Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series – Knight Foundation

Knight Diversity of Asset Managers Research Series

Series Leads

VP/Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer
VP/Learning and Impact


It started with a tough question and an unacceptable answer.

In 2010, Knight Foundation leadership was asked how much of its multibillion-dollar endowment was invested with diverse-owned firms, meaning firms owned by women and people of color. When we looked at the data and the demographics, the results revealed that we were not living one of our core values: a commitment to equitable, inclusive and engaged communities. Today, over one-third of our endowment, or about $1 billion, is managed by diverse-owned firms.

The asset management field is a cornerstone of the economy, facilitating the movement of capital from investors to entrepreneurs, growing ventures, restructuring enterprises and building personal wealth. Now, as part of Knight’s commitment to increasing transparency and advancing diversity in the asset management industry, we ask that same tough question to others. Since 2017, the Knight Diversity of Asset Managers (KDAM) research series has looked at the state of diversity across the asset management field, including philanthropic and higher education endowments.

Findings from our Latest Research

The KDAM research series has highlighted the disparities in diversity in asset management across multiple sectors with the goals of increasing transparency, sparking constructive dialogue and ultimately advancing diversity in the asset management industry.

As of 2021, diverse-owned firms represented just 1.4% of U.S.-based assets under management, despite the fact that research finds no statistically significant difference in risk-adjusted returns between diverse and non-diverse asset management firms, and mounting evidence shows that diverse companies have equal business outcomes. 

The philanthropic sector is outperforming the financial industry, with U.S.-based assets of foundation endowments managed by diverse-owned firms reaching 18.1% in 2022—far surpassing the industry’s 1.4% average in 2021. This group of sophisticated investors, who depend on their returns to fund their social investments, have seen the opportunity in diverse managers and are allocating their money accordingly.

In 2024, as a continuation of a 2022 interim report, we published a paper on our invitations to colleges and universities to participate in our research. Of the 50 invited institutions, 18 fully participated in the study––up from 12 in 2022––by providing their asset manager rosters for independent analysis or by making their rosters publicly available, 8 self-reported their summary statistics and 24 did not participate at all. Unfortunately, participation remained too low to provide field-wide learnings but we can share the extent to which individual university endowments are leveraging diverse-owned firms.

In light of our studies, stakeholders have raised questions about using decision maker diversity instead of firm ownership as a metric. This report examines the ownership metric in relation to new data on decision maker diversity. The findings reveal a robust and statistically significant correlation: Diverse-owned firms are at least three times more likely to have diverse teams compared to non-diverse-owned firms.

Watch: The continued fight for diversity and equality in asset management

Featuring: Jose Minaya, CEO, Nuveen; Rupal Bhansali, CIO of International & Global Equities, Ariel Investments; Seema Hingorani, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management; Juan J. Martinez, Vice President / Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Knight Foundation. Moderated by Danielle Verbrigghe, Managing Editor, FundFire.

Watch: An Inclusive Recovery: How Philanthropy Can Impact Systematic Change

Presented by Florida Philanthropic Network, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Knight Foundation. Featuring Raphael Bostic, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Circle of Transparency

Our philanthropy and higher education research relies on participation from charitable foundations and colleges and universities. We honor the participating institutions as members of the Circle of Transparency.