In my first blog post in this series, I was a pretty tough coach. My stance is that those of us in leadership positions in the wealth management industry are squarely to blame for what we like to call the “pipeline problem.”

But I’m a problem solver, and so are you, and together we’re going to fix the mess we’ve created. But before we get into where to find and how to hire, train and develop people from outside our industry – and take care of those already in it so they don’t leave – we need to start by doing a little groundwork. We’re going to work on ourselves and our firms.

Step 1: Expand Our Personal Networks

To paraphrase what I explained in the first part of the series, we’ve been lazy when it comes to hiring people. We like to ask our network who they know (which tends to look like us and be full of people already in the industry) instead of putting in work to recruit new talent because, hey, it’s easy! 

So, here’s the “lazy hack” we’re going to use – we’re going to expand our networks. Start by reading Sonya Dreizler’s post “Five Steps to a Diverse Network” and following those steps.

Next, we’re going to get involved in our communities – in a way that’s not necessarily “easy” for us. We are looking for a regular way to bring you together with a totally new group of people. Maybe you join a local group of entrepreneurs or get involved in the startup scene. Perhaps you start volunteering for an organization in a different part of town or that is likely to bring you into contact with people who have different experiences than you.

Third, we’re going to get involved teaching young people about the incredible work we do in our industry. Check out Rock the Street, Wall Street (a financial and investment literacy program for diverse high school girls), participate in career days at local schools and volunteer to teach financial literacy in schools, local youth organizations or wherever it’s needed. Our profession is still largely a secret to many kids and young adults – let’s get the word out there and start building our future pipeline!

Intentionally expanding our networks takes some time, so we need to start right away.

Step 2: Expand Our Perspective

In the first article, I also made the claim that we’re somewhat self-centered, which leads to us putting up barriers to entering and staying in our industry that simply don’t need to be there. So, step two in our plan to work on ourselves is to expand our perspective by listening to voices different from our own.

First, follow people on social media who challenge your thinking – you don’t have to agree with someone to listen to them and try to understand their point of view. Sometimes it helps us see things we didn’t see before. Sometimes it helps us clarify our own points of view. Either way, it’s a good thing to hear different perspectives. The Financial Planning Association, in partnership with the Latino Leadership Institute, offers an Insight to Inclusive Leadership badge program to help you clarify your own points of view. They do so through a proprietary self-assessment and training with a cohort of other visionary and inclusive leaders.

Read more: Advisors Face A Diversity Problem

Next, pick up a book (audiobooks count, too) that’s outside of your norm and stretches you to view life from another person’s perspective. Maybe it’s a book about a religion different from your own. Perhaps it’s one written by an author who comes from a different racial or ethnic background than your own. Maybe it’s one that shares another generation’s point of view.

Third, check out some of the incredible industry podcasts we have that share some new viewpoints – 2050 TrailBlazers, The Human Advisor, Framework and Minority Money are a few good places to start. Each of these does a great job of helping us broaden our perspective.

Finally, I want you to repeat after Ted Lasso: “Be curious, not judgmental.” Just because something didn’t happen to us doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to someone else. We need to stop comparing everyone else’s experience to our lived experience. Take a tip from a coach – if you start feeling that judgmental feeling creeping up, ask a question to better understand. And if in response to someone sharing a hardship they’ve experienced we find ourselves saying, “Well, I would have just…” it’s a clue that we might have an opportunity to show some gratitude for something we have that the other person doesn’t. 

Step 3: Improve Our Firm

This is a big one, and it’s a lot to tackle in an article, but I’m going to do my best to give you a high-level overview of what we need to do. For details on all of these, check out our free online course Missed Opportunity: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Financial Services Industry. We’ve included checklists and templates to make it as easy as possible for you to make a positive change.

Compensation: The first area we need to tackle is to make sure that our compensation models are appropriate. We need to be paying a living wage to everyone, regardless of their role. We need to make sure that advisor compensation models are more than reasonable, especially for career-changers.

This means we likely need to rethink our typical “breakeven” timetable. Work to get comfortable with the idea that your new advisors may look to be “unprofitable” on paper for a period of one to three years while they are growing their client base, because you are going to be paying them a healthy salary and they won’t have brought in enough revenue…yet. 

This is an INVESTMENT in the future of your firm and our industry. You’ve heard of the “lifetime value of a client,” right? Well, the lifetime value to your firm of a talented team member who is aligned with your vision is HUGE. In addition to cash compensation, our benefits need to be top-notch. We’re asking career-changers to drop all of their benefits for a role that doesn’t even include health insurance? Come on, now.

Read more: The Business Wisdom of Developing Advisor Career Paths

Training and Development: We need to prioritize developing our people. That means investing time and resources. I’ll go into more of this in a future post, but for now, make sure you have a budget for professional development, tuition reimbursement and certifications for your team, and get yourself in a “mentorship” mindset.

Policies and Procedures: There’s a lot we need to do here. In my last article, I shared that one of the causes of us creating non-inclusive cultures is that we essentially center ourselves, thinking that everyone thinks like us, has the same values, has the same background and has the same resources. There’s a whole list of policy and procedure changes you likely need to make, like anti-harassment and anti-discrimination, parental leave and mandatory arbitration language. Check out the Carson Coaching DEI Toolbox that’s part of our course for details here.

Culture: Whoa, this is a biggie. We can attract great people to our industry, but if we make them feel like they don’t belong here, they’re going to turn around and leave. So our job here is to examine everything.

First, you know what the glaring problems are in your firm. Fix those first. If you’ve got a superstar advisor who’s a jerk to everyone else, address it. If you have someone who’s always making sexual, racial, homophobic or religious jokes, put a stop to it. Women shouldn’t be the default note-takers or coordinators of birthday parties, and for heaven’s sake, get your own darn coffee – don’t expect the person of color on your team to get it. Learn to pronounce people’s names correctly, and expect everyone on your team to do the same. Send out anonymous surveys to your employees. Ask for feedback and listen. Get outside perspective by hiring a firm to do an evaluation and give you suggestions. Make your firm the place where EVERYONE feels like they belong.

It’s Work, But We’ll Rise to the Challenge

I know the steps I listed above aren’t necessarily easy, but we can do hard things, especially when it’s the right thing to do. And, as an added bonus, we all benefit when we have a more diverse and inclusive industry!

Our first steps are to work on ourselves and our firms to lay the groundwork for an environment where everyone feels like they belong and can be successful. Now that you know what you need to do in those areas, we’ll move on to how to find talented people in new places. I’ll share detailed ideas in my next article.

AUTHOR

Sarah M. Cain

Vice President, Coaching & Consulting
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