Duane Ledgister shares how experience with two mentors inspired his own commitment to guide young people through the industry
Throughout his 25 years in the investment industry, Duane Ledgister has accumulated a wealth of wisdom, both in life and at work. And like all forms of wealth, he believes it is a treasure that is most valuable when shared.
As vice president at Connor Clark & Lunn Private Capital, Ledgister works closely with high-net-worth clients, addressing their unique needs and expectations as he helps steward their wealth. Over the past five to 10 years, he has also devoted part of his time to helping young professionals as they enter and navigate their way through the industry.
“It really is age and time in the industry that made me realize how important mentorship is,” Ledgister told Wealth Professional. “In your mid-50s, you start to reflect on significant things and events in your life, and I have grown to appreciate several key people in the past who have impacted mine.”
He recalled two mentors who were particularly influential. The first person, who he described as “my boss’s boss,” provided him with much-needed guidance when he was just a twentysomething junior executive at a financial services business.
“No one puts up their hand and says, ‘I’m going to be your mentor.’ It’s a relationship that develops over time,” Ledgister says. “For me, she was a sounding board who gave me honest feedback, good and bad.”
The constructive feedback, Ledgister says, helped develop him as a professional, and provided parameters to help him navigate “an industry where no one looks at all like me.” Importantly, she also helped familiarize him with a landscape of firms where he might consider working in the future, including rival businesses that did certain things well.
“Some people don't necessarily want you to leave or succeed,” he says. “She saw something in me, I suppose, and wanted to nurture and guide me.”
Ledgister’s other mentor, who recently passed away, was an openly gay man. In an industry where gay individuals have been and continue to be very few, Ledgister’s mentor was revered and loved by clients and colleagues alike, while never compromising on his identity.
“He taught me that it’s only when you bring your full self to your career that you’re the best you can be,” Ledgister says. “If you bring an authentic and diverse group of people into an environment, you can help it thrive and grow. He was a fitting example of that.”
Today, Ledgister recognizes how fortunate he was to have encountered his mentors, how they provided important lessons and protection, and how huge an impact mentorship has had on his career. The experience has inspired him to think about the importance of providing the same mentorship to others from diverse backgrounds who want to break into the industry, whether they are fresh out of school or professionals who want to transition from other fields.
One goal Ledgister has set for himself is to provide guidance to new graduates who want to enter the wealth management industry. He engages with diverse people, who come to him through family or friends, through coffees and personal meetings. While he has continued his efforts through Zoom, he still prefers in-person conversations.
“Every year, two or three people may migrate away, as they as they gain success. But I'm always checking in with them again,” Ledgister says. “I'm a big believer on one-on-one counsel and guidance, and I can only offer it to a few at a time because each person brings their unique needs and circumstances.”
Ledgister is also among the fifty-one people behind the Black Opportunity Fund. A long-term endowment backed by banks and other financial institutions, it was set up in 2020 with the aim of supporting Black-owned businesses and non-profits. Ledgister hopes the organization will be a place for graduates to find role models and mentors as they seek to enter a diverse range of industries including finance, technology, and hospitality.
As a veteran with decades of professional experience, Ledgister can see the progress that has been made in terms of supporting diversity, especially in the past few years. Still, even in 2022, he says he does not see as much diversity at the senior levels as he had hoped there would be.
“I think the financial services industry has done a better job of being aware that diversity in leadership and recruiting is an issue, but I'm not sure it has done a better job in actually executing on diversity,” he says. “Supporting is simply an activity that's passive … we just need more active change.”