Seven Richmond is a busy man. He’s Vice President of Harvard’s Black Students Association, President of BLK Capital Management (a Black-owned equity hedge fund that supports financial education among Black undergraduates), and Founder & President of Harvard’s First Generation Investors chapter. When he’s not spearheading social justice initiatives or working at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (where he held positions the last two summers), the Economics major enjoys reading about Black history, studying Romance Languages, and playing & watching basketball.
First Generation Investors sat down with Seven, who chatted about the multiple friendships he’s fostered through FGI, how the nonprofit succeeds in “popping the Harvard bubble,” and the FGI memory that he considers a peak experience of his college years.
Describe the first time you made an investment.
It was actually through BLK Capital Management [which is] a really cool organization. I had no knowledge of stocks, bonds, or any sort of investment assets throughout high school. My family had no investments either. We had a house, but that was probably [our] only equity. When I got to college, that was my first introduction to anything [related to investing]. I actually was part of a stock pitch group for the [BLK] fund, and upon getting approval and being a prize winner of the stock pitch competition, that investment was actually put into our hedge fund. It was institutionally, [not] for my personal savings, but it was still a really cool experience to pitch a stock, figure out how to valuate companies, and see it actually being moved collectively. [This was all] a team effort.
How did you get involved with First Generation Investors?
Cole Mattox [FGI Vice President and Co-Founder] and I were in the Morgan Stanley Freshman Enhancement Program together our freshman summer. We became pretty good friends throughout the time, and he was like, “You’ve totally got to be involved with this awesome initiative that I’m launching at Penn.” He told me about FGI right there and was like, “We’d just love for you to start it up at Harvard.” I was sold. They gave me the binder, and the rest is history.
Can you talk about the process of creating Harvard’s FGI chapter? Did you face any challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them?
It was a ton of fun creating the Harvard chapter, [especially] once I got my friends on board with it. I launched it with Victoria Verna and Joanna Hokayem, my two best friends in college since I stepped foot on campus, and with Bobby Harraka and Eddie Richardson. Getting [them] involved was huge, because [of the] energy they brought [to] it. Sherry Xie and Jelani Machen also joined this effort as the best tutors anyone could have asked for, and the students really enjoy learning from them. Having a team was the most essential part of building the chapter at Harvard, and all them just put in so much effort and care into it.
The biggest challenge we had was certainly reaching out to high school students because none of us are from the Boston area, and we had no familiarity with the public school system at all. Cold-calling schools became really difficult. However, we [found] creative solutions. We partnered with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which has a lot of contacts, [including] principals in many Boston public high schools that FGI is looking to serve... We ended up [collaborating] with a lot of really cool social justice organizations in order to partner with a variety of high schools around the Boston area with a lot of different kids. That was pretty exciting.
You have quite the resume! You serve as President of BLK Capital Management and Vice President of Harvard’s Black Students Association, you were an investment banking summer analyst at Goldman Sachs, and you’ve interned at Morgan Stanley. How have your experiences at this diverse and impressive array of organizations informed your work with FGI?
For me, FGI is really all about paying forward the knowledge and mentorship I’ve received [from] these programs. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have gone from knowing zero things [about finance and investing] throughout high school to having a lot of mentors ahead of me, friends as well, who want to see me succeed and know I have an eager thirst for learning. And now that I’m part of FGI, it’s all about giving that back and paying forward the guidance that has been given to me.
An essential part of FGI is fostering trust, mentorship, and bonding between tutors and tutees. How did you develop these relationships early on in the semester despite not being able to interact in person?
[We had a virtual launch party], which was super cool. [The party was] a mirror of what a normal session would be, but we didn’t teach any material. We broke everyone into breakout rooms with one Harvard tutor and a group of three or four students, just like we would do in a normal FGI meeting, but this time instead of asking a question like “What is a stock?” we asked them about their names, hometowns, class years, guilty pleasures, claims to fame, and why they were excited about FGI. [It] was super exciting and super fun. I joined a breakout room and had a really great time with three Boston high school students... It was good to get everyone in the same place and not even to talk about material but just to meet each other and let the tutees know that we’re there for them and we’re really excited to be mentors for them throughout this process.
Name something about this FGI semester of which you are particularly proud.
Our tutee session is 85% women of color, which is really dope. This year, we specifically told the school with which we were partnering that we want women of color [to be a] part of this because we know that normally, if you say gender neutral, and you don’t explicitly say that you want women to be a part of it, they’re going to be hesitant to join. So we told [the school], “We need women of color,” and they just came in droves.
What have you found most rewarding about your time with the nonprofit?
I’ve gotten really close with all of the Board Members. It’s been super cool to build my friendships with these people and then see the support and excitement from Harvard students who tutor and give back as well. Popping the Harvard bubble [has also been rewarding]. [We’re] getting out of the regular Cambridge scene where we’re surrounded by the same college people all the time and actually investing ourselves in the city of Boston in a really meaningful way.
Do you have a favorite memory of working with First Generation Investors?
The Launch Day last spring before the coronavirus hit [is my favorite memory]. We got all the students and their parents to come in and meet everyone in person... It was awesome to meet everybody. We had a deal with a local restaurant at Harvard Square to give them free lunch, [and] it was [also] really fun to have our Faculty Advisor, Scott Duke Kominers from Harvard Business School, there as well. Seeing it all come together for the very first time in person was definitely a highlight. Not just of FGI but one of the highlights of college. Period.