When Troy Prince landed on Wall Street, he soon realized that most of his coworkers didn't look like the people he grew up with in his Bronx, New York, neighborhood.
More than 20 years later, while there has been an increase in minority recruitment for operations and back office roles, there is still a lack of diversity in the front offices in areas such as sales, analysis and trading, said Prince, who has worked around the world in various trading and investment firms ever since graduating from New York University's Stern School of Business in 1992.
He's trying to change that.
"Without having formal pathways, without having the social capital, young people find it challenging to break into that space," Prince, 48, said.
In fact, while he only grew up 13 miles away from Wall Street, "it might have well been the moon," he said.
In an effort to remedy that, he started Wall Street Bound, a nonprofit organization that trains underserved young adults ages 18 to 24 on the ins and outs of trading. His students can either be attending college or recent graduates.
Over the summer, he conducted a pilot program and hopes to launch the full program soon. He's working on partnerships with hedge funds, banks and proprietary trading firms, as well as colleges such as the City University of New York, which partnered with him on the pilot program.
Prince's goal is to start with three months of classroom instruction on skills such as equity analysis and coding and data analysis, as well as trading and investment fundamentals. From there, the students move on to simulated trading and end with six months of live trading. Once they start live trading, they'll receive a stipend so that they can focus on the job at hand.
When they complete the 10-month program, the organization will help connect them with potential employers.
"This is 'the land of opportunity,'" Prince said.
"If America is the largest economy in the world [and] one of the strongest without a full participation, imagine where we could be if more of our fellow citizens were brought into the same American dream," he added.
For those who want to break into the world of finance, Prince has four pieces of advice.
A job in finance during the summers after your sophomore and junior years of college is of "dire importance," he said.
"That will determine the probability of getting interviews ... when you graduate."
Colleges offer career guidance and continuing education, so be sure to check in with your campus-based career services office, Prince advises.
There, you can see what is available in the form of training or what connections can be made with companies on Wall Street.
Additionally, check for any workforce development nonprofits in your local community that may be offering help.
Young people in urban areas may not have what Prince refers to as "social capital." That means they don't have the family or community connections that others may have to Wall Street firms.
Because of that, it is especially important to be active on social media sites such as LinkedIn.
"Without having social capital in your own networks, technology is the next best bet," he said.
"Don't be shy," he added. Reach out to anyone you come across.
Start reading the business section of newspapers, as well as financial websites. Prince also suggests reading books on investing, such as those by author and mutual fund manager Peter Lynch, whom Prince called "one of the greatest investors ever."
While it's great to educate yourself, Wall Street also has to do its part and try to hire more people from underserved communities, Prince said.
"Imagine if we, as a society, spent one fraction of the energy, money and time that we spend scouting elementary schools and junior high school for the next [NBA star] LeBron James ... scouting for the next Mario Gabelli in the Bronx," Prince said, referring to the legendary investor who is chairman and CEO of The Gabelli Funds.
"Where would be as a market?"
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.