Others are even more pessimistic about Wall Street’s pledge to change. Several current and former Black employees in finance likened it to a hostile environment, in which biases and racism are openly expressed. The people asked not to be named out of concern that speaking out would jeopardize career prospects.

Those frustrations are often driven home by annual compensation packages, they said. Even if the employees’ performance was measured in quantitative terms and deemed exemplary, their later conversations with White peers revealed they were still paid less.

Bonuses Threatened
In a twist, a growing number of banks are ratcheting up pressure on executives to improve diversity, or their pay will take a hit.

In mid-June, Wells Fargo told staff it will grade members of its elite operating committee annually on their progress, with “a direct impact on year-end compensation decisions.” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. announced a similar policy last year, noting it will also affect the ability of managers to score promotions. Bank of America Corp. also considers executives’ support of diversity in annual evaluations.

Executives can start with one of the first hurdles to improving diversity -- job listings, according to Cody Horton, managing director at Diverse Recruiting Experts near Austin.

“If you’re Black or a woman and there are too many ‘must haves,’ you may just opt out,” Horton said. That winnows the pool of diverse candidates further. White applicants who don’t meet the qualifications are often comfortable enough to apply anyway.

The “post and pray” approach is often inadequate in recruiting diverse candidates, according to Wright. “You have to go out and source and scour the earth to look for the right person for the job. And yes, that takes more energy, and conversations and relationships.”

Carrie Pickett, the co-founder of Black-owned asset management firm Blueprint Capital Advisors in Newark, New Jersey, is looking to model the inclusive culture she’d like to see Wall Street adopt. Yet she said she is “tired” of all the talk about diversity in the broader asset management industry, which lacks concrete plans to measure and boost representation.

“You constantly hear firms in finance say ‘I can’t find minority candidates,’” Pickett said. “Those firms aren’t really looking.”

--With assistance from Jenny Surane.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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