Recruitment And Mentorship
Northern Trust Asset Management has made a point of recruiting from historically Black colleges and universities—tapping a talent pool that many other firms overlook.

“It’s common for the current generation in my community to be the first that’s going to college,” says Antonio Tovar, a wealth manager at Stone Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Tovar is a Hispanic professional in his mid-20s. “Many of those who might be well-suited to join the financial services industry are unaware of the opportunities available to them.”

Erica Wright, an advisor in the Bell & Wright Financial Group of Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee, says people from underprivileged backgrounds “would benefit from formal mentorship programs.” Wright, a Black woman, adds that apprenticeships would “allow advisors to be compensated while they develop skills.”

Kimberly Foss, founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif., concurs. “More and better educational outreach, especially to women of color, should be a consistent goal for all of us in the CFP space,” says Foss, a white woman.

Never Too Young To Start
That outreach can’t start too young. “Our primary and high schools need to do a better job of exposing girls to various areas of finance,” says Fouz at Azzad Asset Management.

Kayla Holland, a wealth planner at Crestwood Advisors in Boston, who identifies as a white woman, says it’s crucial to “increase awareness and education about what we do as financial planners and how we help families achieve their goals.”

To Laura Barry, a managing director at Wealthspire Advisors in Milwaukee, and a white woman, it’s about teaching kids “the power of understanding personal finance in their own lives as well as how cool it is as a career choice.”

Beyond Lip Service
Of course, it’s easy to say you value differences. But you also have to maintain policies that “enable you to actualize your good intentions,” says Thomas.

He suggests starting at the top. Having women and minorities in the executive suite encourages others to join. It also makes it easier to incorporate diversity policies throughout the business. For example, Northern Trust Asset Management had at last count invested more than $5 billion with 22 different minority-owned investment-management firms. It also recently increased its target for equity-trading commissions paid to minority brokers in its collective investment trusts from 10% to 15%.

Amy Webber, president and CEO of Cambridge Investment Research in Fairfield, Iowa, recommends starting with a thorough self-assessment. “What you discover can be eye-opening,” says Webber, a white woman.

Doing The Hard Work
Megan Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners, an Irvine, Calif.-based financial communications company, says it’s important not to put the burden of inclusiveness on the shoulders of the excluded.

“We’re expecting these marginalized populations to accept our job offers, agree to speak at conferences, or help us spend the money we’ve set aside for DEI initiatives,” says Carpenter, who is white, referring to budgets for diversity, equity and inclusion. Instead, she says, leaders must actually do the hard work.

Think of it as “culture add” instead of “culture fit,” says Barry at Wealthspire Advisors—i.e., valuing differences that add to the culture. “It’s learning to have conversations we’re uncomfortable with … and that requires time and patience with ourselves,” she says.

Brooke Kelley, president of the Kelley Group, a Los Angeles-based financial-services consultancy that she, a white woman, cofounded with her husband, Sarano Kelley, who is Black, points out that the tide may be turning. “The industry needs millennials,” she says, “and millennials … want to see more color, gender, etc.”

Firms can either “lead this change,” she says, “or chase it.”

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