The Armanino Foundation recently strengthened its partnership with the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), a nonprofit membership association that seeks to shrink the opportunity gap for black professionals in the accounting, finance and related business professions, through a $16,000 racial justice grant to identify ways to empower diversity throughout our broader industry. NABA represents over 200,000 African and African American professionals and students in these fields by providing education, resources and networking opportunities.
We met with Kiyoshi William-Smith and Tiffany Allison about their participation in NABA and how, as representatives of the firm and the Armanino Foundation, we’re trying to shrink the opportunity gap for minorities in the accounting, finance and professional services field.
AF: Can you provide some insight into what NABA is and its mission?
K: NABA’s motto is “lifting as we climb” and it really accomplishes that through helping with the advancement of black accountants and black professionals in fields that surround the accounting profession. But also, they work with high school and college students to help them with their professionalism. It’s a great networking opportunity for students to try and decipher what they have to do to break into the field and find a mentor.
T: I’d also like to add that NABA’s initiatives also include collaborations with other organizations such as the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and various Pan-Asian professional organizations as well.
AF: What is Armanino Foundation’s and your individual roles in NABA?
K: I’m a professional member as of last year. But at a larger level, this is near and dear to me because as an Armanino member, I’m here helping embolden this partnership between Armanino and NABA. The Armanino Foundation is a platinum level sponsor of NABA, so we help sponsor some of their events. Tiffany and I recently spoke at a SF Chapter NABA networking event and have been a part of other events in the past.
T: I’m not officially a member of NABA quite yet, as I’ve just come to find that it’s not exclusively for accountants but is open to black professionals whose career or paths are intertwined with the accounting field. But I’m really looking forward to representing Armanino and also as an Armanino Foundation board member. Having a direct connect is beneficial for us and NABA because we really get a perspective of what NABA is trying to do. The Armanino Foundation can then empower those plans and as a firm we can try and engrain those methodologies throughout our organization.
AF: Can you provide some more insight into the Armanino Foundation’s goal with the $16k grant that was recently provided?
T: Yes, so $4,500 of that is going to the Western Region Student Conference sponsorship, which is a conference that brings in minority students and is led by industry professionals who try to prepare these students for careers in accounting and financial management disciplines. Another $5,000 went to the Dallas and SF student scholarships. This money went directly to minority students to give them the financial support they need to reach their education goals.
K: And the rest of the $6,500 went to Accounting Career Awareness Program sponsorship, NABA’s high school mentorship program that provides high school students who are interested in attending college and open to considering accounting, finance or business as a major an understanding of what these paths entail. Specifically, the funds will support Accounting Career Awareness Programs in Dallas and the San Francisco Bay Area.
AF: How does the Armanino Foundation propel its goals for greater diversity through its support of NABA?
K: A perfect example for me personally, and I think it embodies the firm’s purpose, was when I spoke at a video series with the help of AMF (Armanino’s media division) called My Story, My Opportunity. My story really revolved around race. And to be the most innovative firm, which is literally in Armanino’s purpose, you need to have a diverse selection of people coming to the table, but also being accepted and included at that table giving different perspectives.
I think our support and involvement with NABA will help us bring more diverse professionals and leaders into the firm and make them feel welcome here. When I’ve spoken to college and high school students at NABA events, they were amazing. And when you go to college campuses or career fairs and just speak to the people who raise their hand saying they want to be an accountant, you’re missing out on so many people who could be good in consulting, blockchain or data & analytics, but have never even had the notion to pursue it. I hope when I represent the Armanino Foundation and the firm, they see there are opportunities for them in the industry and that Armanino is a place where they want to pursue those opportunities.
T: It’s the culture. We want to support racial justice and the best way to do this is strengthening the pipeline of African Americans in accounting and professional services. How can Armanino and the Armanino Foundation get more African Americans and minorities to think about joining the professional services industry and how can we assist them in achieving those goals?
It takes a village. We’re part of NABA’s village now and we can reach out to each other to support each other’s efforts to fight racial injustice. This will help us support that pledge that Matt Armanino signed to assist our minority professionals.
AF: Does this partnership with NABA tie into any larger initiatives of the foundation?
K: The larger goal is to open the door for minorities who otherwise wouldn’t know about the accounting/professional services industry, or don’t have access to the programs or scholarships that they need to break into the field.
T: Working on these racial justice initiatives affects the whole world. But we can’t change the world in one day. So, recognizing the problems we have, having the courage to take that step and provide direction to others to enact that change, starts at the local level. This is at the core of the Armanino Foundation’s mission — to create lasting, positive change in our local communities. Ultimately, we’re here to help others any way we can and that’s really the heart of our budding relationship with NABA.
K: This also ties into our recent B Corp certification, which a lot of people think is very environmental heavy. That’s an important part of it, but it’s also about meeting the highest standards of social performance. So, to exemplify one Armanino motto of “Best and Only,” we need to use our efforts as a force for good by improving our community. It’s here in our partnership with NABA, but we want it to have a ripple effect with other racial minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community as well.
T: We’ve seen these efforts extend to other organizations, too. The Armanino Foundation made similar impactful grants to support the college student members of ALPFA and Ascend for Pan-Asian Professionals in March 2021. In April, the Armanino Foundation also became a sponsor of Chicago:Blend, which is a collaborative effort of venture capitalists who know that diverse teams and inclusive environments are critical foundations for both startups and venture firms.
AF: Are there any final thoughts that you want to add?
T: Keep in mind that the Armanino Foundation can’t do it alone. It takes the entire firm to work on this and when there’s a chance to bring someone into the world of accounting, make the effort because the opportunities are there. It’s just that many haven’t been introduced. And, we all have a responsibility to improve in this endeavor. The Armanino Foundation is just trying to do its part by leading these efforts.