Frequently Asked Questions – FLF

Who is the ideal candidate?

We are looking for proven leaders in finance, preferably with many people under management, assets under management, or broad influence. These leaders will have achieved significant success and are now at an “inflection point”–that is, looking toward the broader role they might take on in the industry or deepening their impact. Being at an inflection point is different from being ready to change jobs, raise a new fund, or start a new business. Fellows must be at a stage in their lives when they are ready and able to pause, explore how to use their skills, experiences, resources, and networks to broaden and deepen their impact on finance and the industry’s stakeholders.

We are looking for Fellows from a variety of sectors throughout the finance ecosystem– including institutional investors, family offices, consumer and commercial banks, private equity, impact funds, CFO’s, central banks, regulators, ratings agencies, insurers, consumer advocacy groups and more.

How do I become a Fellow?

Potential fellows must be nominated by a third party who knows them well and is prepared to speak candidly and objectively about the nominee’s qualifications. Individuals cannot apply for the Fellowship or nominate themselves. Short-listed nominees will be interviewed prior to final selection of the class.

The ideal class will include Fellows from various personal and professional backgrounds whose experiences will help complement, challenge, and inspire each other during the seminars and throughout the Fellowship. We are looking for diversity within the class. Each Fellow should have something to teach and something to learn from the others. We call the process of putting together the ideal class "creating the mosaic", and it's both a science and an art. Unfortunately, many exceptional, impressive individuals are not chosen to be Fellows because they don't fit the class mosaic for that particular year. Occasionally we reconsider nominees, sometimes for a number of years, for their suitability for future classes.

I’ve been nominated. Why should I apply to be a Fellow?

Once selected, Fellows go through a transformational leadership journey with a cohort of other successful leaders who are facing similar life and professional challenges. The Fellowship provides Fellows a rare opportunity to step back, think with, and draw inspiration from one another. The benefits of lifelong interaction with other Fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network are limitless.

What does the Fellowship entail?

Fellows actively participate in four transformative seminars, over two years, that empower them to move the needle in the finance industry. During this time, they also develop a venture that addresses a compelling finance industry challenge. The venture continues to evolve beyond the seminar period. Fellows also work collectively on issues. The Fellowship supports each Fellow’s lifelong leadership journey and commitment to solving complex societal issues and connects like-minded leaders across the Fellowship.

How long does the Fellowship last?

Once a Fellow, always a Fellow. Fellows commit to a two-year transformative learning journey, which includes participating in four in-person seminar gatherings as well as launching a leadership impact venture. Following graduation at the end of two years, Fellows continue to engage their Fellowship class, attend cross-class convenings for collective action, and other Fellow-engagement opportunities to continue their lifelong leadership journey.

What costs does the Finance Leaders Fellowship cover during the program?

The Fellows’ participation will be without cost to them or their organizations, with the exception of travel costs and any incidental expenses they incur. Limited financial assistance may be provided for travel on a case by case basis.

Who are the Finance Leaders Fellows?

Click here for a complete list of all current and graduate Finance Leaders Fellows.

Are there any changes to the program because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Aspen Institute regards the health and safety of its staff and participants as its highest priority and is committed to doing its part to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for an explanation of the standard health and safety measures the Institute is taking, as well as expectations for event attendees, that are needed to minimize the risk of transmission or spread of COVID-19 and related variants.

What health and safety protocols are being put in place for the 2022?

The Aspen Institute and Finance Leaders Fellowship regard the health and safety of staff and participants as our highest priority and are committed to doing our part to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 2022 protocols for Finance Leaders Fellowship events are subject to change as the pandemic evolves, but we will continue to follow Aspen Institute guidelines as well as revised guidance from the CDC, and/or from the local jurisdictions in which events are being held. For more information about The Aspen Institute Health & Safety advisory, please click here.

How can my nomination be even stronger?

To be most effective, a nomination will use examples to show us of the following things about the nominee: is a proven finance leader; is an entrepreneur within and outside of their organization; is at the right point in their life and career to step back and think about how to broaden their leadership and impact; is not daunted by the sorts of challenges that may scare away others; understands the requirements of the Fellowship and can commit to completing them.

How can nominators prepare their nominee for an interview?

Please ask them to be open and honest. If they have been invited to an interview, at this point in the process, we are confident the nominee meets our basic criteria. The interview is about getting to know them as a person. Are they at an inflection point in their life? Are they willing to be open and vulnerable at the seminar table and with their classmates? Do they have a kind heart and generous spirit to take this journey for themselves and their classmates? The interview is a chance to really get to know each of our top nominees and see how their personality would fit into our class mosaic. Everything said at the interview is confidential, so encourage your nominee to feel comfortable sharing anything they feel is important about who they are as a leader and a potential Finance Leaders Fellow. In addition, we strongly encourage them to reach out to a few alumni or current Fellows to get a feel for the Fellowship.

What can derail a nominee?

We expect nominees to come to the interviews having taken some time to research the Aspen Institute and what the fellowship experience entails. We also ask them to make a couple of non-negotiable commitments: to attend the seminars in their entirety, start to finish, and to complete a meaningful venture. An inability to commit to either eliminates nominees for the coming year. We ask the nominator to stress the importance of examining the published seminar dates, as well as the venture-related criteria and frequently asked questions. We have had nominees who accept an interview knowing that they cannot make the dates. Some believe they can receive an exception, which is not the case, as the seminars are an essential component of the Fellowship and missing any part is unfair to that Fellow and their class.

My candidate will be 51 this coming year. Are they still eligible?

It depends when they turn 51. In order to be eligible the candidate must be no older than 50 on June 30th in the year in which they would start their Fellowship journey.

Should I tell my candidate they are being nominated?

Yes! We expect that you will not only tell them you are nominating them, but that you will explain to them who the Aspen Institute is and what the Fellowship entails to ensure they are both interested and available to participate on the seminar dates if chosen. Please forward the nomination materials to them and make sure they visit our website, so they understand the program – including its goals, time commitment, and venture/seminar requirements – and are fully prepared to engage.

How well should I know the candidate to nominate them?

Very well. We look to you as a nominator to provide an in-depth look into nominees' background, values and readiness to take full advantage of this opportunity. We are not looking for someone you have merely met at a conference or read about in an article who impresses you and appears to fit our criteria.

Do you accept nominations for international candidates?

Absolutely! In fact, we prioritize a globally diverse mosaic of Fellows, where our finance leaders come from all over the world. That said, we do prefer Fellows who are based in cities that are primary and secondary financial markets (and even tertiary if in the US).

Can Fellows from other AGLN programs be nominated to participate in the Finance Leaders Fellowship?

Unfortunately, we are not able to accept nominees who are Fellows of other Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) programs.

What do we expect from Fellows?

Fellows are required to attend and actively participate in 4 seminar meetings of 5-7 days each over the course of 24 months.

On top of this is the time required to prepare for each seminar as well as the time and energy to design and launch a leadership venture of the Fellow's own choosing. This venture is a requirement of the Fellowship and an opportunity for Fellows to truly stretch themselves in their leadership. Each Fellow will need to be able to attend all four seminars in their entirety – start to finish – and each nominee will need to confirm their availability for all four of the seminars before we will consider them for the Fellowship. Participation will be without cost to the Fellows or their organizations, with the exception of incidental expenses and travel costs to the seminar sites. For those who cannot cover transportation, there is a small pool of funds at the Aspen Institute to support them.

What happens during the Fellowship?

Fellows gather four times over a twenty-four month period with the other members of their class. The seminars are hosted in Aspen, Colorado; Rüschlikon, Switzerland; Washington, DC area; and various locations around the world. These seminars are held behind closed doors with the Fellows and Aspen Institute moderators. There are no guest speakers or visitors. This is a unique opportunity for Fellows to share openly and confidentially with one another the challenges they face as leaders and their visions for how they might “step up” to have a broader impact in their sector of finance and region of the world. The role of the moderators is to spark a candid dialogue among the Fellows about how they currently lead, their view of a “Good Society" and how the worldwide financial industry fits with that view, their thoughts on how the industry could be improved, and their action steps for how this change can become part of their personal legacy.

Another requirement is that the Fellows carry out a leadership venture. What sort of venture will Fellows be expected to complete?

Our goal is to be thought partners and provide structure for the Fellows to improve the effect that the finance sector has on people around the world. We ask our Fellows to develop new approaches that will stretch them in their leadership and make a significant impact on the field. The key is that the ventures add to the Fellows’ current efforts and accomplishments; Fellows cannot fulfill the venture requirement by continuing a current venture. The Fellowship does not provide financial resources for these ventures, but we will approve the ventures and provide support that includes coaching and mentoring. Areas of focus for Fellows' ventures thus far have included organizational culture, access to capital, regulation and industry structure, and other challenges.

Must the nominee create their own venture or can they leverage other successful ventures?

Leveraging others is fine, though each Fellow must lead their own specific venture. The key is that they add a new dimension to what is already happening. Two South African Fellows are busy replicating Teach for America in South Africa. Others have replicated the Henry Crown Fellowship program itself, which is why we can now speak of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

When do Fellows have to decide what they will do for their venture?

Fellows are not expected to arrive at the first seminar knowing what venture they will undertake. Rather, the Fellowship experience and the other members of their class are meant to inspire them to discover what they want to create. Click on this LINK to hear from the experiences of Fellows.

What kind of impact meets the criteria of the program? How far should the reach be?

As a recipient of this Fellowship, Fellows are the beneficiary of a very significant investment in their development as a leader. Their nominators and our backers believe, as do we, that Fellows have the capacity to bring significant new ideas and energy to societal challenges that often seem to be hopelessly deadlocked. We have no specific target level of impact in mind, but we do hope for a real and significant “return” to the world for this investment. We select Fellows because we believe in their ability to do great things.

The venture should be something additional that the Fellow's organization or office was not already doing or planning to do. It should be something that Fellows would not have started or done, but for the fact they are in this Fellowship. Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen Fund created an “Acumen Fellows” program loosely modeled on the Henry Crown Fellowship Program. Bill Bynum of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta created the HOPE Credit Union.

Given the number of ventures already created within the Aspen Global Leadership Network, are there any common traits among those that have proven successful?

The correlation between the Fellows’ passion for the venture and its success. If you aren’t thrilled about what you are doing, odds are it will not succeed.
Ventures that go through endless feasibility studies rarely get off the ground.
They take advantage of platforms under the Fellows’ control. Ventures built off of Fellows’ existing businesses and organizations have often done very well relative to others. Not always. But often.
They either have or explicitly plan for full-time managerial staff. Ventures take time. Once launched, if they are to grow and sustain, they need the leadership of Fellows but also someone who will “lose sleep” over the details. Our best ventures have considered this and either hired, planned for the hiring, or partnered with others who could provide dedicated management.

What is the purpose of the Fellowship?

The objectives of the Finance Leaders Fellowship are to (a) engage Fellows in a thought provoking journey of personal exploration and understanding what their definition of the "good society" is, (b) forge a global network of finance leaders deeply committed to each other and the betterment of society, (c) encourage Fellows to reflect on the historical importance of finance in well-functioning societies and current challenges in the sector, spurring them to play an active role in shaping its future.

How is the Fellowship structured?

The Finance Leaders Fellowship (FLF) offers successful finance leaders an opportunity to “hit the pause button” during four one-week socratic seminars over twenty-four months and focus on a venture of the Fellow’s choosing. Fellowship becomes a lifelong connection to one’s class and the broader Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN).

What is the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN)?

The Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) is the umbrella under which the Institute operates fourteen geographic or sector-specific fellowships around the world. The AGLN collectively has over 3,000 current Fellows and alumni from over 50 countries. Like the Finance Leaders Fellowship, each of the Fellowship programs is designed to inspire Fellows to take their leadership to greater heights and to broaden their impact on society at-large. The Network helps keep members connected so that they can continue to learn from, collaborate with, and support one another. Once selected, the Finance Leaders Fellows will automatically become members of the AGLN and will be included in their activities, including the annual Resnick Aspen Action Forum. Finance Fellows interact with Fellows from other programs during their third seminar, where they select from several international locations and time frames offered.

Are there any changes to the program because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Aspen Institute regards the health and safety of its staff and participants as its highest priority and is committed to doing its part to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for an explanation of the standard health and safety measures the Institute is taking, as well as expectations for event attendees, that are needed to minimize the risk of transmission or spread of COVID-19 and related variants.