Celebrating Black History In February And Beyond

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Black History Month celebrations during February are an important way to recognize the achievements of Black Americans and reflect on their significant role in U.S. history and culture. But inclusion efforts can’t end on March 1. To create more equitable workplaces and a more inclusive financial services industry, it’s essential to have sustained initiatives throughout the year.

As the calendar flips from February to March, we have an opportunity—and I believe an obligation—to keep the conversation going, and to keep taking action to make the financial industry more inclusive.

There has been some progress worth celebrating in recent years. The CFP Board shared that, over the past year, there was a 7.5% increase in the number of Black certified financial planner professionals, nearly double the 3.9% overall increase in total CFPs across the profession.

However, Black CFPs represent just 1.9% of all such professionals. And a 2020 report from Cerulli Associates found that just 2.9% of advisors identify as Black or African American.

This disproportionate representation highlights the urgent need to bring more Black professionals into the wealth management industry. Historically, Black Americans have been excluded from financial opportunities due to systemic inequities. The need to have a workforce that better reflects our communities is essential to address persistent barriers. Increasing representation can lead to more financial empowerment for the broader Black community, which can help close ongoing wealth gaps.

Collective Action To Attract New Talent
The desire to increase diversity among financial advisor ranks is a goal for many firms. And achieving this goal will require clear demonstration of why a career in wealth management is right for people of color.

History can be a barrier. A large percentage of financial advisors get their start in the business following in the footsteps of a family member from a previous generation. Successful advisor practices often include multiple generations of the same family, which is a great way for new advisors to learn the business and offers strong continuity for clients. But with the small percentage of Black advisors currently in the business, the underrepresentation is only perpetuated from one generation to the next.

With an industry-wide need to attract new, diverse, next-generation talent, we have an opportunity to work together to maximize our impact.

One such collaborative approach that is making its mark is the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE). FARE brings together financial services firms, industry organizations and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to help students see why they belong in finance. I’m honored to serve as a member of the board of directors at FARE, and I’m encouraged to see how the coalition is creating new pathways to the financial industry for Black students and young professionals through career fairs, scholarships, internships and mentoring programs.

These activities are generating new interest and excitement in the industry. We can keep building on this excitement and driving forward, and we can’t take our foot off the gas.

Intention Leads To Retention
In tandem with a focus on bringing more diverse professionals into the industry, there needs to be equal attention paid to making sure they have the support and resources to thrive in their careers long term. Companies need to be intentional about providing the programs, resources and development opportunities that will serve Black employees.

People perform at their highest levels when they feel they belong. They are more innovative and productive, and feel more fulfilled by their job, which leads to better employee retention. On the other hand, a culture that doesn’t value inclusivity can hamper employee retention and, ultimately, has a negative effect on long-term business success.

I feel fortunate to have a role at my firm that is unique in the industry. As the head of culture and field experience, my role is dedicated to diversity and inclusion, employee experience and well-being. The firm created this role with the recognition that workplace culture has an impact on every discipline and area of the business, including the bottom line. I report directly to our president and sit on our firm’s executive committee. While I have a background in human resources, my role is not HR. Cultivating a company culture of belonging can’t be just an HR initiative. It requires ongoing commitment from all levels of leadership.

Employers demonstrate that commitment through inclusive benefits, affinity groups, support and storytelling during recognition months like Black History Month, and by honoring unique employee contributions through reward and recognition programs.

Many employees have come to expect these types of programs from their employers – as they should. Now it’s up to employers to find new and unique ways to ensure these programs honor the diversity of thought and experiences among employees, while supporting and celebrating their contributions. After all, our differences make us stronger.

As we head into March, let’s extend the spirit of Black History Month by creating safe spaces for continued dialogue throughout the year and working together to make a more inclusive future for our industry, colleagues, clients and communities.

Shareen Luze is head of culture and field Experience at RBC Wealth Management.

Article Source: Financial Advisor

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