A group of Black executives is launching a new fund to invest in Black-controlled companies and organizations in Canada as a way to combat systemic racism.

The Black Opportunity Fund has “highly aspirational” goals for raising funds and will “meld investment capital and social capital together with philanthropy,” according to Ray Williams, managing director and vice chairman at National Bank Financial.

The organization plans to form partnerships with other groups, such as the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals, and is supported by at least 51 executives.

Backers include Starlight Capital Chief Executive Officer Dennis Mitchell; Colin Lynch, head of global real estate investments at TD Asset Management, and Hazel Claxton, a trustee at Ontario’s University Pension Plan.

The project first began as a conversation among Black professionals about how best to serve the community, but in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, organizing efforts accelerated, Williams said.

Although 52 per cent of Toronto’s population identifies as a visible minority, the upper echelons of corporate Canada don’t reflect that diversity.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, 10 per cent of top executive roles and 8 per cent of non-executive board positions at Canada’s six largest banks and two largest life insurers are held by visible minorities.

Only one of those positions is held by someone who is Black.

“What we want is a situation where we establish something by Blacks for Blacks,” Williams said. “That creates a particular focus that I think is missing at this point in time.”