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The board members of BlackGen Capital’s newest chapter at Penn (Photo courtesy of Anthony Yang).

Two Penn juniors recently founded the Penn chapter of BlackGen Capital, an organization focused on creating pathways for underrepresented minority students to enter the financial services industry.

The club was founded by College juniors Mariam Tigane and Julian Igwebuike, who currently serve as co-presidents of the club. It will officially launch this week once its board selects the first cohort of students from a pool of applicants. The selected group will participate in a 10-week-long education series covering foundational skills for a career in financial services. 

The organization’s mission is to reduce the boundaries that minorities face to entering the financial services and business industries. It was founded in 2019 at Cornell University as the first minority-owned investment fund at the school — a space for Black, Hispanic, and Native American students interested in pursuing careers in finance. 

“It’s hard if you’re a minority, who doesn’t already know a lot about finance coming into college, to enter into the preprofessional space here at Penn, because it is so intense,” Igwebuike said. “We wanted to provide an accessible format for people to learn more about finance as well as gain access to a lot of corporate sponsors who could help them get a head start and start a career.”

Tigane explained that BlackGen Capital aims to close the gap between minorities and the financial services industry through providing an educational series to train individuals and provide the fundamentals of understanding what makes up the financial industry.

“The goal is to create a familial community based on mentorship. When you look at studies of how many people actually stay in finance who are of minority backgrounds, the problem is not getting them into finance, the problem is retaining them,” Tigane said. “A lot of people don’t necessarily feel like they have the network or the community that makes them feel supported in these spaces.”

College juniors Julian Igwebuike (left) and Mariam Tigane (right), founders and co-presidents of the Penn chapter of BlackGen Capital (Photo courtesy of Anthony Yang).

At the end of the education series, all of the BlackGen Capital chapters come together to compete in a national stock pitch competition. Igwebuike explained that this gives students the opportunity to use their skills in a way that has a real impact, noting that the national board of BlackGen Capital will invest in the companies pitched by the winning chapters.

BlackGen Capital currently has other chapters at Cornell University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of Michigan.

Although every chapter goes through the education series at the same time and has access to the same materials, the topics are still tailored to what is currently relevant and what people are most interested in learning about, according to Wharton junior Tomas Hernandez Patino, one of BlackGen Capital’s vice presidents of education. 

Patino also said that it can be very difficult to break into the finance space without having someone help you go about the process. 

“I was only able to navigate the space because I had people helping me along the way, and I’m aware that that’s not necessarily something that’s available to a lot of people, especially communities of color,” he said.

Explaining her motivation to found the club, Tigane said that she had been involved in a few different finance organizations on campus and noticed the lack of diversity, and that she found it difficult to stay motivated when not seeing many people that looked like her in those environments. 

Tigane had to apply and interview with the National Board of BlackGen Capital in early 2022 in order to open a chapter on Penn’s campus. Once approved, she and Igwebuike recruited students over the summer and had a full board by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

During the fall semester, BlackGen Capital was in a pre-launch period and hosted multiple events, including an introduction to the finance industry, a career insights panel, and a women in capital information session. 

College first year Grayson Grigsby, one of the applicants for the upcoming first cohort, explained that he did not know much about the finance industry before attending the fall events, and that the BlackGen Capital board members were very patient and open-minded when educating them. 

“​​As an African American, I really cherish the opportunity to be surrounded by other Black people and other minorities who are like-minded and equally as determined as I am,” Grigsby said.