Although my full-time job is working as the Investment Advisor to The Gambrell Foundation, I also give back to the community by serving as Vice President on a board of directors for a non-profit. The CFA Society of North Carolina (“CFANC”) was established in 1971 to provide education and support to the area’s investment professionals. It currently has approximately 1,300 members statewide consisting of portfolio managers, security analysts, investment advisors, and other financial professionals.


As VP of CFANC, my primary responsibility is programming. This week, we hosted a panel of three highly respected and successful investment professionals, who engaged in an open dialogue discussing the topic, “Let’s Shape the Future Together – Success Stories of Inclusion.”  Our panel included:


  • Ernie Dawal, the Chief Investment Officer (“CIO”) of Truist Financial, the bank resulting from the merger of SunTrust and BB&T, which has approximately $300 billion in assets under management.
  • Dennis Johnson, CFA, the former Chief Strategy Officer for the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund for Saudi Arabia with approximately $347 billion in assets under management.
  • Tina Williams, CFA, the CEO, CIO, and Founder of Xponance, a $12 billion multiple strategy investment company, which is one of the largest diverse and women-owned investment firms in the world.


The conversation began with Dennis describing the current environment in regards to inclusion, which admittedly has its shortcomings. For instance, the CFA Institute provides gender and age metrics surrounding its global membership, but neglects to track race and ethnicity. In order to fix any problem, Dennis suggests that we first have to acknowledge it, which requires data and measurements so we can track and evaluate progress over time.


The highlight of the event for me was hearing the profound thoughts and innovative ideas that the panelists openly shared:


  • Tina cited research conducted by the Knight Foundation which concluded that there is no discernable difference in performance between diverse and non-diverse firms; however, diverse firms have a greater ability to attract assets.
  • At Xponance, Tina holds her team leaders accountable for diversity, equity, and inclusion targets. In her experience, this is the most effective approach to develop and maintain a diversified workforce, thereby increasing the likelihood of outperformance because you have a breadth of opportunities.
  • Ernie suggested that when an employee leaves, an employer should proactively hire a replacement that does not look exactly like the departed employee, which would ultimately result in a more diverse workplace.
  • Ernie underscored the importance of an inclusive corporate culture. For instance, do employees and students feel that they belong? Students need mentors to help develop their career path and gauge their feeling of inclusiveness.


I admire Ernie, Dennis, and Tina for eloquently discussing an important topic by sharing their insights and perspectives given their vast professional experiences. I am confident that these three leaders will continue to uplift everyone and everything around them, ultimately making the world a better place.