Defining what DEI means for your firm
For your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy to be successful, you first have to build understanding with clear definitions and guidelines. Individuals within your practice likely have different opinions about DEI based on their personal experiences and beliefs. Clearly defining why DEI is important and what it means to your firm can help you foster support for your initiatives and a culture of belonging. Here’s each fundamental definition of DEI to help guide your vision.
- Diversity refers to the similarities and differences that collectively define us as individuals. This definition is much broader than age, race, ethnicity, physical ability, and gender. It includes external factors, such as marital status, income, and geographic location, as well as organizational factors, such as seniority, function, and department. Being conscious of the different ways we’re human can help you develop a business plan that helps your workforce and clients thrive.
- Equity and equality aren’t the same thing. Equity involves removing barriers to meet individuals where they are, while equality means everyone is treated the same. As financial professionals, we understand the value of providing personalized advice tailored to our clients’ unique needs. Our solutions must also be tailored to address any equity-related obstacles that could prevent our clients from taking full advantage of this advice.
- Inclusion happens when voices are heard and respected, regardless of background and experience. This sense of belonging can help deepen commitment to your firm’s success and your client relationships.
Activating DEI in your practice
A written DEI strategy is meaningless—unless it’s backed by action. If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you take the following steps that may help you build a more diversified, equitable, and inclusive work environment.
Lead with inclusion
We all have biases, both conscious and unconscious, which affect how we interact with colleagues and clients. If left unaddressed, they can lead to lost sales, talent, and relationships. Manager training and DEI discussions during team meetings are two ways you can raise awareness, build empathy, and model inclusive behavior.
- 89% of respondents at sales organizations with leading DEI practices have taken manager training to increase inclusion or belonging on their team.1
- 93% of leading respondents’ sales teams have undergone diversity and inclusion training.1
Additionally, you may want to offer your staff the chance to form employee resource groups or other avenues that allow them to express their concerns, seek support, and network with others in a nonjudgmental setting. People who feel secure in their environment are more likely to speak up—and that’s a good thing.
Invite more in
Increasing diversity in our industry simply makes good business sense. Forty percent of the U.S. population currently identifies as racially or ethnically diverse,2 and 55% of U.S. consumers would rather buy from a brand that reflects their personality.3 Take a hard look at your recruitment and onboarding processes. Is there anything you could do differently to reach underrepresented groups that may help them have successful careers? For example, you might:
- Step up recruiting at historically black colleges and universities and schools with diverse student populations
- Offer internships to underrepresented groups
- Expand your community outreach
- Provide a mentoring program for new financial professionals
- Create formal career paths for each role within your practice
Along this same line, you should address any barriers that could deter underrepresented groups from pursuing a career in financial services. For example, you might offer to subsidize the fees for FINRA exams and licensing.
Strengthening client interactions
The actions you take to promote DEI internally are the gateway to serving a diverse clientele with excellence. Ultimately, you want your team to take what they’ve learned and apply it to their client relationships. After all, we’re in the people business, and our success depends on how well we connect with the communities we serve.
For instance, increased cultural competence can help your team put biases aside and have more empathy for the financial challenges many underserved investors face. Expressing this empathy can go a long way in building trust with these individuals—and all clients in general—which can lead to lasting relationships. Sales organizations with leading DEI practices reported a 24% increase in customer satisfaction scores in 2021 compared with a 17% increase for sales organizations with lagging DEI practices.1
It’s time to say goodbye to the status quo
DEI isn’t a passing fad; it’s an integral part of how we function as a society. Building a diversified, equitable, and inclusive practice can help you open doors to new markets, expand your talent pool, and position your practice for continued growth. Financial services firms that fail to recognize the value of workplace diversity and serving a diverse clientele may risk being left behind.
1 “Diversity Drives Sales Success,” a Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper commissioned by LinkedIn, November 2021. 2 “Quick Facts,” U.S. Census Bureau, 7/1/19, as reported in “Diversity Drives Sales Success,” a Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper commissioned by LinkedIn, November 2021. 3 “Research Overview: Corporate Values,” Forrester Research, Inc., 9/4/20.
Intended for financial professionals.
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