America’s demographics are rapidly changing. Over the last 50 years, we have seen a younger, more diverse society emerge. Companies, large and small, as well as professional groups, are scrambling to adapt to the new landscape. Some are doing well with the new normal. Some are not.

The financial planning profession is one of those professions that needs to play catch up.  

Consider this sobering fact: 23 percent of certified financial planner professionals are women, and that percentage has remained stagnant for over 15 years. Even more unsettling, just 3.6 percent of CFP professionals are either black or Latino, according to self-reported data provided to CFP Board.

As stakeholders in a profession created five decades ago to provide competent, ethical financial planning to the American public, this should concern us.

It’s not just that demographics are changing. Those holding the wealth of the country also reflect its expanded diversity. According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute, women now hold 40 percent of global wealth. People of color are also becoming wealthier: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that median weekly earnings for black Americans over 25 years old have risen 33 percent in the past 14 years. According to Nielsen, as incomes rise in black households, there is a corresponding increase in spending that outpaces the total population. Latinos are faring well, too: their real median income increased 6.1 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone.

With the growth in wealth for women and people of color, expanding the diversity of the profession is a business imperative. Firms that hire black and Latino financial planners will benefit on multiple fronts.  They will gain an advantage in attracting minority clients, as consumers increasingly desire to see themselves reflected in the companies with which they do business. They will also be more attractive to the next generation of talent, and will create more welcoming and inclusive workplaces that will promote retention. Firms that fail to recognize the need to diversify will be poorly equipped to handle emerging markets and will ultimately leave money on the table.

Many firms have publicly expressed their commitment to creating a more diverse profession. That’s a positive first step. But firms are still struggling to achieve real change. That’s why CFP Board launched the Center for Financial Planning—to convene firms, educators and experts across the profession to address this systemic issue together.  

Last year at the Center’s inaugural Diversity Summit, the Center released Racial Diversity in Financial Planning: Where We Are and Where We Must Go, a research-based thought leadership paper that outlines actionable solutions to create a more inclusive profession.

On November 13 in Washington, D.C., the Center will hold its second annual Diversity Summit with thought leaders within and outside financial planning. The event’s objective is accountability. What are stakeholders actually doing to move the needle toward greater ethnic and gender diversity in financial planning?

Our profession has come a long way in 50 years. Yet, we are at a tipping point: we must diversify the profession to ensure that all Americans have access to competent and ethical financial planning services.

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