But at a recent conference , Fouz was struck by how many women and minorities were present . She ’ s seeing that more and more .
The advantages of increased representation go beyond fairness , she says . A more diverse workforce brings a greater variety of clients . “ People trust people they can relate to ,” she says . “ Clients want to feel heard and understood .”
The Good News ( Sort Of )
Overall , it has become easier for clients to find advisors by ethnicity , language and gender , says Kimberly Foss , president of Empyrion Wealth Management- Mercer Advisors in Roseville , Calif .
She cites a study by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards , which found that , in 2022 , some 24 % of all certified financial planners in the U . S . were women , more than 4 % were Asian or Pacific Islander , nearly 3 % were Hispanic , and nearly 2 % were Black . ( No figures were available for the LGBTQIA or disability communities .)
All these numbers were touted as record highs , despite lagging behind where they should be to reflect the broader population . “ The effort is there , but we still aren ’ t seeing the results we need ,” says Foss .
The Exceptions Some firms pride themselves on doing better than those averages . For instance , more than two-thirds of the personnel at Johnson Financial Group in Racine , Wis ., are women , according to the firm ’ s chief human resources officer , Denise Domian .
Diversity is emphasized in the recruitment of new staff , says Domian , and in an internal mentorship program to “ ensure that associates feel like they belong and are supported . … Belonging is the foundation for someone coming to work for us and retaining them once they do .”
She concedes , however , that “ the number of women diminishes as you move up in the organization .”
At Cambridge Investment Research in Fairfield , Iowa , 64 % of home office associates and half of the vice presidents are women , says Cambridge CEO Amy Webber . Still , she says , “ We all must think bigger .” For example , when it comes to recruiting , she says , advisory owners should make sure to tap historically Black colleges and universities , women ’ s colleges and other types of educational programs . Ask yourself , “ Are we using the right language with specific demographics in mind ?” she says .
“ We all must think bigger . Ask yourself , ‘ Are we using the right language with specific demographics in mind ?’”
— Amy Webber , CEO , Cambridge Investment Research
Workplace Flexibility And Other Barriers
One barrier concerns workplace flexibility . Azzad Asset Management ’ s Fouz says that many women prefer a flexible schedule to accommodate family life .
Education is another obstacle . Financial planning classes rarely include training in how the industry works , says Fouz . “ Some kind of mentorship or internship program that starts perhaps at the undergraduate level would really be beneficial ,” she maintains . “ A lot of minorities aren ’ t aware of what opportunities exist for them in the financial advisory industry , so spreading awareness about the industry itself and career choices within the industry would be huge .”
This is not to say that no effort has been made . Kate Healy , managing director of the Certified Financial Planner Board ’ s Center for Financial Planning in Washington , D . C ., says the CFP Board has a new scholarship “ to assist women seeking to complete the education coursework required for attaining CFP certification .”
Many firms also fund scholarships for women and minorities who are interested in a career in financial planning , she adds , and the Center for Financial Planning is at work on “ a long-term initiative to raise awareness and understanding of how and where underrepresented groups fit into the profession ,” she says .
Healy further notes that client demographics are changing , so firms better keep up . She cites CFP research showing that 14 % of millennials are foreign-born and 10 % are in interracial marriages . “ To understand how best to serve our diverse society , advisors need to become culturally competent ,” she says .
Despite these efforts , DEI supporters say no one should expect too much too soon . “ It will take years to see the fruits of these initiatives ,” says Chelsea Ransom-Cooper , managing partner and financial planning director at Philadelphia-based Zenith Wealth Partners who works in Jersey City , N . J .
Meanwhile , many women and minorities aren ’ t waiting . They are starting their own firms , she says , which is often the only way to create “ supportive work environments ” that include “ calling out microaggressions [ so ] people can be themselves and feel safe at work .”
Diane Bourdo , president of the Humphreys Group in San Francisco , might agree . For a recent opening at her firm , she received a large number of applications from women “ who were clearly overqualified — and knew it ,” she says . “ In talking with them , we heard that they would be happy just to find a nontoxic work environment .”
Clients , she warns , might be feeling that way , too . Women don ’ t want a male advisor who “ doesn ’ t listen fully , doesn ’ t ‘ get ’ them , and isn ’ t attuned to their needs , wants , perspectives and challenges ,” Bourdo says . “ It ’ s surprising to me , after all this time and all the conference sessions on this topic , that the dominant culture hasn ’ t gotten the message that they need to listen more — a lot more .”
MAY 2023 | FINANCIAL ADVISOR MAGAZINE | 37