The Power of Representation: How My Journey lead me to Financial Services

I recently began my tenure as Head of Operations with the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE), and for the first time in my career, I feel my experience, talents, and passion fully align with the organization I serve. FARE has been operating as a non-profit since September 2020 with a mission to increase racial diversity, drive greater equity and foster inclusion within the financial services industry and the communities they serve. It’s a challenging assignment for such a young organization. Yet, we understand that disrupting the status quo in the world of finance to implement this vision with intention is necessary for greater diversity.

It’s fitting that my first few months coincided with Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March and now April— Financial Literacy Month. Each affinity group is a key part of who I am – a Black woman in finance. Further, these three months directly correlate to the intersectionality that lies at the core mission of what FARE seeks to address in the industry.

Growing up in Ohio to working-class, blue-collar parents, I didn’t necessarily see myself in the financial services space. Let’s face it – there are not many Black and brown faces in this field, let alone Black and brown women. Not until recently have Black women like Mellody Hobson, Lauren Simmons and even historical figures like Maggie Lena Walker been recognized for their work in the financial services industry.

The hard truth is that the financial services industry has never been diverse or inclusive. When I entered the industry, I was starved to see anyone who looked like me or even shared a similar background. I spent those first years trying to find my place, but as time went on I began to get my footing and make strides with the help of a few key support systems.

While at Nationwide, I learned of an associate resource group called African American Women Active and Ready to Exceed (AWARE). It was here that I met other Black women who would mentor me and help me find what I consider my heart and passion work. Additionally, the African American Leadership Academy was a critical network in my development. As a Fellow, the organization allowed me to grow and prepare to engage at the C-Suite level which is critical to the work I do now for FARE.

Black and brown people often don’t have access to these kinds of resources when attempting to enter finance. I was one of the lucky ones that was able to tap into these networks. Knowing this makes me even more determined to ensure that we provide mentorship through FARE. Our inaugural HBCU Mentorship Programs hosted 11 mentors and 25 mentees, numbers we hope to build on in the future.

DEI Is Not The Devil

FARE’s quest for greater diversity is not a new idea but remains necessary in today’s world. With recent push back against diversity equity and inclusion programs we are seeing many of the resources that had been in place for years dry up. We believe that diversity in finance will be critical in addressing issues including the racial wealth gap, strengthening our economy overall and fostering growth within our financial institutions.

Black and brown people often don’t seek out financial literacy programs simply because they don’t see people that look like them working in the bank. The painful history of Black and brown people’s struggle to build and retain wealth has created deep distrust between them and financial institutions which to this day remains predominantly controlled by white men.

It’s obvious, if we want greater investment from Black and brown people we have to meet them where they are —with greater diversity. The number of Black and Latino Certified Financial Planners has certainly increased in recent years but Black professionals only account for 2% of all CFPs. With Black wealth projected to reach $103 Trillion by 2050, now is the time for the financial industry to invest in a more diverse workforce.

We want the financial institutions we work with to understand that diversity is not the devil and is actually good for their bottom line. The (CFP) Board found companies with lower levels of racial diversity earn nearly 15 times less in revenue than those with high levels of racial diversity.

FARE is meeting this challenge by focusing our recruitment efforts on Black students and partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In addition to mentorship we have hosted educational summits and hired 7 interns and one full-time associate in the past couple years. Most importantly we are investing in a diverse future, providing over $80,000 in scholarships to help Black professionals prepare for Certified Financial Planning (CFP) certification.

We are invested. We know that true change only comes when you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. And this is only the beginning.

What’s Next?

Moving forward FARE is taking bold steps to increase diversity in the financial services industry. Recruiting, investing, sustaining, and evolving culturally diverse groups of young people that will transform the financial services industry is no small task – but we must and we will.

My journey to FARE has not been easy, but I am clear about the resources, networks and support systems that got me here. I am here because of loving, hardworking and supportive parents. I am here because of mentorship. I am here because of opportunity and access to programs like FARE that nurtured me as a whole person – a Black woman in finance.

Now more than ever, holistic spaces within financial services are desperately needed. I want FARE to be the safe space for Black and brown young people interested in finance as they begin their career journey. Additionally, I want our partners and stakeholders to view the inclusion of diverse employees as an investment in the growth and sustainability of their company. When this happens, we all win.

I feel blessed to help lead FARE in this next chapter. This divine alignment lets me know I am supposed to be here. Not only do I have a seat at the table—this is my table. Now, the real work begins of bringing more people to what will be our tables.

Press Releases
Stay Connected with FARE

Subscribe for updates on our programs and initiatives to diversify the financial services industry.

email address

Nicole Ridley

Nicole Ridley

Head of Operations


Nicole Ridley is a collaborative and transformational thought leader who serves as the Head of Operations for the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE). She is a high-performing, strategic thinker with more than 15 years of professional and leadership experience in Finance, Investments, Commercial Real Estate, Strategic Relationship Management, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.


Lorem Ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Consent Checkbox(Required)