T ony Barrett often talks about his introduction to the profession of financial advice. He had a high school football coach who was a successful financial adviser, and African-American. Seeing the success of a person who looked like him was an inspiration to Tony, who followed in that coach's footsteps in more ways than one. He not only joined the financial advisory profession — today he is a Raymond James & Associates' complex manager — he shares his role model's passion for mentorship and support for others.
That's one reason, following the grassroots approach led by a group of women who formed the Raymond James' Network for Women Advisors more than 20 years ago, Tony was among a few advisers who launched our Black Financial Advisors Network (BFAN) almost five years ago.
Their mission was simple: They wanted to support the success of black financial advisers — who represent less than 5% of personal financial advisers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures from 2017 — through networking, mentoring and idea-sharing. But they also were interested in making our profession more attractive to a diverse next generation of potential advisers.
That's something that's often on my mind, as well. Multiple studies provide similar views of the makeup of today's financial advisers: an average adviser age of around 50, with more than a third planning to retire within the next decade. At present, there aren't enough next-generation advisers to replace them.
If our profession of human-to-human financial advice — a profession that I believe is very much needed, no matter the influence of technology — is to persist, we have to concentrate on cultivating new advisers and ensure this next generation is also more diverse and reflective of the increasingly more diverse clients we have the privilege of serving.
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Internal networks like BFAN are just what we need, given these huge demographic shifts taking place in our society. For example, millennials are the most diverse demographic cohort in history, with projections that there will be no majority racial or ethnic group in the country over the next several decades. Meanwhile, the majority of college students (and graduates) are women, with about 11.5 million starting school in fall 2017, compared with 8.9 million men.
SEE IT, BE IT
While Tony and I don't believe that mentors and mentees need to be the same race or gender, his story reinforces that for many young people, it helps to "see it if you want to be it." It can be hard to imagine yourself in a profession if there are few in that profession who look like you.
For that reason, I found a simple networking event hosted by BFAN during their annual conference to be a positive step. The advisers invited local alumni from INROADS, a non-profit organization that trains and develops minority youth students for corporate and community leadership, to join the conference.
While there, they received an introduction to our business along with networking sessions with attendees and Raymond James' leaders. Some of these program alums are looking for new opportunities after a few years in the workforce, and this event gave them insight into the possibility of being a financial adviser.
This by no means is the only opportunity we're leveraging to cultivate our next generation of advisers. Participation in programs that expose us to historically black colleges and universities and multicultural MBA students are others. But it does represent the kinds of activities we're embracing as we work to attract new professionals into the profession. That said, what Raymond James or any one firm does related to diversity and inclusion is only part of the solution.
I believe to move the needle forward — to make diversity and inclusion within our profession the priority it needs to be — firms must stand shoulder to shoulder to tell the story of what we can offer to those who may have in the past felt anything less than respected and welcomed.
That's why I'm especially excited about another nascent program we're participating in. Together with Northwestern Mutual, Morgan Stanley and Lincoln Investment, we are partnering to bring insight from leaders at our firms to students at the University of North Florida during their Women's Financial Planning Symposium.
The two-day conference is meant to expose students to careers in financial services while helping them build skills that can help them in any career they may choose. Even if they don't decide to become a financial adviser right away, we know this is a profession that can be very well-suited for second careers, so we hope to plant the seeds for both near- and long-term additions to our firms.
SMALL STEPS, LONG PATH
While these are obviously small steps on a long path, I am proud that our profession is taking those steps, which I hope will lead to great strides for diversity and inclusion within our field and great opportunity for us all. I am confident that as Raymond James and others in our profession continue to work on the foundation we're setting together, we can make a difference for our clients, for our advisers and associates, and for our profession as a whole.
Tash Elwyn is president of Raymond James & Associates, Private Client Group, and executive sponsor of the Raymond James Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. This story is part of an ongoing initiative by InvestmentNews to provide inspiration, education and awareness around workplace diversity and inclusion. The project aims to cultivate a financial advice profession where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected, and where industry best practices can be shared across organizations.