September 11, 2023

Mellody Hobson

Co-CEO, President, Ariel Investments

Mellody Hobson’s meteoric rise from summer intern at Ariel Investments to co-CEO and president of the $17.2 billion global asset management firm is deeply rooted in her experience with extreme childhood poverty. 

“I have a formidable work ethic … and that was born of scarcity,” Ms. Hobson said. “I was always focused on having a better life because the insecurity that came from not being financially stable left me very distraught.”

Stephen J. Seri

The youngest of six, Ms. Hobson was raised by a single mother who sometimes struggled to make ends meet, which resulted in disconnected phone lines and electricity as well as evictions.

Ms. Hobson — who in December 2020 was named chair of Starbucks’ board — joined Ariel in 1991, following an Ariel internship in 1989. In 2019, Ms. Hobson began her roles as co-CEO and president.

As one of the most powerful voices in investing and in women and minority circles, Ms. Hobson’s communication style has played an instrumental role in building communities. 

She reminisces about her “sponsor” who elevated her voice: Having read an article about her, television broadcast journalist and anchor Diane Sawyer called Ms. Hobson and suggested: “I think you’d be really great on television. If people could see you, people who never thought about money or investing, would think about it. And you would be educating a whole new group of women and people of color.” 

The best career advice Ms. Hobson said she has received came from two people: her mother and her mentor — Ariel founder and Co-CEO John Rogers Jr.

Ms. Hobson’s mother told her: “Make yourself indispensable. Whatever you do, make it so they cannot live without you.”

And Mr. Rogers said to her: “Don’t make any important decisions based upon money, which is counterintuitive to someone who runs an investment firm. What people often do is they make money the deciding factor in major issues in their life. It’s a mistake. I have seen that time and time again.” 

— Jennifer Ablan

.Reprinted with permission from Pensions & Investments. © 2023 Crain Communications Inc. All rights reserved. 
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