How Financial Advisers Can Be Allies for Job and Wealth Equity

Participate in awkward reflections and conversations.

Make mistakes so you can learn from them.

And above all to treat team members, customers or prospects with respect.

These are three of the many ways that financial advisors can act as allies or even accomplices or co-conspirators in the fight to close the racial wealth gap and promote equal opportunities in the workplace for women, black Americans, Latinos and other minorities, according to the panels here at the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning Diversity Summit. Calling yourself an “ally” isn’t enough to get you started, said Elissa Sangster, CEO of the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit consortium of corporate and college programs that empowers women in business careers.

Austin-based Sangster and Whitney Tome, a director of Washington, DC-based public affairs and communications company The Raven Group, gave presentations on allies, while Wes Thompson, CEO of the Portland, Oregon-based planning and insurance company M Financial Group and Lori Anne Douglass, founding partner of the New York real estate and inheritance law firm Douglass Rademacher, spoke about the wealth gap during a meeting.

“You have to be given that label by someone else, so you are not entitled to it,” Sangster said of being an ally. “There are no right answers or right behavior. There is a way, and allies can really be thought of as a continuous journey. It’s about developing awareness and adapting to any given situation. “

Sangster credits David Smith and Brad Johnson, the authors of “Good Guys,” for having often pointed out false ally self-identification. Other suggestions for helpful reading by her and Tome include “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee. Learning to listen and open up to different ideas may make some uncomfortable, but Tome finds it essential to let go of some misunderstandings. For example, she said that asking why someone would give up their privilege “creates a binary formula that doesn’t exist” in the workplace and in larger society.

“It’s not ‘giving up’ in and of itself, but using it so that others have equal access, privileges and opportunities for these key roles, because history has often shown us that certain people don’t. I don’t get this access, ”said Tome. “Essentially, they pick up all boats. It is also the realization that a lack of privileges on the one hand actually harms everyone, so this is not a one-sided conversation. “

She recommended that consultants and other wealth management professionals consider making more cakes for Thanksgiving rather than abandoning chunks of the same. However, because Fed data shows that the average and median household wealth of black families is less than 15% of the white household and Hispanic families are less than 20%, many Americans haven’t eaten very many cakes. The historic nature of the wealth gap, stemming from centuries of discrimination, enables financial advisors to directly drive change, Thompson said.

“As we build wealth, the need for professional advice increases,” said Thompson. “Iterative and effective financial advice is really critical and a critical component in promoting economic empowerment for people of color.”

Therefore, it is particularly important to recruit more women and minority professionals in the industry, he added. In that regard, running practices and workplaces that provide equal treatment to advisors, employees, clients and prospects from historically excluded groups also makes a difference, Douglass said.

Meeting advisors with a cultural understanding “makes it a little easier” for clients who may not be used to talking about their finances, Douglass said. “I’ve had clients who were really offended by their advisors for not saving enough, planning enough, or investing properly. And when they go they say, ‘Oh, that’s all you have?’ “

Consultants may never see a prospect or employee again after speaking to them in this way, but panelists said they should be ready to go on a personal journey. The process of becoming an ally brings with it some flaws, according to Sangster.

“It’s important to remember that making mistakes is part of the alliance process,” Sangster said. “It is actually imperative. The glasses you start with won’t later be the ones you have later in your journey, and we hope that your interest in gender equality will lead you to move on to other equality issues as well. There are so many things that you can discover and learn more about. “

Tome defines “allies” as “unlearning and relearning to act in solidarity with the group,” which requires personal analysis of what you read or how you educate yourself about marginalized groups. An “accomplice” is beginning to question the status quo, as has been the case with whites who joined black activists in anti-racial protests, she said. The next level is to be a “co-conspirator”.

“That’s when you risk yourself as much as the people you support,” said Tome. “And that really goes one step further, doesn’t it? To say, ‘I’m not just saying it. I don’t just talk about it, I actually do it in action. ‘ And that requires that you actually use your powers and privileges for others. “

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