Wall Street billionaire Steve Schwarzman explains why he committed to hiring 50,000 veterans

Steve Schwarzman, the CEO and cofounder of $340 billion investment giant Blackstone Group, moves in esteemed circles.

The investing boss, known as the “King of Capital,” was speaking on Thursday night at the annual Knight-Bagehot dinner, and relayed an anecdote about going to a meeting with Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was there to talk about US military veterans, and to ask the business community for help in tackling the high level of suicide and unemployment among the group.

Schwarzman stepped up, committing to hire 50,000 veterans within a few hours of the meeting. Blackstone is one of the biggest employers in the US by virtue of its many portfolio companies.

Here’s how it happened:

“I was at a business roundtable meeting with Michelle Obama, who was speaking about veterans, and the fact that 23 veterans a day take their own lives. I was so shocked by that, and the high levels of unemployment, and she was asking the business community to help.”

He added:

“Business is usually a team sport. There isn’t one great person sitting there directing things, you can’t run an effective business like that. I got outside of my apartment, I picked up my cell phone and I [spoke to her] and said: ‘That was so important, what you were saying, that we’re going to hire 50,000 people who are veterans.’ I came to work the next day, and it was a management committee day, and I said to my partners ‘By the way, we just committed to hiring 50,000 veterans.’ It will probably end up, as a five year commitment, at 65,000.”

His efforts are part of a broader Wall Street effort to help veterans. Billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen has pledged $275 million to support military veterans and their families by opening up free mental-healthcare clinics across the country. Several banks are signed up to the Veteran Jobs Mission, a group of over 200 companies that have committed to hiring veterans. And there is even a veteran-owned broker dealer, Academy Securities.

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