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  • by Kate Healy
  • Managing Director, Generation Next, TD Ameritrade Institutional

AdvoKate: Where you start the race matters

While it’s been a few weeks since we wrapped up this year’s National LINC, there’s one voice I can hear as if she’s still right in front of me. We had the pleasure and privilege to hear Viola Davis, award-winning actress of film, television and theater, share her personal, powerful story of overcoming adversity and preconceived restrictions.

Growing up in poverty is difficult enough. Add that hers was the only black family in a small Rhode Island town, and suffering years of abuse — her remarkable journey of courage and forgiveness has really stuck with me. Ms. Davis reminded the audience that, “You don’t know where the other person started the race.” The same is true for all of us – your associates and your clients. Yet often, despite our best efforts, unconscious biases get in the way of seeing what’s truly in front of us.

As an industry, we have real work ahead to ensure that all clients who walk through the door to begin a relationship are welcomed by someone ready to meet them where they are, be open and truly listen. One step toward this is to attract and nurture financial planners who better reflect the diverse population they serve.

Progress from the FPA

I know I’m only one set of eyes, but the progress I see in terms of increasing the diversity among advisors is encouraging. Leading the charge for the Financial Planning Association (FPA) is Eric Toya, partner/director of Wealth Management at Navigoe, LLC. He chairs the FPA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Its goal is to increase diversity, create opportunities and broaden the scope of work among financial planners from diverse backgrounds — people of color, women, LGBT — any group that could use support.

Eric joined the FPA’s Los Angeles Chapter in 2008 and quickly jumped into a local leadership position. After a few years on the Diversity Committee at the national level, he’s now serving as chair.

Diversity in the industry

With nearly 20 years in financial services, Eric has seen changes in the industry and is encouraged by the direction it’s heading. “There’s been a gradual broadening of the tent. The needle is moving, but slowly. Anecdotally, diversity has changed in ways consistent with how the industry changed. In the past, the expectation to focus heavily on sales would narrow who might be interested in the profession. People of diverse backgrounds may have turned away. And if they did look in they might say, ‘no one does this who looks like me.’”

According to Toya, today, when it comes to hiring decision-makers, there’s an increasing awareness of not only the need for diversity but the intrinsic value diversity brings to the company environment via different perspectives, frames of references and expanding access to client markets. Some clients may prefer to work with a women or someone of their own ethnicity. Firms are recognizing this much more.

Eric shared, “As an Asian American, I could relate to a recent FPA Scholarship winner who talked about being an advisor. His family had a strong negative reaction to the idea. The per-ceived sales component made them think it was not a noble profession. A little education could go a long way to change these misconceptions. It’s really a career focused on helping people reach their goals — noble in any culture!”

Get involved with FPA

Eric noted that, “at the FPA, we do some things really well; our Diversity Scholarship is a great example. Recipients are awarded a trip to the FPA’s annual conference. This helps us recognize and shine a spotlight on diverse financial planners who are passionate about the business.

Looking ahead we are focusing on more content output. Keep an eye on our website and blog. We are also creating more material that local chapters can leverage.” Eric encourages all members of the FPA to get involved. In fact, any member of the FPA can serve on the Diversity Committee. Here’s how to get started.

Past FPA Scholarship winner thinks BIG

Speaking of the FPA Diversity Scholarship, a past winner has a new project I’m very excited about. In fact, the Scholarship is just the tip of the iceberg for Rianka Dorsainvil, founder of Your Greatest Contribution  and recipient of the InvestmentNews inaugural Rising Star Award. Rianka and I recently chatted about diversity and how she thinks she can make the greatest impact.

According to Rianka, “there are a lot of organizations and companies doing an awesome job putting the industry at the forefront to attract diverse professionals. As a result of this awareness, there’s going to be a lot of women and men of color entering financial planning. Thanks to organizations like the FPA, the Center for Financial Planning and TD Ameritrade Institutional, there’s a lot of exciting things going on. The question I want to answer is: Now that they are here, what do we do to keep them?  We need to concentrate on retaining diverse top talent.”

NextGen changing the rules

Rianka’s passion is palpable. She says, “The millennial generation is more racially and ethnically diverse than our predecessor generations. If you want to retain top talent of color, your firm needs to exude inclusion and be at the forefront. Our generation is starting our careers in financial planning right out of college. We are bringing a lot of passion to this profession to not only help our clients but to help our peers. We care about making everyone feel included and that voices are heard.

From time-to-time we see practitioners of color in magazines, whether it is from being recognized for their work, writing an article, or something is being written about diversity in the profession — however, diversity isn’t once a year. Diversity is more than a panel conversation once or twice a year at a conference.

If you know me, you know that if I feel I can help with change, I will. I wanted to create a platform to have these types of conversations year round, not just once a year. Although these conversations are happening infrequently on a national scale, the minority community has these types of conversations every day. I continue to have conversations with my peers and great ideas are shared with each other. One day I thought, imagine letting the world hear our ideas! It reminds me what the late Tupac Shakur once said, ‘I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.’ Will you help us spark change?”

2050 TrailBlazers

How is Rianka going to tackle all of this? For starters, she’s creating a new podcast: 2050 TrailBlazers. Season one is eight episodes of interviews with industry experts and cultural leaders who make a difference. Here are just a few interviews lined up:

• Cy Richardson — National Urban League. Rianka met Cy when they were featured on a panel I moderated. They had a lot in common!
• Lazetta Rainey Braxton — Diversity advocate and CEO and founder of Financial Fountains. Lazetta met Rianka at a meeting of the Association of African American Financial Advisors and they’ve been collaborating ever since.
• Nandita Das — Financial Planning Program director from the University of Delaware. Nandita will help inform the student perspective. How do we get a Financial Planning program at every university?
• Phuong Luong — Rianka and Phuong met in 2014 when they both won the FPA Diversity Scholarship. These NextGen planners have a lot to say about what firms can do to keep top talent.

And the name: 2050 TrailBlazers. Rianka explains, “Census data has shown that by the year 2050, the majority of the United States population will be comprised of minority groups. This country is a big, beautiful melting pot — as we know, the financial planning industry isn’t a very good reflection of our rich and diverse population. We have work to do, and I know we will continue to be the trailblazers for the next generation of financial planners. We are doing an amazing job and making a tangible impact on our clients lives every day. Everyone deserves to speak to a financial planner with whom they are conformable. We have to look like the community we want to be able serve.”

The trailer for 2050 Trailblazers dropped in early March. Be sure to subscribe. I already did.

2050 Trailblazers podcast.

Working together

A big thank you to Eric and Rianka for sharing with me. With diversity leaders like these two at the forefront, I’m sure we will continue in the right direction. While we are still at the beginning of this race, together we can continue and accelerate our progress.

I’d love to hear what you are doing to attract and retain diverse talent at your firm. Tweet me @KateHealy_TDA and follow our efforts at #RIANextGen

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