The COVID-19 crisis and racial tensions of the last several months have really brought to light the social and financial inequalities among races in America and across the world. As NAPA President, I’ve been asking myself what can we be doing to help promote diversity in our industry and even do something to bridge the gap between financial inequalities among the races.
Let’s face it, we know what the make-up of our industry looks like. Look around at any conference and you see lots of grey hair and varying shades of blue and black suits. We have seen strides as it pertains to the number of women now in our industry, but there are still very few African Americans, Latinos, fewer Native American, Asians, Indians and Middle-Easterners in financial services. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Our industry is not representative of the demographic make-up of America. I know that’s true about several industries, but what can we do about increasing the diversity in our industry and helping those who are financially challenged?
As plan advisors, we have the distinct advantage of being able to get in front of hundreds if not thousands of people physically or virtually through the employees of the plans we manage.
I am asking for a call to action of all you!
Remember the slogan from the early 1990s, “think globally, act locally”? Race relations and financial inequalities are too big of issues for any one person or organization to tackle, but we can all do our part to initiate change. Here are some ways we can “act locally.”
Have a diversity initiative for your team
Incorporate a diversity initiative in your team structure. There’s study after study that proves that diversity especially in leadership leads to better business results. It’s just not about different colors of our skin, it’s about differences in opinions, ideas, cultures, personalities, etc. We need to adapt to better serve our clients, which are probably diverse, but we also need diversity for our own personal growth.
What does your team look like? At least think about it when you have your next hire.
Read more commentary by Pat Wenzel here.
Mentor young minority financial advisors and interns
Young financial advisors need our help. Many who enter the financial services industry especially as advisors, don’t make it. Even if you can’t hire them right now, reach out to diverse advisors and offer to mentor them. We started a fantastic mentoring program within NAPA/ARA for women advisors and expanded to other female financial services associates. I have served as a mentor myself and I know it has helped just to be a sounding board in challenging times. If you are interested in participating in the women’s mentoring program, please reach out to Nicole Corning for more information, or click here. We also need to do a better job of recruiting minority candidates at the universities in our areas. This has been a challenge too—anyone with a success story, please share it with me!
Seek out minority business owners and help them with their retirement plan and personal financial planning needs
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, there are now more than 4 million minority-owned businesses in the U.S. which employ over 4.7 million people. Most do not offer retirement plans to their employees. They need our help too. As financial advisors, not just plan advisors, we can offer our services to help minority business owners navigate through their many financial challenges. They also may employ minority employees we can also help through financial education.
Volunteer to teach financial education at non-for profit organizations/communities
There are programs already in place that need volunteers. We need to do our part to effect change and teach smart financial habits to people of all ages, especially in predominantly minority areas:
- Girl scouts: Financial literacy badges
- Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE)
- Junior Achievement
- Boys & Girls Club
- YMCAs offer evening classes
- Churches—many welcome financial literacy programs
There are many more that exist in local markets. I started volunteering for the San Jacinto chapter of Girls Scouts in Houston 3 years ago. There are several financial literacy badges where they need people that are knowledgeable about topics like investing, budgeting, credit, etc. The girls come from all walks of life and represent different races and ethnic groups. It has been an extremely gratifying experience for me and I know that I’m making an impact on their future. With the COVID crisis, in-person meetings have been cancelled, but hopefully will start up again in the near future.
The only two things we can control are our own attitudes and actions. Let’s embrace diversity, not just for diversity’s sake but to help us all personally and professionally be better people, leaders and businesses.
It’s time we try to drive change in our communities and in our industry by doing what we all do best. I appreciate your attention to this serious matter and look forward to witnessing and being part of the change in our industry in the coming years.
All the best.
Pat Wenzel, CRPC®, C(k)P® , CFP ® , CPFA, is a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch in Houston, TX. She serves as NAPA’s 2020-2021 President. This column appears in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.