Travers J. Bell, the Wall Street banker who became the father of black investment banking in the 1970s

Stephen Nartey March 15, 2023
Travers J. Bell Jr. /Photo credit: Benzinga

From rags to riches, Travers J. Bell Jr. rose from a humble beginning on the south side of Chicago to become the founder of the only black-owned member firm of the New York Stock Exchange. Growing up, he never dreamt of working on wall street, but after delivering briefcases of stock sheets and a stash of cash to bankers, he was convinced that was the path for his future.

Though he started out as a messenger at Dempsey Tegler & Co., where his father worked as a mailroom clerk, his drive and initiative caught the eye of cofounder, Jerome F. Tegeler, who trained him in investment banking. He took the practical lessons to heart and was soon promoted to operations manager, according to wall street jackboyz.

Travers’ early upbringing might have informed his drive to be successful. He was born in 1941 and grew up on the south side of Chicago in the Ida B Wells Public Housing projects. His family battled poverty due to limited income, and despite the economic challenges facing the family, his parents quickly identified his potential and made great sacrifices to get him to pursue a higher education. He attended Washington University and the New York Institute of Finance, where he graduated with degrees.

After completion, he was employed as the chief operating officer of Fusz Schmelzle, a New York firm, in 1967. He later decided to establish his own firm with Willie Daniels and started with a seed capital of $175,000 to establish Daniels & Bell Inc., a securities firm on Wall Street in 1971. The firm’s selling proposition was underwriting securities of startup black businesses and venturing into large distribution syndicates formed by other investment banks.

Before he passed away, the net worth of the company stood in excess of $15 million. It was the only black-owned investment bank on the New York Stock Exchange, and soon became the go-to firm for municipal bonds. Travers is also noted for being behind one of the first leveraged buyouts initiated by an African American businessman when his subsidiary firm, Danbell, purchased Cocoline Chocolate, which is ranked among the largest black-owned businesses in the 1980s, according to Envestnet Institute on campus. He passed away in 1988 after a cardiac arrest at the age of 46, and was survived by his wife, Laura; a son, Darryl; a daughter, Rhonda; and his father, Travers J. Bell Sr.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: March 15, 2023


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