest 400 Americans have wealth equal to that of the entire black population. The racial divide between whites and blacks is 6 to 1—better than the 23 to 1 in 1870 after emancipation, but still a huge gap. These stats come from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve from 2019.

Bridging that gap is part of the mission of Known, an organization that Casselberry co-founded in 2021 with a team of Black, Native, Hispanic, and Asian-American co-founders. The premise is listed as “a finance and asset management firm that partners with founders, family offices and large wealth owners who value competitive returns and powerful long-term racial, social and climate impact.”

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However, according to Casselberry, the purpose is in the name.

“Why we even use the term ‘Known’, especially within the Black and Brown and Indigenous people, is that we want them to feel that they are known, that they see that we have the capabilities to be able to do this,” he said. “So many of the programs and so many of the opportunities … don’t work, but they haven’t necessarily been given the chance to work.”

Programs such as affirmative action have helped make 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 reparations on a meaningful scale. Philanthropy has tried many approaches, but they are also not on a scale where they can impact the problem,” said he.

“The real solution lies in the capital markets, where the real money is found and managed, but where more than 98% of assets under management are held by old, predominantly white companies,” Casselberry added.

Treasury Department data shows that wealth inequality between white and black households has changed little over the past 20 years.

Casselberry hopes that the efforts of organizations like this can change that.

“Known was created to be the solution for asset owners who want to be able to invest for better results,” he said. “And it’s formed to be the capital capital access point for the (black, indigenous and people of color) community to access and grow and create opportunity.”

This asset manager wants to build a bridge

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