A Young Change-maker: Erin Lyke's Work as a Black Finance Professional
Erin Lyke was born in the South Suburbs of Chicago, IL. By the age of 12, she had experienced both the loss of her father and homeless due to an unfortunate common theme in the African American community, a lack of financial literacy. While many may turn this situation into feelings of defeat and hopelessness, Erin chose to use this story as a testimony to break barriers in the African American community. As a result, Erin earned her undergraduate degree in accounting as a first-generation college student from Tuskegee University, Magna Cum Laude.
Erin’s ultimate goal in life is to educate the younger generation on the importance of financial literacy in efforts to avoid the same hardships she experienced in childhood. She has used her story to acquire many prestigious scholarship awards such as the McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden Award which resulted in a debt-free school year and an interview with LaLa Anthony. In her undergraduate career at Tuskegee University, Erin was a member of the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Concert Choir, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., and a Walmart/Coca-Cola sponsored mentor in which she had the pleasure of mentoring and cultivating relationships with 6 underclassmen per year.
Erin currently works as an Investment Associate at BMO Family Office where she works to develop and implement long term investment policies, analyze client portfolios, and recommend appropriate portfolio allocations for ultra-affluent individuals and families with 30 million+ in liquid assets. She uses her financial services expertise to educate, inspire, and promote growth in African American women. She hopes to soon start her own scholarship fund, in honor of her father, to invest in the education of women pursuing careers in the financial services industry. She also sits on the alumni board of her Alma Mater, Tuskegee University.
Ashley Wells, Co-founder & Chief Operating Officer of The Prosp(a)rity Project, had the pleasure of sitting down with Erin Lyke to discuss why she decided to become a financial professional and how her life journey led her to be able to secure such prestigious scholarships. Erin's mantra and life goals are directly in line with The Prosp(a)rity Project’s mission, which is to improve the financial and economic mobility of college educated Black women. She decided to obtain her Bachelors in Accounting because while education was always very important in her family, student loans were a huge hindrance. After examining the journeys of her parents, she made an active choice to not rely on student loans for her education. She wanted to learn more about the world of finance, and this eventually led her to become an investment associate.
In terms of her job with BMO, she started off with the company by interning during her freshman year of college. She was placed through the company as a sponsee in a leadership development program. She actually completed three other internships with other companies before committing to BMO. She felt as though they really saw her value and sought her out in a different and more human way.
Erin’s advice for Black women who are going through financial struggles revolve around two main ideas: (1) Don’t get comfortable living paycheck to paycheck. Commit yourself to gaining more financial literacy, and take a deep dive into your finances. (2) Do a 5-10 year look ahead and ask yourself: “where am I now, and where do I want to be?” Figure out what percentage of your income you need to save to reach your goals.
In the same vein, her advice to those who wish to seek out and solicit more scholarship money for their studies is, “do not give up”. She received so many “no’s”. But one of her few “yes’s” was $15,000 from McDonald’s. There are scholarships out there for everyone, and you will receive the one that is meant for you. Her parting words are to not let your environment define you! She comes from a rough background, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. Do not let your circumstances define who you are or where you will be in the future.