And Barrett has no illusions about what the BFAN might accomplish. The entire financial services industry has to make a sustained effort to force change, he said. “We’re not going to make a dent, as one firm.”

By the same token, BFAN wants to network with similar groups in the industry.

“We’re looking to attract other organizations, with some sort of working arrangement,” Barrett said. The BFAN is connecting with the Association of African American Financial Advisors (known as “Quad-A”), which held its first conference last fall. The Financial Planning Association also has a diversity effort.

But for the most part, “we’re all doing our own thing,” Barrett said.

As far as individual firms go, they should avoid hiring quotas.

“The second you have quota, you dilute the talent pool, so it becomes a matter of numbers, not quality,” Barrett said.

Barrett thinks firms should look for candidates in related fields. Research shows people with a financial services background have higher levels of success, so sales assistants, bank brokers and people with some internship experience can be good prospects.

Retired military personnel have done well with second careers in the industry, “and those populations tend to be more diverse,” he added.

That kind of “proactive sourcing is hardest to do, but it’s also more effective” than trolling for résumés, Barrett added.

Everyone has heard why diversity is important for business reasons, what with the “browning” of America and the growing wealth among minority populations.