Getting more diversity in financial services is about taking more action!

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I never thought I would speak about getting more diversity in financial services, but here I am. I’ve often felt unfulfilled by diversity initiatives, because many times I see them turn into a game of canceling, shaming, whining, blaming, or making people feel wrong or ashamed for what they think. I feel that there’s not enough actionable advice when people talk about nurturing diversity in our industry.

So let’s talk about the actions we can take! Tally ho!

The goal of this article is to hear from a few colleagues who are from underrepresented groups in financial services. We’ll be discussing their thoughts about the specific action steps that we can take to make financial services more diverse and inclusive.

But before we get into it, for those of you who are new to my blog/podcast, my name is Sara. I am a CFA® charterholder and I used to be a financial advisor. I have a weekly newsletter in which I talk about financial advisor lead generation topics which is best described as “fun and irreverent.” So please subscribe!

Chris Woods

#1 Rooney Rule

Chris, an African-American financial advisor, had excellent ideas about how to encourage more advisors from diverse backgrounds to succeed in the profession through recruitment, retention, and communication . Chris talks about getting more diverse people when you have an open spot at your company. There is a technique called the Rooney Rule whereby every head coach in the NFL must interview at least one diverse candidate. Get the Rooney Rule going on at your company!

Look to your network. And beyond that, if need be. Where do we find more diverse candidates outside of your network? There are groups you can consult with to find diverse candidates.

And there are many others out there, just do an internet search. Google has the answers!

#2 In terms of retention, the racial wealth gap is real. Pay for memberships to industry networking groups so that people from diverse backgrounds can find a community that supports them. People from less well off backgrounds may not have a network of affluent people they can tap into to bring in new clients immediately, a crushing challenge for new planners.

A commission model creates a leakage in the pipeline. Consider a salary focused model, or enable planners to be paid on retainer or by hourly.

#3 Assign both a mentor and a sponsor to a new hire. A mentor is someone experienced who can provide guidance. A sponsor is someone in a position of authority who can advocate on behalf on a new planner, particularly to help them identify opportunities for advancement.

Terron Tidwell

Terron, an African-American financial advisor, recalls the phrase, “How fast can you get in front of $10MM?” when starting out as a planner. It can be a dangerous effect where people can start to fall behind. Terron echoes Chris’s sentiment about not putting them into a situation where they are challenged to bring those assets in. Give people a better shot to be able to compete on the same level.

Terron works with a several wealthy Nigerian business people who have ties to the US. Here are his ideas for working effectively with people from a minority group.

1. Train your ears to adjust to their colloquialisms. Terron says to have open eyes and ears to the cultural aspects that they may have. He’s trained his ear to be able to listen through their dialect. At times he has to ask them what they mean, or even to reiterate what they have said.

2. Understand the cultural etiquette of the group. He says this has made him and his clients more comfortable addressing the misunderstandings that can sometimes occur.

3. Be prepared to work around financial beliefs. There are cultural differences between American and other countries. Terron has learned to take different approaches that accommodate these different belief systems.

Author’s note: Terron makes a great point that relationships are about communication, and if we want to understand each other better it’s more about the listening than anything else.

Andrew Komarow

Andrew, an autistic financial advisor, shared with us his thought about how to increase neurodiversity within financial services. Neurodiverse individuals may have autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodivergent conditions.

  • Andrew believes in fostering an environment that is more inclusive for alI. Instead of taking steps to treat people differently, incorporate elements of universal design, such as dimming the bright lights and reducing noise in the workplace. For example, ask people the best way to communicate with them before you have a meeting. Where you are working with neurodiverse clients or not, these are good practices to implement for anyone.
  • Andrew encourages people to remember that diversity is diverse. Autism, for example, is a spectrum condition where some autistic people are non-vocal with high support needs while others are able to function well within a neurotypical work environment. You may have autistic clients and know know it, says Andrew, and similarly, they themselves may not know it, either.
  • When it comes to hiring neurodiverse clients, it’s easy to fall into believing stereotypes about what a neurodiverse client may be. Andrew recommends trying to put your bias aside and look at the person and what they bring to the table.

Author’s note: I have started to ask people, before our first meeting, this question, “Are there any accommodations you will require for this meeting.” This is important not only in a virtual meeting but also in person as we emerge from COVID.

Myself being the mother of an autistic child, it’s opened my eyes about how in our common parlance we often use terms that aren’t that disability-friendly. Try to stop casually using words such as stupid, lame, or blind, as often times we throw them around without considering how hurtful it can be to use these terms pejoratively.

Sara’s upshot

Thanks for reading my blog on getting more diversity in financial services. Are you ready to take action?

Here are my ideas:

  • Get a list of diverse people that you can offer up anytime a conference needs speakers or a reporter needs sources. Increasing visibility is important. I’m sick of seeing the same six people who get called on by the industry when there are so many talented people who could be great for conferences and being quoted in publications.
  • Put images of diverse people on your website and in all your marketing materials, fire it up! Images of interracial couples, individuals with deep skin tones, different hair textures, and on and on! Let’s increase the visibility here!
  • Encourage your clients to support diversity. For example, if you work with business owners, help them hire diverse people at their companies by sharing resources such as the job boards mentioned in this post.
  • Use your social media and post when you are seeking candidates of diverse backgrounds.
  • Get a true lactation station for your office that meets these lactation room requirements. A lactation station is NOT a bathroom, a closet, or a conference room. I have four kids and having to go through this lactation experience while working was at times a nightmare. I can tell you all sorts of stories…
  • Get a “no sexual harassment” policy for any company events and make it clearly known to all employees and attendees.
  • Support the CROWN Initiative which protects people from hair discrimination. Sign the petition to get this law passed in all states.
  • Lastly, be persistent. It may not always be easy to find diverse people in certain areas. Don’t give up on this. Be patient and if you need to, ask another time, and another time…eventually the right person will come along and you’ll be glad you were committed to diversity.

Working with Sara G

If you want to learn about how to use social media to achieve your goals, networking, diversity-wise or just growing your business-wise, check out these resources:

I hope you’ll at least join my weekly newsletter about financial advisor lead generation.

Thanks to Chris Woods, Terron Tidwell, and Andrew Komarow for their meaningful participation.

See you in the next one!

-Sara G