Recruiting and Empowering Military Veterans

A conversation with Chance Mims of Academy Securities

The military is one of the most diverse organizations in the world. It requires a diverse skill set and grit and we learn just how easily veterans can translate those skills into the financial services industry.

In the next episode of our SIFMA DE&I Podcast series, we sat down with Academy Securities Founder and CEO, Chance Mims to discuss the nation’s first veteran-owned and operated firm and their commitment to recruiting and empowering military veterans. Chance shares insights on Academy Securities’ social mission to combat veteran unemployment including prioritizing female veterans and the focus on finding nontraditional Wall Street pedigrees. He highlights how the industry can harness similar recruitment strategies by having veterans contribute to the entire process from interviewing to hiring to mentorship.

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Edited for clarity

Jennie Jacoby: Thank you for joining us for the latest episode in the SIFMA DE&I Podcast series. I am Jennie Jacoby, Managing Director and Associate General Counsel at SIFMA. Today I’m speaking with Chance Mims, Founder, and CEO of Academy Securities about their firm’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and efforts to empower military veterans in the financial services industry. Welcome, Chance. Thanks for joining me.

Chance Mims: Thank you, Jennie. Thanks for having me on today.

Jennie Jacoby: Chance, before we dive into our discussion, could you share with us a little about your military career in the Navy, as well as what propelled you to start Academy Securities in 2009?

Chance Mims: The founding of our firm goes back to the United States Naval Academy, where I was a student. I was an economics major and took a trip to New York City for the first time and got to see Wall Street as part of an economics department field trip. I got to see the New York Stock Exchange, got to go to a lot of the bulge bracket banks and I was just absolutely enamored with the capital markets and how the world worked around finance. It was something that always caught my interest. Then I graduated from the Naval Academy, and I committed to go into the Navy. I ended up serving on ships and as a navigator on a guided missile destroyer. Most of the ships when we deployed, ended up in the Persian Gulf and at the time we’d be enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq. I happened to be there right when 9/11 happened, sitting a few miles off the coast of Iraq. From there, we ended up going off the coast of Pakistan and took part in Operation Enduring Freedom. We shot Tomahawks at Afghanistan. The first shots going in there. The brave men and women are the real heroes, the people on the ground who went in to take care of business. The ultimate decision to get out of the military was mostly around family. Being gone from my family for a long period. I decided that it was best for me to go ahead and transition out. I went right into being an entrepreneur. I started a real estate business in San Diego, and then you had the Great Recession in 2008 and you saw this consolidation of big banks in the marketplace. At the same time, you also had a lot of military veterans who were unemployed post-9/11. There was a 37% unemployment rate at that time. I saw that as the perfect storm. I saw an opportunity to take individuals on Wall Street because there was that consolidation and then this great talent pool of military veterans and ultimately decided to start a business around that. This all came from wanting to do something on Wall Street from that field trip back at the Naval Academy.

Jennie Jacoby: Wow. That is an incredible career path and story. Thank you for your service, Chance. First and foremost, you mentioned a little bit about post-9/11 timing. Just curious, as the first post-9/11 veteran-owned and operated investment bank in the US, can you share with us Academy Securities’ social mission to combat veteran unemployment?

Chance Mims: It goes back to that time with an unusually high unemployment rate. That was the social mission going in and looking at employing those individuals. For us, it’s personal. These are the men and women we served by providing meaningful employment for those individuals. We also believe that employing a military veteran solves a lot of the veterans’ issues. Giving them a meaningful career solves a lot of the veteran issues that we see in society today. Then you look at the military veteran itself and the military vet who brings a lot to the table, the skill sets that a military veteran learns while they’re in service, the teamwork, the camaraderie. We’re in financial services, a services industry. That’s really what a military veteran signs up for in the military. It’s about that service. It’s about the man or the woman to the left or right and it’s about being part of something bigger than the self, the mission, the purpose. We saw that as this is the right thing to do. There’s a problem right now with unemployment, but it’s also a smart thing to do. There are others with great skill sets to bring into the private sector.

Jennie Jacoby: Wow! So, Chance as an industry, we talk a lot about this and we strive to advance our commitment to improving diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, whether it be through better recruitment strategies, training or creating more diversity in leadership roles. It’s a very tall order, but our industry is up for the challenge, right? What is your definition of inclusion in financial services and what is Academy Securities doing to create a more inclusive environment for veterans and other underrepresented groups?

Chance Mims: How we look at inclusion is giving individuals the opportunity that they wouldn’t normally get. If you look at the military, you know it’s a very diverse organization. It’s one of the most diverse organizations on the face of the planet. So, we see the military as an extension of the diversity space. What we focus on is finding the nontraditional Wall Street pedigrees. Someone who doesn’t usually get hired at a bigger bank, and we seek those people out because we see that the skill sets that they have translate over very well in financial services. An individual who wants to be part of a team with purpose and mission and has that national teamwork ability and the grit it takes to be in the military. We see those as diamonds in the rough. We see those as individuals who can plug in very well. Given that the military is a very diverse organization, you know, that transcends into diversity, giving individuals that may not have had the opportunity to have the education you see on Wall Street. We like those individuals because we know that they’re fighters and are competitive. They’ve overcome hurdles and obstacles in life, and they make great teammates.

Jennie Jacoby: 40% of your firm’s staff comprises veterans, and we hear that you’re striving to hire even more, which is incredible, including prioritizing female veterans and spouses of veterans. What are some of the recruitment strategies that you can share with us, and what would you recommend to other firms that want to hire more veterans who kind of follow the successful pattern that you all have laid out?

Chance Mims: I’m happy to report that 50% of our staff are now military vets. We’ve hired 14 military veterans over the past year. I’m very excited about that. Female veterans have been a priority of us. You look at the military and that’s historically been an underrepresented class inside the military. We focus on female veterans and find a lot of value in bringing female vets to our team. Then we’ve seen those female veterans recruit other female veterans on our team. I hink that’s very important to get a veteran involved in the entire process. If you’re at a firm where there are not many veterans out, having veterans already at your firm, and being involved in the whole process sets it up for success. You need both for the hiring side, but you also need it on the mentoring side because you’re coming from a completely different culture in the military into the private sector. Having that veteran mentor along the way and that veteran to help in the hiring process and screen and translate over the skill sets is very important. Then you take this individual that comes from this culture of service, with the best of the military culture as a way for you to improve your firm from the inside out. Any firm can benefit from that. And it’s something that every firm should be investing in.

Jennie Jacoby: Absolutely. So Chance, Academy Securities has a lot of expertise in the field and so I’m wondering if you could share with us how some of the larger Wall Street firms might partner with you all generally, and then also concerning their military affinity programs?

Chance Mims: First and foremost, I want to express our gratitude to Wall Street and large firms. They led the bulge bracket banks hiring initiative. You go back following the economic downturn and this crazy unemployment rate. There were a lot of non-profits that helped veterans out in the short term, but there were very few initiatives to hire veterans and Wall Street did a great job. They came in, they answered the call along with corporate America. Corporate America came in and said, hey, we’re going to hire vets. We recognize the value from them. The gratitude that we expressed for them is just great. We appreciate what they’ve done. We worked closely with the military affinity firms at the larger firms, as well as some of the corporations. That is important so that we can share best practices, we can share resumes. Then you have organizations like Veterans on Wall Street. This is a coalition of financial firms that have come together. This was co-founded by one of my classmates from the Naval Academy and it’s a powerful organization that shares best practices and resumes. It started just as an unofficial coalition, and it’s really grown to a large number of members in the industry focused on bringing what you can learn across the industry, and then our clients share in our social mission. That’s what makes us so much fun, is they are on board with our social mission and we learn from each other. We have conversations with each other about their hiring initiatives and what works well and what doesn’t work well. We do this constantly with our clients who share in that social mission.

Jennie Jacoby: That’s terrific. It sounds like a model that can be replicated throughout DE&I efforts, right? So Chance, we’ve talked about that true grit, that X-Factor that veterans have, but we haven’t necessarily talked about the challenges that one might face when they come home. It’s one of those challenges in starting a civilian career, a general lack of awareness by employers regarding those unique skill sets and transferable skills. How can the financial services industry better leverage the cultural value and unique expertise that veterans can add to their firms?

Chance Mims: I think all the great things have been done. I think that the two biggest issues that are still out there for vets when it comes to employment is the underemployment of veterans. So not matching up a veteran skill sets with what they’re good at and being in a position where they’re underemployed. Then the turnover that you see as a veteran enters into their first job in the private sector. Those are two issues that aren’t easy to solve. I think Wall Street has gotten better at it, but, it goes back to what we talked about earlier, I think getting veterans involved in the entire process inside of your firm is so important from the very beginning to translate over what the skills that they learned and did and their track record in the military and how that translates over to the private sector. Having a veteran involved in that and then also having a veteran involved, once they get inside the firm, you know that they’re there to mentor them and let them. The culture is different and helps them transition into this new culture that they’re in and go back to two values better than Wall Street. The continual sharing of best practices is an ongoing thing. We’re not going to all of a sudden just get this. This is an ongoing process. We continually improve.

Jennie Jacoby: Absolutely. Your firm also offers a unique array of services, including insights from your geopolitical intelligence group, which sounds incredibly fascinating. I would love to hear more about that. But also, how does a strong commitment to DE&I efforts coupled with this military background that we were talking about sort of benefit the clients that you serve more specifically?

Chance Mims: This is what I’m most excited about. It’s one of the values we provide in the marketplace is our geopolitical intelligence group, which is made up of 17 former admirals and generals and one NASA astronaut. We connect what goes on around the world and how that affects financial services and capital markets. We’ve become the best in the world of that. This is something that’s been no shortage of content. A lot is going on in the world and I think that’s where a lot of small firms kind of fall short as they try to replicate what the big firms do. You’ve got to find a niche and be additive to what the big firms do. This is how we do our geopolitical intelligence group so that adds value. That group itself is a very diverse group of individuals who are just giving, looking at their backgrounds which adds value. Our clients like to see the authenticity that our firm brings. We are military veterans and we’re owned and operated by the military veterans. We represent the demographic and we’re completely independent, and they can see that impact, the hiring that we do inside of our firm. They see how that helps DEI initiatives. You got to add value. You’re a small firm competing in a big firm space. You have to add value, but you also have to set an example with that authenticity and the impact that your DEI initiatives have.

Jennie Jacoby: So Chance, looking toward the future, where are the next opportunities to include more veterans in the financial services industry, and what work is left to be done in the space?

Chance Mims: Another thing I’m happy to report, we launched a new firm called Academy Asset Management. So we were the nation’s first post-9/11 institutional asset management company. Very fortunate to have an individual who is the former CIO of Northern Trust. An amazing track record in the space. He sits alongside a West Point grad with some finance service and an Army officer background. Asset management is the next place we’re going to replicate exactly. We’ve done the investment banking side of our business and hired military vets. I’ve got to watch just how incredible military veterans are in the asset manager space. The problem-solving skills that they have, it’s a great fit. I’m extremely excited to hire military veterans into the buy side and asset management. I think they’re going to add tremendous value and then I would also add technology. Our industry is changing tremendously fast with new technology. If you look at a military veteran, there’s almost every single job you have. You touch some sort of technology. Military vets are great with technology. If you’re a fintech firm, if you’re a Wall Street firm looking for individuals inside the military, for technology, jobs are a great place to look. I could see that growing a lot.  It’s continually tackling underemployment and figuring out ways to make sure we’re pairing up military vets and they’re getting rewarded for the skill sets they have that they bring over from the military. Now, that’s an ongoing issue that will get better.

Jennie Jacoby: Well, congratulations. That’s very exciting. I think that’s a perfect segue to close out our conversation with a little piece of advice. If you could say one thing to veterans contemplating a career in the financial services industry, what would it be?

Chance Mims: I want to say a couple of things real fast. One thing would be you should be excited as a military vet. I know it’s nerve-wracking not knowing what the next chapter looks like, but it’s going to be incredible. You have a whole new journey that you’re embarking on and it’s amazing. You should be excited. We talk to thousands of military veterans and spend a lot of time with them and we’ve learned a lot from transition military veterans and we’ve gone through it ourselves. First I’d say figure it out for yourself, are you front office or back office? Every company has different types of people. You need both those types of people. But in their front office and back office, you have to spend the time looking at what industry you want to be in. Get out there and talk to as many people as you can because you can spend a lot of time at work and you need to be passionate about what you do. Set yourself up access for the location that you’re going to live in and then look at big firms and small firms, they are night and day, just like the military where you have special forces and small units. Then you have larger units, an aircraft carrier with lots of people on it. Look at the pros and cons of both. Lastly, do a lot of due diligence on the team you’re joining, as much just due diligence as they’re doing on you, you have to do the due diligence on them because it has to be the right fit culturally. You can do everything else right. If you don’t get the team right, then it’s not going to work out. But being excited to go to the next chapter in the adventure is going to be great.

Jennie Jacoby: Fantastic Chance. That is good advice for all who are trying to join the industry or any industry. Another great example of how veterans can sort of lay the groundwork and create a path for others to follow. Thank you so much. It has been an honor and my privilege to speak with you today. To learn more about SIFMA’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, please visit Thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in and we hope that you will join us for our next episode of this podcast. Thank you.

Jennie Jacoby is Managing Director, Federal Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel of SIFMA

Chance Mims is Founder & CEO of Academy Securities