Tips to Build More Authentic Diversity Programs

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Episode 2Many years ago, after dropping off his son at an area high school to play a baseball game, Ed Gjertsen, II, CFP®, decided to grab a quick breakfast. He found a cozy spot and ventured inside. As soon as he walked in, all eyes were on him. He was the only white person in the whole restaurant.

Slightly uncomfortable, yet undeterred, he sat down and ordered and enjoyed a lovely breakfast.

But that day, he realized how many of the Financial Planning Association members from diverse backgrounds must feel at conferences, so he, along with Trudy Turner, CPA/PFS, CFP®, and Lee Baker, CFP®, decided to establish the FPA diversity committee in 2006.

Gjertsen shared this story on a recent podcast episode of 2050 TrailBlazers, on which he and Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, both shared what they’ve done to champion diversity efforts in the profession.

They discussed with Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, tips on what has made their efforts more successful.

Be authentic. Your diversity efforts won’t work if you’re not authentic and you’re still arguing whether there’s a business case for it. In that case, perhaps engaging in these programs is not for you. Because whatever you do to attract millennials, women and diverse planners needs to be authentic. You can’t just be checking a box. Make it part of your values and create a position for programming; that way, somebody is accountable.

That’s what TD Ameritrade Institutional did. Their authentic efforts have come to be seen as a successful model in the profession.

“We are trying to be a leader here because it is so important that as an industry we take the appropriate steps necessary to make sure that we are prepared,” Nally said. “It’s a moral imperative, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Build internship and/or scholarship programs (or tell people about them). Both TD Ameritrade Institutional and FPA have scholarship programs. TD Ameritrade has 12 $5,000 scholarships for students studying financial planning, and they also have a grant program (one $50,000 grant for established programs and another $25,000 grant for emerging programs) for universities committed to educating the next generation of financial planners. FPA has a Diversity Scholarship, which sends deserving planners advancing diversity in the profession to two of its conferences.

Write inclusive job descriptions. Craft job descriptions that have gender-coded words and focus on more straightforward words. For more tips on how to craft an inclusive job description, see this helpful LinkedIn blog post. This post advises to only include necessary requirements on the job description and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Be intentional about casting a wider net. Always hire the best person for the job. But that could mean the person you’re hiring has the highest capability for the job, and perhaps not the years of experience. Plus, make sure you’re casting a wide net for applicants so you’re bringing in more diverse candidates. From that point on, may the best person for the job win.

Engage everybody. In planning a women’s panel for the FPA Annual Conference, Gjertsen and his team decided to have two men on the panel primarily to discuss how they have successfully attracted and retained female planners, but also to attract and engage both men and women.

Because, Gjertsen said, if it had been a panel of just women, perhaps the men attending the conference would have missed out on valuable information because they would have said, “That session is not for me.”

These tips can help you improve or launch your diversity initiatives, which Nally said is a necessary step to take.

“America is changing from a demographic perspective in every category, whether it’s age or race or ethnicity in general, it doesn’t look the same as it used to and it’s going to continue to change,” Nally said. “We need to be prepared as an industry to serve the needs of that changing demographic and right now we’re not.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.

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