Two years ago, Roel C. Campos made history when he became the first Hispanic to serve as a commissioner on the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As a rule-maker for the financial markets, Mr. Campos holds a key position in assessing and addressing capital market issues and corporate regulations. And in his role, Mr. Campos – a Harvard-educated former Los Angeles attorney specializing in corporate transactions and securities law, and former principal of El Dorado Communications – holds a unique perspective on how to tackle the "capital gap" that exists for Hispanic companies seeking to grow.
In a recent telephone interview from his office in Washington, D.C., Mr. Campos talked with Hispanic Business Senior Editor Joel Russell about the challenges to increasing deal flows that would allow the market to fully advance – and the changes that are needed.
Hispanic Business: As you know, the financial industry is perceived by minorities as tough to crack. What are your thoughts on that, and what do you the think the SEC's role should be?
Mr. Campos: Wall Street has traditionally been fairly clubby and dominated by white males, as a lot of U.S. industries have been. I don't think there are any inherent barriers or reasons why Hispanics or other minorities can't flourish on Wall Street. Clearly members of the Hispanic community and other minority communities have talent, and they have education. We have graduates from all of the major graduate and professional schools – Harvard Business School, Kellogg School, Wharton, etcetera. So we have a pool, although not a huge one.
But what we don't have are longtime individuals in the industry. Therefore, we don't have mentors. That's what it takes in all these hard-to-figure-out professions. Therein lies why we have difficulty in entering and sustaining a career. We don't have a pipeline, a safety zone, and a support mechanism in those firms.
That has to change. It's essentially the rationale for why diversity matters, why diversity is good. It's not a matter of political correctness; it's not a matter of charity. Companies simply cannot afford to not access the talent that exists. Look at baseball when it was segregated. You had great talent available in the African-American community that was not utilized. The same principle applies [in financial services]. So it's incumbent, as a matter of survival and success, for Wall Street firms and investment firms to find talent in our community.
HB: How about minority companies trying to access capital?
Mr. Campos: A very difficult problem. First of all, it's difficult for any start-up company to find capital. [It's] difficult for minorities because we don't have the networks and we don't have people looking in that space. So when it comes to start-ups, we definitely need private equity and sources of capital.
I have a general belief that the successful Hispanics in this country, for the most part, are still working on their own personal net worth. In that pursuit, there isn't a lot of time or energy to work on someone else's behalf, even if there's a business opportunity. We need our Hispanic business leaders to commit to creating a private equity pool. It could be venture capital, limited partnerships – there are a number of business approaches. But there's a compelling story about the growth of Hispanics in America, and there is a business proposition to be made.
Hispanics show a huge amount of entrepreneurial activity across almost all business sectors. Many of those start-ups are successful, but they don't get to the second stage or third stage because they don't have the capital, or maybe the know-how to access [capital]. So I see no reason why people who have stature couldn't come together and essentially raise capital the way the majority population does. You go to pension plans and present the story of how to make money, you hire professional management, and you create a deal flow. You'd fish in places that aren't being fished in right now.
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