Our Voices

In Conversation with Jason Lamin, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Lenox Park Solutions

Jason Lamin is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lenox Park Solutions and oversees all aspects of the firm, which prioritizes impact, inclusion, and leverages extensive domain expertise to serve institutional and enterprise clients. In a conversation with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, he explains how in the wake of a political pushback against DEIA efforts, leading organizations remain highly engaged in pursuing more diverse and equitable workplaces. And why the organizations who may pause or retreat from their DEIA commitments should ask themselves “why” and assess the risk of an organization that continues to systematically exclude in a world that’s becoming more diverse.

DEIA efforts have received growing political and legal backlash in recent years. Most prominently, in June 2023, the US Supreme Court affirmed a challenge to race-based affirmative action, overturning the practice in college admissions. Many corporate actors are now responding to threats of legal action against DEIA practices based on this precedent. On the other hand, some critics may argue that corporate DEIA efforts can be made into a watered-down version of true anti-racist efforts, or that these practices merely tokenize a few members of a disadvantaged group without truly changing power structures. In light of these growing challenges, how is your firm thinking about your work in this new context? What responses have you seen from your clients in this new age of anti-DEIA sentiment?

I’ll submit two observations from my point of view as CEO of a FinTech company that is in the business of helping our clients solve challenges by providing data insights and analytic tools. The reality is that leading organizations that have been engaged – for the right reasons – have not wavered, or even slowed momentum in their pursuit of more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive organizations and industries. If you believe the science; if you believe what the research empirically shows us about how much more performance and risk-mitigating value comes from varied perspectives; and if you have ever been part of or witnessed the uptick in psychological safety and trust among teammates when everyone is included; then there is no other way forward.

Our clients span a spectrum in terms of their progress on their DEI journey. Some at the forefront, using data and metrics to support their rich legacies of social justice. Others are earlier in their journey. The one thing they all have in common is a view that DEI metrics can and should be used as risk signals for organizations.

I’m of the opinion that DEI considerations belong in all facets of decision-making; but certainly they belong in the risk management arena of any business. It is entirely reasonable, if not a duty, to consider the risks of any business or industry that suffers so severely from exclusion intensity that some underrepresented groups are practically invisible. What are all the things that could go wrong? And what’s at stake if we don’t collectively course-correct?

Organizations that were never engaged for the right reasons are likely to respond in some predictable ways, including retracting on DEI-related proclamations or commitments, or simply pausing to see how others will handle things going forward. My hope is that those who pause to observe, take the time to honestly consider the ‘why’ in their DEI engagement. They should then double down on the risk management considerations.

My second observation is more of a data point. At Lenox Park, since mid-2021, we’ve observed no slowing down of prospective clients seeking our DEI analytics services. In fact, there has been a material uptick in referrals, reverse inquiries and cold calls into our firm. And when we look at all that incoming inquiry that has then converted into high-probability subscriptions or signed subscriptions, the ratio of those prospects to existing clients that have elected to terminate their subscription or not renew an expiring contract is approximately 70 to 1. If this is any indication of what’s actually happening, it means there is a very vocal, but small faction that is making a lot of noise. But leaders and decision-makers are voting with their feet and continue to press forward in pursuit of more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive organizations and industries, where the most amount of people feel like they belong, not the least amount.

Given your background in Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch, what drew you to create Lenox Park Solutions and focus on DEI reporting within the industry?

I had an extremely rewarding career at Merrill Lynch. I find it nearly impossible to imagine being the founder of a company without all the skills and training and the extraordinary network of people that eventually helped bring this company to life. I’m the son of a Peace Corps Volunteer – my mother, who bravely took a one-way flight to Sierra Leone in the late 1960s to teach and learn with purpose. I was born and lived in Sierra Leone until I was a teenager when my mother repatriated back to the United States.

As you may imagine, given my background and my DNA, I’m a lifelong advocate for every individual who has ever felt like an ‘other’; those who need – and deserve – a sense of belonging, and to be included. After investment banking, I had hoped that I’d be lucky enough to find my own purpose. When I started Lenox Park (first, as a consulting firm), I witnessed up close the astonishing bias that exists in how decisions are made. This includes when entrepreneurs of color or women were routinely being overlooked by funding from venture capitalists. And when diverse asset managers received only tiny amounts of capital to invest from asset owners. There were also instances when talented people were excluded from leadership roles – the outcomes were so shocking that I couldn’t look away.

In the midst of those revelations, I believe I found my purpose. The skills and network I’d cultivated allowed me to find like-minded partners and my incredible Lenox Park teammates to do something meaningful together. In about 2015, we found our raison d’etre as a company, and committed to building our RoundTables technology platform.

In RoundTables, we believe we can address access to capital through collaboration. We’ve built analytic tools and provide metrics and insights to support unbiased decision-making and greater inclusion. We’ve also cultivated a stellar team at Lenox Park, full of talented people that bring a myriad of perspectives to our collective work. And our results speak for themselves. Alongside our amazing clients and partners, we’re moving the needle.

From your work with your clients, what makes you hopeful about the future of DEIA efforts in the financial services industry?

In the work we’re doing with RFK Human Rights, there has been a dramatic coalescence around the standardized DEI metrics that we’re providing to the financial services industry. We now have close to $4 trillion of asset owners using our technology to aggregate high-integrity data from their asset managers – and in some cases all their vendors – using our Lenox Park Impact (“LPI”) Scoring methodology and the benchmarks from a universe that covers all asset classes. The pace of adoption has been so swift that it can only engender hope and optimism. There is no significant challenge that is being managed or solved in 2024 without doing so through the prism of data and metrics. There’s a lot to be hopeful for because standardized DEI accountability measures are now accessible, and we have numerous clients that have woven these tools into their operations. Leaders like the State Comptroller of New York, CalPERS, PGIM, MacArthur Foundation, the Kresge Foundation & W.K. Kellogg Foundation (to name a few) have been exceptional partners in moving the needle – and it is working.

The Alpha Equity Survey, a joint effort between RFK Compass Investors and Lenox Park Solutions, gathered data from not only general partners/asset managers but also served as the first meaningful collection of diversity data from limited partners/institutional investors. Lenox Park works with some of the nation’s largest public pension funds as clients. Can you speak to why you believe DEIA for not just asset managers, but also institutional investors, should be a priority?

I’m of the firm belief that DEI considerations belong everywhere within an organization. It is relevant in every group: at the board level, in firm ownership, among leadership, and in the workforce. It’s also relevant in every industry or sector. I cannot stress enough the importance of the Alpha Equity Survey, which we are so delighted to be working on in collaboration with RFK Human Rights. It’s important for all groups to reflect on their own organization, for all of the reasons I mentioned previously. The risk of bias or exclusion encumbering your organization may be material and we should all be looking closely to mitigate or neutralize such risks. The research is also clear that teams of policy-makers and decision-makers exhibit less bias when the backgrounds of the individuals making up those teams offer broad and varied perspectives based on how they experience the world. Some of our most fruitful client relationships are with asset owners and allocators that also assess and score their own teams using the LPI Scoring rubric. They are then able to communicate this to their network of vendors to indicate that “We are all on this journey together; and there is a lot of work for all of us to do.”

I’m extremely excited about another space where we continue to make progress in 2024: the use of our LPI Scoring apparatus (the RoundTables technology and the DEI analytics) to assess and score portfolio companies of private market asset managers.

We’re also engaged with a Fortune 500 corporation to provide DEI metrics and benchmarking analytics for companies within their supply chain. This is enormous progress and a true paradigm shift, and it’s also evidence that other industries are paying attention to the progress we’re making in bringing metric-driven accountability measures to asset management.

In the wake of political pushback, hundreds of companies are re-examining their DEIA initiatives. Some are de-emphasizing their racial and gender equity efforts or speaking about these efforts in muted language. What do you think about that approach and what message should the financial services industry send to internal and external stakeholders about the importance of DEIA efforts, if they truly believe in their commitment to equity?

The response from organizations to the current political climate and the anti-DEI or anti-ESG rhetoric could be an imperfect, but quite relevant indicator as to that organization’s core commitment to DEI. The organizations that are unfazed by the noisy distractions, or may have even doubled down on their posture for greater inclusion are usually those who have taken a thorough and considered approach to ‘why’ they are in pursuit of more diverse and inclusive organizations. Those that have responded by retracting – conspicuously or inconspicuously – may also be signaling their ultimate posture, using any political push back as a convenience.

To answer your question more specifically for organizations ‘re-examining’ their DEI initiatives; I believe this is an opportunity. An opportunity to dig into the litany of research available to support what DEI brings to their organization. But perhaps most importantly: observe the world around us and assess what’s at risk to their organization if it continues to systematically exclude in a world that is only becoming more and more diverse. The message that we can all subscribe to is that DEI is most certainly about including people. DEI is about fostering a sense of belonging for all and ensuring that fairness and a true meritocracy prevails in how we make decisions. But it is also about managing risk.

Jason Lamin

Jason is the Founder of Lenox Park Solutions and oversees all aspects of the firm. Before founding Lenox Park, Jason was a Director in Merrill Lynch’s Fixed Income Structured Credit group in New York. In that role, Jason was instrumental to Asset Management due diligence for a highly selective Investor base.

He began his career in Investment Banking working on M&A transactions for Financial Institutions, then helped launch a start-up group in London focused on deepening Merrill Lynch’s most lucrative institutional client relationships. Jason graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in Economics. At the University of Texas, he was a member of the prestigious organization, The Texas Cowboys.

Jason remains active at his alma mater, where he serves on the advisory boards for the Department of Economics and the Department of Black Studies. He was honored to deliver the College of Liberal Arts commencement address for 2017 University of Texas graduates, where he spoke about diversity and inclusion

He is an active member of the United Nations Private Sector Forum, where he has had the honor of serving as Co-Chair of the Private Sector Working Group for the 10th principle UN’s Global Compact – Anti-Bribery & Anti-Corruption; and Keynote speeches to the General Assembly on matters relating to Capital Access and Infrastructure Investing on the Continent of Africa.

In 2008, Jason founded Nyawa Funding Group, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to improve living standards in Sierra Leone.