I just returned from a summit meeting in Washington D.C. (just missed the snow, thank you) focused on designing the financial planning profession’s workforce of the future.
One critical challenge we face is how to encourage more women, minorities and young people to enter our profession, build rewarding careers, and enrich our industry with a more diverse set of perspectives and practices. (By the way, that’s undoubtedly the same assignment facing HR leadership in professions across the board, from engineering to accounting and law.)
The financial advice industry has been called to task for being “among the least diverse in the country.” Barely over one-fifth of all Certified Financial Planners (CFP®s) are women, and that number has not budged in decades. Women – like myself – who own and run investment advisory firms are only about 8% of the industry.
“In a nation where the population of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other people of color is growing, the financial advice industry remains overwhelmingly white,” according to a recent exposé in Investment News.
As one financial practitioner put it, financial advice in our country is at risk of becoming “male, pale and stale.”
This is a problem because most people feel more comfortable receiving financial advice from someone who looks like them, and who is more likely to understand their daily challenges, their lifestyle, and their goals and dreams.
I remember seeing a male doctor years ago who gave me advice about how I should change my lifestyle to exercise early in the morning. He obviously had no idea that I already had to wake up well before 6 a.m. every day to get two kids dressed, fed and ready for school, and then drop them off before getting myself to work on time. After work, it was the same story in reverse until late at night. What did he know about my life, or the challenges of any single or divorced mom? I automatically discounted any advice he gave me because I thought he was absolutely clueless when it came to my lifestyle or the challenges I faced.
Financial advice is no different. We need a diverse workforce to address the financial needs of America’s changing population, to speak to people in a language they understand, and to make sure all communities have access to the advice they need to make the complex financial decisions required to successfully navigate the new American economy. It’s all about access, speaking the language, and choice.
In our office, we’re proud to do our part. All our team members start by working on their Certified Financial Planner or Registered ParaPlanner designations. They serve on the Board of our South Florida Financial Planning Association chapter and are leaders in NextGen circles, helping to develop the financial talent of the future.
We’re equally passionate about what we do, which is improving the lives of the clients we work with. We do that first by understanding their financial goals, challenges and the world they live in, then we try to make it all just a little bit better.