Case study

Illumen Capital, LP

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Illumen Capital is seeking to overcome the deeply entrenched racial barriers faced by Black people and women in the fund management industry in the United States.
Five people sit on a stage
Researchers from Stanford SPARQ and Stanford Global Projects Center with Daryn Dodson and Shruti Nagarajan of Illumen Capital discuss the findings of their collaborative study examining racial bias among professional investors in August 2019. Courtesy Illumen Capital
Investment size $5M
Type Indirect
Geography United States
Sector Generalist
Date 2021

Theory of Change

Illumen Capital believes that by investing capital integrated with evidence-based tools and coaching designed to reduce gender and racial bias among top impact fund managers, it can demonstrate that increased diversity, equity, and inclusion within our capital markets is not only good for society, but also delivers higher returns.

Challenge and Context

Businesses owned by African Americans and other communities of color in the United States have long faced an array of discriminatory barriers to securing access to investment capital. These barriers include the acute under representation of women and people of color managing investment assets. Of the estimated $70 trillion global financial assets under management across mutual funds, hedge funds, real estate, and private equity in 2019, less than 1.3 percent were managed by women and people of color. This reinforces underlying patterns of systemic exclusion. 

Evidence-based research shows that overcoming racial and gender bias can help fund managers focus on value creation and deliver higher returns. 

Proposition

Illumen is a fund of funds which seeks to drive inclusionary practices across the financial sector through an innovative model. It takes stakes in other impact investment funds and provides long-term, uniquely tailored racial and gender bias reduction coaching designed to help fund managers mitigate implicit biases that work against businesses owned by people of color and/or women.

The $87.9 million fund will invest in eight to twelve impact investment funds focused on driving equitable outcomes in education, financial inclusion, sustainable energy, and health technology.

Impact

The investment seeks to:

  • Reduce gender and racial bias and incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion principles into fund practices
  • Drive capital to overlooked and underestimated communities
  • Create a blueprint for others to follow
  • Increase gender and racial equity within financial markets

Why SEDF

This investment is being accompanied by broader advocacy and grant-giving work on racial equity across all aspects of U.S. society by the Open Society Foundations. 

Learn more about Open Society’s work in the United States