Be inclusive and intentional to add diversity, panel says

Encouraging more women and people of color to build careers in the financial advice business will require firm leaders to intentionally make their organizations more inclusive and supportive of different cultures, according to a diverse industry panel speaking on an InvestmentNews webcast.

A common challenge for diverse financial advisers is navigating the socialization part of the business and taking ownership of their uniqueness, according to Margaret Starner, founder of Starner Group of Raymond James & Associates, and InvestmentNews’ 2020 Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Lifetime Achievement award winner.

“Each of us have a different culture and you want to be able to celebrate your firm’s uniqueness and how you can make that work for you,” she said. Most importantly, having a collective voice — instead of thinking of your employees individually — will help move the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion, she said.

[More: View the full one-hour webcast here]

Yet, the practical reality of the industry today is that women and people of color in senior roles are few and far between, and diversity efforts start at the top with mentors who can advocate within your firm, according to Shundrawn Thomas, president of Northern Trust Asset Management.

“It’s really important to be able to have the benefit of mentors, sponsors and advocates,” he said. “For many women and people of color, those relationships were harder to come by and I can say I definitely benefited from those relationships. I think that’s one of the challenges in the industry that’s still somewhat true today.”

So how does the industry make improvements? Before anything, it’s important to note the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion have to work in concert, not independently, to ultimately create a truly inclusive culture, according to Thomas.

“I believe that actually starting with really enhancing your diversity on every level, whether it’s ethnicity, culture, gender, because the reality is when you bring those different elements to the workplace, it creates an environment where people can draw from one another’s distinctions and strengths,” Thomas said. “You actually have to be really intentional about building diverse teams.”

Gurinder Ahluwalia, CEO of 280 CapMarkets, said even simple steps like starting a dialogue to share experiences within your firm and reaching out to organizations in the community can make a huge difference to open people’s minds to diversity.

How a firm structures its culture also is critical, according to Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners.

“If firms are trying to move forward on diversity and inclusion, and they haven’t really assessed their culture, and they really don’t know where they’re going and why they’re getting there, then they’re not going to attract the people who are going to really help them move forward in these changing demographics and changing trends,” she said. “This means rethinking your business model.”

Tune in to the full webcast to hear more from professionals in the advice industry who have been successful at recruiting and hiring diverse individuals at their firms.

The post Be inclusive and intentional to add diversity, panel says appeared first on InvestmentNews.

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