A new impact investment firm is confronting critical societal issues with capital and services targeted to drive measurable change toward three primary areas: housing, jobs, and financial inclusion.

Investor and philanthropist Damien Dwin
Investor and philanthropist Damien Dwin

Launched by Damien Dwin, a Black American investor and philanthropist, Lafayette Square Holding Co. will focus flexible capital investments in sustainable, service-enriched affordable housing as well as in small- and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs that provide jobs in local communities. It also will provide seed capital to bolster new investment firms run by women or diverse populations.

The idea for the impact-driven, minority-owned investment platform came during the COVID-19 outbreak last spring and accelerated following the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests, including one in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square.

“The history of finance is one in which far too many individuals, businesses, and communities—especially women and persons of color—have been denied access to capital, resources, and opportunity,” said Dwin. “The economic fallout of COVID-19 and the social justice movement of 2020 have reinforced the inadequacies of the traditional financial paradigm and made a powerful case for a new, more inclusive investment model.”

Morgan Stanley has provided $100 million of financing to launch Lafayette Square, which is minority owned with employees owning over 90% of its equity. In addition to the employees, other backers include Capricorn Investment Group’s Sustainable Investors Fund and Schusterman Family Investments, which will both maintain seats on Lafayette Square’s fiduciary board of directors.

“We are pleased to have the confidence of our peers at Morgan Stanley, Capricorn Investment Group, and Schusterman Family Investments, in building a model to change the current financial paradigm to a new one, where inclusion finds opportunity, access finds wealth, and transparency finds finance,” added Dwin. “We look forward to investing within communities that have been traditionally neglected by fiscal and monetary policy, not only to drive short-term recovery but also to achieve real, measurable changes for decades to come.”

Dwin, an industry veteran with 23 years of investment experience, has launched the firm with a team of 17 professionals with an average 15 years of experience in financial services. The team includes chief risk officer Phil Daniele, chief of staff Doug Ebanks, head of investor relations Caitlin Mixter, managing directors Ryan Ochs and Joe Johnson, director Casey Woo, and vice president Mary Ann Raftery. According to the firm, it expects to grow to approximately 65 employees by 2022.