Understanding the Importance of DEI in the Financial Services Industry
We speak with Ana Trujillo Limon, director of Coaching & Advisor Content at Carson Group, about the current state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the financial services industry, as well as why financial literacy matters for DEI efforts.
What is the current state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the financial services industry?
The current state of DEI owes a great debt to the trailblazers in the space who have been doing this work for decades, like LeCount Davis, Trudy Turner, Saundra Davis, Louis Barajas, Lazetta Rainey Braxton and Lee Baker, just to name a few. These individuals were instrumental in starting organizations and founding spaces where specifically Black and Latino advisors and planners could connect and thrive, as well as do great work to serve their communities.
While progress has been slow, we’ve seen more momentum since 2018 — the year Rianka Dorsainvil launched her 2050 TrailBlazers podcast that brought to light some of these issues and had experts offering actionable steps for financial professionals. This was also the year the Journal of Financial Planning permanently put a spot for DEI in its editorial calendar and the year CFP Board held its first Diversity Summit.
There are some incredibly exciting things happening now, but I’m especially excited about the work the FinServ Foundation led by Jamie Hopkins is doing to help educate students on the opportunities that exist within the financial services profession. At Carson Group, Dr. Julie Ragatz is leading our Next Gen initiative and along with the FinServ Foundation has now partnered with 26 colleges and universities to cultivate next-generation talent, with an emphasis on women and underrepresented students.
Other organizations are doing exciting things in this realm too, like Envestnet with its Envestnet Institute on Campus initiative and all the amazing internal work their DEI Director Lisa Bruce is doing. Several programs and companies have also been launched, and these are adding to the momentum, like the BLX Internship founded by Chloe Moore, Luis Rosa, Emlen Miles-Mattingly and Shawn Tydlaska.
This year, we also saw the launch of the Onyx Advisor Network by Dasarte Yarnway and Emlen Miles-Mattingly; the CHOIR diversity certification for conferences, launched by Sonya Dreizler and Liv Gagnon; and THE BRIEF, powered by Changing How Individuals Prosper (CHIP) launched by Dana L. Wilson and myself. The Financial Planning Association also recently partnered with the Latino Leadership Institute to offer the Insights to Inclusive Leadership badge program.
I’m also seeing more DEI professionals being hired or promoted at major firms and organizations, which is a great step forward in cultivating inclusive cultures where diverse talent thrives. These efforts are all helping to make our industry more inclusive and offering spaces where diverse talent can learn, network and belong. There are also numerous financial literacy companies and initiatives that I’m excited to see, like Mini Money Management, founded by Lorne Jenkins; the Berryville game founded by Mac Gardner; and Futurvest founded by Alex and Rosa Chalekian and their sons.
What are some trends driving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts in the financial services industry?
The shifting demographics have served as a catalyst for many of these efforts. Brookings reports that the growth of minority populations is causing the shift to a “minority majority” nation to happen faster than previously predicted. But the momentum really picked up after Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were both killed in the spring and summer of 2020, respectively.
We know that people of color—specifically Black people—have faced violence and brutality throughout our country’s history, but with the world shut down and no distractions, people really saw it. I believe people finally started to realize that the ripple effects of racism and structural inequities are still very much present and still serve as barriers, which is especially the case when it comes to finance and the financial services industry. A spotlight was shined on the brutalities that diverse populations—and specifically the Black population—have faced and still face in this country.
Many corporations are incorporating DEI initiatives because they want to do the right thing in creating pathways for diverse talent, and some have begun to focus on cultivating environments where that talent feels psychologically safe enough to thrive.
Why does Financial Literacy matter for DE&I? How does financial wellness help with promoting and creating a more inclusive world?
Financial literacy isn’t going to fix the structural issues that have led to communities of color building less wealth, but it can equip young diverse people with the knowledge to make better choices. I believe that knowing how something works and knowing that they might be starting at a disadvantage, will help young people make the best choices that can help them not fall further behind and help them begin to build their own wealth.
Financial wellness also very much plays a role in physical health. People with higher levels of wealth suffer from fewer degenerative diseases and live longer. Financial wellness can lead to better health outcomes and better career outcomes. My vision is that financial wellness can create an inclusive world where people can make better money choices, serve as catalysts to change the systemic issues that serve as barriers, and have better financial and physical health.
Why is it important for businesses to have diverse clients and financial professionals?
Many times, people will make two cases for diversity: the business case and the moral case. And both are true. There are multiple reasons to have more diverse financial professionals and clients. First, the shifting demographics of the country are making it a necessity to attract and retain diverse talent. Second, diverse talent brings a rich variety of experiences that lead to increased innovation and favorable business outcomes. Last, research has found that diversity begets diversity, meaning that diverse talent attracts more diverse clients and that attracts more diverse talent.
What is it important for the financial services industry to promote financial literacy and wellness?
Two reasons: first, it’s the right thing to do. Helping to educate young people about how something works and that’s a vital element to their lives is a positive thing to do. Second, it has implications on the longevity of our profession. We need people to understand the basics of how money works, but also to understand how complex money issues can become to understand how essential financial services professionals are. I believe that financial literacy can give young people vital skills, but also introduce them to our profession as both future professionals and future clients.
Is there a particular area or tool of financial literacy that you think is most important?
That compounding interest can be your friend or your foe. From personal experience, I believe that learning how to manage debt and the difference between good and bad debt is incredibly important. Going to college, I didn’t understand the basic concept of compounding interest and signed up for a credit card to get a free pizza and that debt haunted me for a long time. On the opposite side of that coin is understanding the importance of investing early and the benefits that compounding can have in building wealth.
This interview originally appeared in our TradeTalks newsletter. Sign up here to access exclusive market analysis by a new industry expert each week. We also spotlight must-see TradeTalks videos from the past week.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
Sign up to receive your weekly dose of trading news, trends and education