The financial services industry was in the hot seat this morning at a U.S. House hearing where lawmakers demanded to know what that industry is doing to diversify its C-suite and boards of directors.

The hearing follows a scathing report issued by the House Financial Services Committee on Diversity and Inclusion last year which found that the senior leadership and boards at financial services firms—particularly at banks—are still mostly white and male, and that not one of the biggest banks is led by a woman or person of color.

Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association president and CEO Kenneth E. Bentsen told lawmakers at the hearing today that Sifma members’ take their commitment to diversity and inclusion very seriously.  
“The securities and capital markets industry has long recognized that building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity of the clients and communities we serve is both the right thing to do and a business imperative,” Bentsen said.

“Likewise, our industry recognizes that a workforce that is diverse in demographics, experiences, talents and ideas is the most effective way to cultivate varied perspectives that benefit our employees and the economy as a whole,” he added.

Bentsen said Sifma actively engages in D&I efforts such as its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council that regularly evaluates the effectiveness of workforce, employment and business practices in the securities industry on diversity and inclusion.
Bentsen also testified that Sifma members proactively support, promote and advocate for a diverse and inclusive securities industry including doing benchmarking surveys examining demographics and industry practices.

“We strongly believe that an evidence-based approach leads to the most successful D&I outcomes. This survey allows our members to assess their firm’s D&I plans and how their progress compares to the results of their peers,” Bentsen said.

While a number of firms and trade groups are ramping up programs and devoting resources to D&I, progress has been slow.

The challenges have been especially tough for the advisor industry, “which has a legacy of dominance by white males and an exclusion of women and people of color, in both executive and staff positions,” the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards found in a diversity study late last year.

Despite the growing evidence that more diversified advisor teams offer measurable financial benefits, “everyone is still struggling to move the needle,” Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, executive director of the board’s Center for Financial Planning, told Financial Advisor.

CFP Board data continues to confirm that women and people of color are severely underrepresented in the financial planning profession.

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