Firms may be hiring more visible minorities, but what positions are they holding, question some advisors.
A recent Edward Jones survey, released in the U.S. last month, found that 80 per cent of black and Hispanic respondents felt more diverse advisory firms would better serve clients’ needs.
The feeling seems to be mutual for some north of the border.
“From my experience, I would have to agree with the study,” said Wayne Leacock, a Toronto advisor with the Investor’s Group. “Unfortunately, these segments of our population are not fully represented within the financial advisor industry. Is it going to change any time soon? I don’t see that happening. Should it happen? I definitely think it should.”
Leacock, who has been in the industry for more than a decade, believes the under-representation of visible minorities stems back to our education system. He says there isn’t the awareness or the encouragement to pursue a career in financial planning.
“It’s something that is historically not taught in high school or university,” says Leacock. “The opportunity to learn about it at a lower level is just not there. I think that if it was, you’d see a difference in people that look at financial planning as a career.”
Leacock, who has worked for a number of firms over the years, also points to the positions visible minorities are holding, as part of the problem.
“The visible minorities hired are doing transactions at the back of the house or they are at the branch level working as tellers,” he says. “From a big shop, there aren’t that many that are doing wealth management.”
The Edward Jones survey respondents said putting an emphasis on diversity hiring and cross-cultural training would help broaden the pool of American financial advisors. Edward Jones is attempting to do just that through what it calls BRIDGE (Bringing Results through Inclusion-Driven and Guided Efforts) – a mentorship program led by a network of multicultural financial advisors for other advisors. In addition to this, the firm has cross-cultural programming, which helps advisors understand issues of race, ethnicity and gender.
“One of the things I tell financial advisors is ‘when you walk into a room, you are chambers of commerce man and if you are the only person that looks like you, you’re the only black man, that’s a benefit because you are going to stand out from the crowd,’” says Jesse Abercrombie, an Edward Jones financial advisor in Dallas-Fort Worth. “’When you go there two or three or four times a year, they are going to know who you are more than the guy who looks like everyone else and blends in with everyone else.’ It lets the financial advisor start thinking about their diversity as a benefit.”(Continued.)