Have a plan to encourage diversity at your firm

Co-founder of NAPFA's initiative shares her group's efforts

Nov 24, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Cameo Roberson

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It will be up to advisory firms and professional organizations to do something about the perspectives missing from the financial advice industry, that diverse advisers could bring to clients. Doing so would begin to generate significant gains in supporting a more diverse workforce.

Here are actionable steps that Daphne Jordan and I used in 2016 when we led the efforts to create the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors' diversity and inclusion initiative. We knew our experiences as black women advisers would bring authenticity and shed light on what other diverse advisers have often experienced — exclusion based on perception.

At the 2016 Spring NAPFA conference, we connected with NAPFA CEO Geoff Brown to understand more about the organization's feelings surrounding the lack of diversity within the profession. Did they see the issue as passionately as we did? From there, we began to ask more questions. We quickly discovered there was a desire for diverse professionals to participate within NAPFA, but it was a matter of how.

(More: From the C-suite with Wealth Consulting Group's Jimmy Lee: Looking for diversity, screening for attitude)

Establishing a relationship with leadership is an important step. They are your first advocates.

Over the next year, we sought input and organized strategy sessions to devise a plan of action and actively recruit teammates.

Also important is the inclusion of members who reflect the changing demographics on your team.

Census projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that "people of color will become the majority of the U.S. population in 2045, with whites accounting for 49.9% of the population by then."

These projections demonstrate that the driving demographic engine of the nation's progress will be communities of color.

Know someone?Do you know a successful adviser from a diverse background who has an inspirational story to tell? If so, email special projects editor Liz Skinner at lskinner@investmentnews.com.

Our profession risks becoming irrelevant in the face of these changing demographics, so firms will need to build teams that include diverse perspectives to ensure relevancy. Our steering committee was intentional about incorporating diverse backgrounds and perspectives from the start. We saw ourselves as a model of what we wanted others to create within the profession.

(More: Why diversity and inclusion efforts are a firm's best investment)

The potential to be overwhelmed is real, and being consistent requires focus; projects need to be targeted.

Identify two to three key goals as you develop projects that will support your vision. Keep the goals targeted and measured against the mission of the initiative or program. Identify skill sets among team members and be willing to divide the required work.

Scholarship, community

For our initial projects, this year we launched a diversity scholarship and DiversiFi, a LinkedIn virtual community created to have an immediate impact within both NAPFA and the profession.

DiversiFi is a platform to keep the conversation around diversity and inclusion efforts front and center.

We used our vision to drive projects toward becoming beacons for diversity within the profession, with the goal of building relationships among a variety of advisers to support a more diverse profession and membership.

Identifying like-minded professionals willing to contribute to this important conversation creates synergy. When efforts are realized, they will inspire others to get involved.

NAPFA's diversity and inclusion initiative began with two advisers who saw an opportunity to initiate change. What are you willing to do? We'd like to know and invite you to join in the DiversiFi conversation.

This story is part of an ongoing initiative by InvestmentNews to cultivate a financial advice profession in which diverse perspectives are welcomed and respected, and industry best practices can be shared across organizations.

Cameo Roberson is founder of Atlas Park Consulting & Finance and co-chair of the NAPFA diversity and inclusion program.

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