Both financial services firms and their clients would be better served if there were more minority financial advisors, according to a survey conducted by Edward Jones released Tuesday.

Seventy-nine percent of the African-American and Hispanic respondents in the survey believe it is in the best interests of financial services firms to focus on hiring more multicultural financial advisors to better reflect their client base, the survey says. At the same time, 76 percent believe it also is in the best interests of the clients to have more diversity among financial advisors.

The survey was conducted as part of an initiative by Edward Jones to increase the number of financial advisors who are members of minorities, the firm says. The survey included 2,000 U.S. adults.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minorities represent 37 percent of the country’s population, but data from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Sifma) show they hold only 8 percent of positions in the financial services industry.

When asked what the financial services industry could do to narrow this gap, 49 percent of the African American and Hispanics respondents say more multicultural support and mentoring groups should be formed in financial services organizations.

Other measures suggested by African American and Hispanic respondents to bolster the number of multicultural advisors within the industry include putting an emphasis on diversity hiring (48 percent) and offering cross-cultural training (46 percent).

“Diversity is not just the right thing to do, it's a business imperative,” says Jesse Abercrombie, an Edward Jones financial advisor in Dallas-Fort Worth. “We have always supported diversity, but we are now increasing recruiting and marketing efforts to hire more diverse advisors to better reflect our growing client base.”

In order to promote diversity hiring, Edward Jones has created its Bridge program, a network of multicultural financial advisors who volunteer their time to recruit, mentor and support other advisors, and its Edge program to allow advisors to learn about the challenges facing female and minority advisors.