Director of Implementation Services Daronn Grosvenor Weighs in on Diversity in Fintech

Daronn Grosvenor on Diversity in Fintech

What is your current position at Quavo? How long have you been in this position? Can you give a brief overview of what you do in your work?

I am currently the Director of Implementation Services, but I will be transitioning to a new role as the Director of Compliance this year.As Quavo became more of a product company we need more resources devoted more towards product and compliance.In my new position, I will workmostly with the product and technology teams toensure our products are secure and compliant. From a governance perspective, I will workwiththeoperations team to upholdagile methodologieswhile also developing procedures and documentation for acohesive processacross the company.

How did you become a leader in the Fintech industry?

I earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting from Rutgers University. My first job was at an accounting firm performing compliance audits, but I became more involved in how systems work and algorithmic output as I was placed on different engagements. From there I continued to get more involved in the technology side. I started off in compliance, so it’s ironic that I am going back to that world from a Fintech perspective.

What influenced your career path? How was race involved, if at all?

One of the things the Rutgers’ career center always had us do was extensively research the companies we were interested in. Every time I went to research a company it was just white males across the entire board. At this point, I was not looking at technology companies per se, but there was no color and no women. I was like, “Why is that? I would have felt more comfortable seeing people who looked like me. I would have felt that there were more opportunities for me at a company with a diverse executive team. So that became one of my goals, I wanted to achieve this in my career and become a member of a leadership team.

Did you have key mentors or experiences early on in your career?

At my first job right out of collegeI had the opportunity to work directly with the leadership team. In that aspect, I was given an opportunity that most people of color in corporate America don’texperience. Being exposed to the partners and having close relationships with them gave me more opportunities than other people of color at the company. I did notice a lack of diversity at our corporate events, especially amongst leadership, and I asked myself why that was, but it was almost like an internal conflict. While I personally did notexperience animosity or racial bias, I did wonder if anyone else was experiencing bias at the company. I also wonder if I would have experienced bias had I not been so close to the leadership team.

Did you feel like you were safe in bringing attention to the lack of diversity at your first company?

I never felt there was anything explicitly blocking me from bringing diversity to the attention of the leadership team, but I didn’tfeel comfortable enough to say anything either. The overall fear for me was in risking making an executive uncomfortable. I moved up quickly at my first job and I largely attributedthis to my relationship with the leadership team. I feared that bringing up race and diversity wouldjeopardizenot only my professional relationships but my career path. I didn’twant to give any reason to prevent my professional growth.

Now, looking back, I don’trecommend that. If someone sees a lack of representation at a company, they should speak up for themselves and others that may not have the opportunity. But that fear is real, and it is pervasive among people of color in general and Black Americans specifically. You are so scared of what the response is and how uncomfortable talking about racial bias with leadership is that you just freeze and don’tsay anything. The repercussions can be impactful to your livelihood. It takes courage to overcome these innate feelings.

In hindsight, I wonder about the people of color at the company who didn’t have the level of access that I did. How did they feel? Where are they now?

Do you have any examples or personal experience working at a company committed to diversity? If so, how was the company inclusive?

The second company I worked at was Bancorp and that was a very diverse company. The leadership was diverse and there were people of color represented across the board. It made me reflect on my firstcompany and ask, “What happened here?” Bancorp addressed diversity and inclusion head-on, they made it an initiative. It was the reason why the company looked diverse and why it felt more comfortable to people of color.

Do you think this was because a person of color brought it to the leadership team’s attention or did Bancorp just ‘put it out there’?

They just put it out there!There are two great examples of things Bancorp did that resonate with me to this day.The first was through their initiatives. They did something each month, kind of like what Quavo is doing now for Black History Month, where they always had an article or a display abouta different culture or racial heritage. They also sent out weekly and monthly company-wide communications withrecipes, moments in history, and influential people from a specific culture or race.

The second thing that I noticed were the actions of their leadership team, that also made a big difference. When the protests for George Floyd were happening across the country, the COO from Bancorp reached out to me to ask how I was doing. I was working at Quavo at the time – I wasn’t even working at Bancorp anymore, but one of their executives took the time to contact me and see how I was doing given the momentous events that were underway. We just had a normal conversation. He told me that he wasn’t sure how to explain what was going on to his kids or a tactful approach to address the situation within the company. We just talked about it. It’s like, something as simple as just reaching out has so much impact.

Looking at how diverse the company was and still is, I’m sure there were people in leadership positions who I didn’t even know that were reaching out to current and former employees about what was going on. Actions like that are a strong reflection of their commitment to inclusivity and just the kind of company that they are.

These are the kind of efforts that keep people at a company. I want to do the same thing at Quavo. We are a smaller company than Bancorp, but I know it’spossible here. We have already started taking steps forward by establishing workgroupsfor people of color and women. It’s a great start.

Often there is some hesitation by white male executives to lead or establish groups dedicated to diversity. Many corporations face an impasse where employees are concerned that talking about diversity will jeopardize their careers and executives are concerned that they’ll appear invasive – or like they’re taking over something they have no experience with or right to. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree... Let me think about this as a hypothetical scenario. If a white executive came to me and told me they wanted to lead a resource group for people of color, after getting over the initialoddity of such a thing, I think I would be excited. I would admire the sheer boldness of it. A lot of individuals who are hesitant to establish initiatives for greater diversity might be surprised to hear me say that, and I know I don’t speak for every person of color either, but at the end of the day, we’re not going to progress as an industry or as a country if we don’t open our minds to working together for an important cause, regardless of background.

In a perfect world, I would want someone of color to lead a workgroup dedicated to people of color because they understand what we are going through and the common life lessons that our parents would teach us growing up. It would be easier for them to direct conversations, but it doesn’t need to be exclusive.

The one thing we don’t emphasize as much though is the complexity of racial experience within minority groups. People don’t experience racial bias the same way. People of color experience different microaggressions. Someone that is Black may not experience the same issues as someone of Asian descent. That in itself is another complexity that people of color need to address. That is a conversation that needs to happen. Everyone, regardless of color, needs to develop a pathway so that everyone hears these conversations. And even if a white executive was leading a group for people of color, it is also up to the members to lead the conversation.

The financial and tech industries are predominately white and male. What do you think needs to happen for there to be more representation and inclusion in the Fintech industry?

There needs to be more outward support for people in disadvantaged situations, a direct representation of inclusivity. From the time I graduated college to the present, racial injustice has made people of color even more reluctant to have trust in companies, especially companies where they are surrounded by white people. There is a lot of trust that needs to be established there. For students of color who are doing the same thing that I did researching a company and looking at their executive boardtheywant to know that there is an opportunity to grow at these companies and that racial bias will not be a factor in their professional growth. It is extremely important for attracting talent and building a more diverse working environment. A diverse executive team shows all people of color that they have an opportunity for growth.

I protested for George Floyd in Philadelphia. It was my first protest and honestly, seeing the number of white people there was amazing.I was moved by just the interaction amongst people, stripping away our physical appearance, it was just the feeling of genuine care for one another.The cause was supported globally. It gave me the feeling that if there is going to be change, people of all races need to be involved. As the centuries go on, civil momentum like what we saw in 2020 shouldn’t fade away.

Why is diversity in corporate America important to you and to people of color as a whole?

I learned a lot from my professional experience. A lot of the lessons I live by now were learned by talking to the people I worked with. There are a lot of things that I never would have learned in school, like soft skills, tips for investing, etc. There are many things that I learned from casual conversations with executives, and I thought to myself, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” I took many lessons home with me, tested them out, and benefited from them personally. This is another example of why there needs to be more diversity in corporate America, it provides another way in which we can overcome entrenched socio-economic barriers. The professional is personal.

What does Black History Month mean for you both professionally and personally?

Black History Month for me means that the entire world is listening and paying attention to Black culture. In that same breath, I do feel that Black cultureshouldn’t be something boxed into one month. It should be fluid across the entire year. It may not make sense to other people, but for me, its important thatwe arealways celebratingdifferent culturesand races in America.