Focus on these steps for boosting D&I in advice industry

Diversity is visible, but inclusion is felt.

Sep 10, 2019 @ 7:27 pm

By Jackie King

"Don't compare yourself, be yourself."

This is the number one thing I tell the diverse financial advisers I meet and mentor at Edward Jones. In other words, "run your own race."

The financial services industry is more diverse than ever before, but diversity and inclusion are about more than just the numbers. Diversity is visible, but inclusion is felt. Firms should hire more diverse financial advisers and invest in programs that support their development. Providing access to mentorship and fostering connectivity within the financial advisor community is how the industry can truly build confidence and drive diverse financial advisor success.

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Mentorship matters

Mentoring keeps me on my toes and reminds me of what it was like to start out as a financial advisor. When I began with Edward Jones in 2007, I received tremendous support from the firm, but as I look back, I may have found the confidence to be successful much sooner if I had more colleagues who looked like me.

That's one of the many reasons I serve as a mentor today. New financial advisors confide in me and aren't sure they can make it in this industry. They don't look like the financial advisor that prospective clients expect. My advice? Embrace what makes you different and use it to stand out. Be remembered for your confidence and competence.

[More: Time to shift your hiring goal from 'culture-fit' to 'culture-add']

Building a self-assured, "you've got this" attitude is one of the aims of programs like Edward Jones' Branch Team Inclusion & Diversity Mentoring Program. The program provides diverse financial advisors with one-on-one support from a financial advisor with a similar background. In addition to creating valuable relationships for both mentors and mentees, programs like these can help firms build stronger business strategies to serve their clients.

Communities of support

Mentorship and coaching build individual relationships to help new financial advisors grow, but it's vital that organizations also foster an inclusive environment and create a connected community for diverse financial advisors. Through the Edward Jones' Diversity Summits, of which there are more than 20 this year, I have the opportunity to convene with other diverse financial advisors from across the country.

These are all important safe spaces for open and honest dialogue. No conversation is off-limits, but you'll most often hear "I thought it was just me" or "I didn't know other people had this problem too." It's in intentionally-created and inclusive spaces like these that diverse financial advisors can share business building ideas, problem-solve and meaningfully connect with their community of support. It's a reminder to each of us that we're not alone in the challenges we face.

Gatherings like these are about more than just words and camaraderie. When diverse financial advisors are supported, the results show. In our firm, retention rates and the number of new clients increased after financial advisors attended an event. In my region, for example, Diversity Summit attendees increased their number of new clients by eight percent in the six months following.

[More: Advisers view diversity efforts as a complex, heavy lift]

When a diverse financial advisor starts a fast-paced career in the financial services industry, it can be easy to get discouraged. Purpose-driven relationships with other diverse financial advisors can empower a new financial advisor to be their best self and, in turn, be essential to their success.

If our industry wants to continue increasing our diversity, enhancing our culture of inclusiveness and, perhaps most importantly, help diverse financial advisors succeed, creating opportunities for mentorship and building communities of support is a worthwhile investment.

Jackie King is an Edward Jones financial adviser.

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