The groundswell of support for the ongoing protests and calls for ending racial and economic injustice speak to our society’s deep desire and passionate longing for change. Ultimately, people are protesting because they want a better quality of life for themselves, their children, their neighbors, and their greater community after being discounted, disrespected, and devalued for generations.
I strongly support these ongoing protests and am proud to add my voice to fight for change that more truly reflects the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL that this country was founded upon.
Fundamental changes along these lines are also needed in the financial services industry.
Out of the 352,000 personal financial advisors operating within the United States, 84.6% are white, 70.8% are male, and the average compensation for female advisors lags behind their male counterparts by over $66,000 per year.*
A dedicated and concerted effort is needed to educate, hire, and fill the seats of executive offices with more advisors who more proportionally reflect the rich diversity of our country. Without it, the financial services industry is not fully living up to the promise of fiduciary responsibility.
A fiduciary has a legal duty to provide advice and service that is in the best interests of the client. Reading between the lines, the fiduciary rule is about the importance of honoring diversity and personal dignity.
It's not enough to say, “I treat everybody the same” because everyone is NOT the same.
For a financial advisor to do the best job possible, a foundation of honesty and a high comfort level needs to be developed between the client and advisor. How is this client going to be treated and respected? Are they going to be reticent to come out and talk about their family, their life situation? What if they're HIV positive? Personal discussions like this take a lot of trust. Working with an advisor who has had similar life experiences and knows what the clients concerns may be goes a long way in building that trusting relationship.
The standard response of many financial advisors is often something like “I don't discriminate. I love everybody. I don't care if you’re African American, Jewish, or LGBT.” But, that is just not enough. There are unique financial planning related to a person’s identity and their life experiences that need to be understood, respected, and factored into the financial planning discussion.
“What did I do? Did I stand up? Did I do the right thing? Did I help people?”
This call for increased diversity and more equitable practices drive my personal life and my career as a financial advisor. Every day, I fight for my clients to make sure their rights are respected and that they get what they were promised. Sometimes, change takes time, so you have to be disciplined and focused to make sure the job gets done.
With one client, it took lots of phone calls and letters to an insurance company to get a refund that would otherwise have been denied. The final response from the now defunct insurer now hangs in my office like a medal of honor, reminding me not to give up.
This need for discipline and focus is essential to serving a diverse customer base because there are always unique issues and concerns that need to be addressed throughout the life of a client’s financial portfolio — issues that are more challenging when having to address systemic racism and discrimination within the process.
Right now, I can look back and say I have a clean conscience because I know how I have treated people, how I’ve helped people, how I have fought for people, including those who are not like me.
A source of inspiration for me is something I saw while in Israel last year visiting the Earl Wallenberg Memorial. The plaque states that the murder of the 6 million Jews, including half million Jewish children during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany’s system of concentration camps, ghettos, murder squads, and killing centers, required the cooperation of hundreds of thousands of willing participants and the acquiescence or indifference of millions more. Pay attention to those words —cooperation — acquiescence — indifference. That is what we need to avoid at this moment in history. NOW is the time to speak up and be a part of the change that is needed.
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