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5 Things About Becoming the Employer of Choice for Women and People of Color with Mark Tibergien

TibergianMark Tibergien, CEO of Advisor Solutions at BNY Mellon Pershing, has prioritized being an employer of choice for minority groups—and wants to inspire other advisers and leaders in the financial planning profession to do the same.

Fifty-one percent of his employees at Advisor Solutions are women, and 42 percent of his Advisor Solutions team are people who come from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. 

Firms part of the Pershing network are generally transitioning from practice to business to enterprise, but are still facing the challenge that within the financial planning profession, only 23 percent of advisers are women, and only 8 percent of advisers are people of color. 

Tibergien’s goal is to help others who may be unsure of how to help support diversity, equity and inclusion. He recently sat down with me on my podcast to discuss how advisory businesses can support a more diverse financial planning culture, why being committed to elevating others is critical and how to do that.

Why do you think your company is the employer of choice for women and people of color?

There are a number of reasons that drive it in. Frankly, this is part of the culture of BNY Mellon. As an organization we’ve long thought about the diversity of views as being critical. We try to think about how people are attentive to the ways in which we contemplate our strategy and execute our plans. And it happens that Pershing itself is an 80-year-old company that just has a very community-centric orientation about it. 

I think the fact that we’re present where we are helps us to attract many people of color. I think the fact that we have a conscious attitude about the slate of candidates we want to recruit to our business also makes us compelling—our leadership reflects that makeup. So, a big part of our attitude is let’s make sure that we are recruiting and developing the right types of people.

When people start interviewing here, they say, “There are individuals who share my experiences, who look like me, who talk like me, who experienced things like me.” And that just makes a big difference in becoming the right kind of company.

For firms that may have a very small HR department—or no HR department—what are best practices that can increase their level of diversity from a gender perspective and a racial and ethnic perspective?

Your very best employee is as important as your very best client. So, the question is how do you create that attitude where not only do you hire the right people, but you come to rely on them as critical to your growth and you value them in the same way.

The way we tend to look at human capital is there really are three things that we’re trying to be conscious of. First is the nature of the work. Can we be clear on what the type of role it is? Is it an extraordinarily detailed role or is it more of a general role? The nature of work is critical and being conscious of how we define excellence within it.

Once we’re clear on the nature of the work in business, then we can become more direct and more obvious in defining the nature of the worker. What kinds of individuals or what kinds of background or orientation might fit within that job? And that has nothing to do with ethnicity or gender—it has everything to do with the capabilities of the individual. In fact, I’d argue that it doesn’t even have to do with education. Education helps—but that’s not necessarily the definition of success.

The third, which is also critical for small businesses just as it is in large businesses, is to be clear on the nature of the workplace. If you can define the nature of the work, then you can define the nature of the worker. And then you have to think about what kind of environment are you creating in order for both to function at an optimal level.

How can firms better show they value employees?

What typically happens within every firm—but it’s especially noticeable in small firms—is that we tend to forget that the people we hire are no longer new to the business after a few years. They are no longer inexperienced or young or not connected to our clients. All those excuses that we tend to make. There was a great quote that I tend to live by now, by a woman by the name of Jean Harris—who has kind of a checkered history but was a brilliant leader of a school— “The greatest indignity that one person can commit against another is to underestimate them.” And we do this by expecting little of them. 

This is where small business owners have to change their mindset from looking at people as a cost to be managed to thinking of them as an asset on which to get a return.

You penned an article, “What Will Become of Us,” where you interviewed Simon Sinek, author of the Infinite Game. Sinek explained that leaders with the infinite mindset realize that the goal is not to beat your opponent, but to stay in the game as long as possible. In terms of our profession, how are you playing the infinite game?

I’m not a technologist, but having a home in Seattle, I’ve always been conscious of Microsoft. I remember meeting Bill Gates when he was just starting out and I had moved to Seattle. When he wisely transitioned leadership to a professional manager because he realized that his greatest impact was on innovation, the person he put in charge tended to think in terms of the competitors and how do we beat the competitors.

The obsession with beating Apple was kind of futile because Apple was only concerned about serving their clients and improving education of students. So one [company] was antagonistic and competitive and the other was focused on creating the ultimate client experience.

When we look at financial services, I think that we have the same challenge. We have many people who tend to denigrate other competitors in the business. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard RIAs speak ill of their brethren on the brokerage side, not recognizing that there are creeps and victors on both sides of the platform. The registration is not what’s significant, it’s the behavior of the individuals. And that throughout financial services, there are those who are deciding to serve people who don’t have any money at all, who are just trying to make planning choices, and those who serve the ultra-wealthy.

Simon Sinek said that we don’t really have competitors—we have worthy opponents. And by their nature, they reveal our weaknesses. And that’s probably true in life too, isn’t it? When we think of individuals who can make us stronger or make us better or expose weaknesses, the question is, what are we going to do with that? Rather than, why are we going to be defensive about it? And that becomes our opportunity to think about what this business will become.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are important to companies in a bull market. Unfortunately, when a bear market comes, DEI programs get slashed, underfunded or unfunded. Can you share what BNY Advisor Solutions will do with your DEI initiatives when we hit the inevitable bear market?

Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our beliefs.

As a company, you have to take a longer view about people being critical to your future success. If you have the attitude that human capital is as important as financial capital, then you just have to recognize that diversity and inclusion is one of the cornerstones of that strategy and commit to it. I’m less concerned about in our company it becoming a casualty of a down market because I think we’ve already experienced enough vibration, and that if that had been an issue, we would’ve dealt with it. At some point, I’m hoping for a transition where diversity and inclusion becomes obsolete as a strategy and it just becomes obvious that when we look at how we’re going to drive success, that having a broader slate of candidates—regardless of their ethnicity or religion or country of origin, or gender even—makes a difference. 

 

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.

 

 

 


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5 Things about Creating Equitable Hiring Practices in Your Financial Planning Firm

Cait Howerton, AFC®, is relatively new to the financial planning profession—but she’s already making waves. Howerton is an advocate for inclusion and equity in the financial planning profession. She’s an LGBTQ-plus and student loan money specialist. 

Howerton is passionate about helping other people find purpose and meaning in their finances and wants to help the financial planning profession grow to start connecting with people from all backgrounds and sexual orientations. In a recent episode of my podcast, Howerton shared her story about how she interviewed at a larger firm and immediately connected with the interviewers. However, upon meeting her in person, she was told she wouldn’t resonate well with their clients, and they thanked her for her time.

Discriminatory hiring is still happening in the financial planning profession (and beyond). Unfortunately, many firm owners aren’t sure how to align their hiring process with their diversity goals. Howerton recently gave us actionable tips to implement better hiring practices and other ways financial planning firms can start to pursue inclusivity.

1.) You almost left the planning profession. What made you stay? 

I almost deuced out of the financial planning profession because of that experience. It had already been challenging for me as I grew up in Arkansas a member of the LGBTQ-plus community—which isn’t really readily accepted still, even in 2019—so seeing myself in the profession and having visibility was something that I didn’t have at that time.

I think my own passion for what we do [made me stay]. I didn’t want someone else to be the end of my story. That wasn’t a period, it was a semicolon, like Project Semicolon, just keep going. It gets better. For me that was the point that I was like, I have to keep going because there are people out there who need help with their finances and they need help with their money scripts and they need to be able to see people like us in this profession so that they know that they are not alone.

2.) You’ve interviewed at different firms and have some knowledge around hiring practices. What are some of the best practices that you can share from the firm you’re with now?

First start with yourself. Go take an intrinsic bias test. Harvard offers a good one. We all carry biases within us that were ingrained since we were kids. It’s very hard to break those things, but we can at least start with being aware of them, addressing them, seeing how those subliminal things pop up within us to see how we would see someone else and then how we present ourselves.

From there, the next place would be your job posting. Check out the language you’re using when you’re running your job posting. Is it heavily feminine? Is it heavily masculine? There are feminine words, which are lighter, and there are masculine alert words, which hit harder. When you put a lot of words like dominate, aggressive, things like that, it starts to lead the job posting in a more masculine direction. You can throw those through an online screener—there are several available.

Studies have shown that by using fewer masculine words, you attract more women and other minority group members, but it doesn’t have a negative impact on men.

If you’re focused on gender equity, which you should be, that’s where you want to start. The next thing is your posting location. More men are hired based on word of mouth. They use their network, versus more women and minorities who more use third-party listing sites. So, make sure you have an online presence.

3.) Most jobs are found via word-of-mouth in your community—so if your community is homogeneous and everyone looks and thinks just like you, then you’re going to just hire more people just like you. What are some of the other things that these firm owners or people who are in the hiring space can do now? They’ve posted the job, they’ve made sure they posted it at various locations. What’s next?

The next thing is your screening and interview process. Are you doing an open resume or a closed resume? What [a closed resume] means is when you get resumes or applications coming through, and they are passed off to an assistant or someone who’s not involved with the hiring process—or even if it’s you—print them off and go through every single paper copy, then have them cut [or you cut] out the name. If you’re going through resumes in a digital form, which is a little more difficult, have someone else screen those resumes or even print them off. Take the name off of resumes because a female or someone who has a black or brown name, there [might be] that intrinsic bias that’s going to pop up again and they have less of a chance to get hired just because of their name.

4.) You’ve gone through the recruiting process, you’ve posted the description, they’ve gone through the interview process and now the person is hired. What type of benefits should firms be looking at to include the planners we want to bring into our profession?

The first thing that comes to mind is parental leave. I say parental, you’ll notice, I didn’t say maternity or paternity leave because it’s parents and we have a bunch of diverse family types. This isn’t just about LGBTQ family types—you’ve got a single mom, you potentially have a mom and aunt, you have a nuclear family, you have an extended family. So that is something that’s very important when you’re considering drafting out your policy.

If your parental leave policy is that if a woman carries a child and she gets 12 weeks, does their partner also get 12 weeks? Do they get to be home when that baby is brought into the world? And what about adoption? That can be for female individuals, for male individuals. Do you offer the same benefits to people who are adopting and even if it’s not 12 weeks, is it four weeks, six weeks? I’ve seen things like primary caregiver and secondary caregiver. What does that mean? Because I know for sure that both people or all three people are caregiving in that house.

I think it’s really important to visit that because what you’re doing there is making sure that it’s a level playing field. Everyone’s receiving the same financial benefits from your company, but you’re also making sure that their family unit is tended to so that when they come back to work, you know that they’re good.

5.) What about the client side? What should we be thinking about when we’re thinking about our website and wanting to be planners to all types of clients?

You have to understand what your website is for. Your website is your front door to your business. In this day in age, we have a presence that is larger than just the town or city that you’re currently in. So you’re able to generate clients and show who you are online in a way that we never have been able to before. The thing to start with is who and what are on your website? Go look at that copy and go look at those photos on your website. You want to see that you have representation of white, black, brown, Asian, Middle Eastern, everybody, if you want to show that you are willing to work with any person, and not just someone who looks like you.

That leads to other things also, such as do you have any LGBTQ individuals on your website? Do you have any people with disabilities on your website? Seeing yourself within a page and within a space creates an initial safety in your [potential clients’] subconscious. Same thing with your copy. If you focus on working with women, you’re probably going to say something about it. But if you also want to let people know, hey, if you’re LGBTQ, you’re absolutely welcome here. Throw that up within a diversity statement and potentially even create a landing page. Talk, write some articles, write blog posts, show that you understand the issues that that particular community faces.

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.


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5 Things about Family Dynamics and Money in the African American Community with Lazetta Rainey Braxton

Lazetta Rainey Braxton.jpgLazetta Rainey Braxton, CFP® professional, knows that, many times, sitting down with a financial adviser might be the first time a couple has had a conversation about money. In the African American community, money conversations don’t often happen organically. Money might be viewed as a stressor, and talking about money might be seen as rude or uncomfortable. 

I recently sat down with Braxton for a 2050 TrailBlazers podcast episode to explore family dynamics and money, what guilt African American professionals may carry with them if they feel they’ve “made it” while their community still has financial need and how the importance of serving your clients best interests. 

There are people who feel a sense of fear to talk about money. Where does this come from and how does it impact the African American community? 

Regardless of race, there is lack of money talk in various families. What we should anchor this in is the statistics that really highlight the racial wealth gap that try to figure out how to navigate the disparities. There’s a New York Times article that says for every $100 in white family wealth, black families just hold $5 and 4 cents. So yes, as African Americans, as blacks, we say money talk is even more important because we have to try to make up for lost time. Also, each generation is trying to figure out how to navigate what they’ve inherited or not inherited in terms of the wealth transfer.

African Americans who I like to call first-generation wealth builders might feel an obligation to help everybody else in their family. Tell me more about how we can help clients put on their own financial oxygen mask first before helping others.

There is this obligation that you feel to give back and lift others up. When I work with clients, I ask them, “Do you have people who will be financially dependent on you?” And oftentimes I hear parents or aunts and uncles helping a niece or nephew get through school or they’re also dealing with their own children as well, but the extended family is typically on the payroll—or are a line item for that budget.

When family members ask clients for money, use the line item as a reference saying, “You know, my family fund is depleted.” I go a step further if you’ve learned how to put your mask on first—it’s your responsibility as you’re giving to help others put their mask on. Ask some questions. Why do you need the money? What went wrong? How can we not let this happen again? Because if we don’t try to educate and elevate, then the wealth gap within our own family will continue to persist.

Educate and elevate—what does that look like?

I start first by helping them name the family members who may be draining their finances. I  couple that with asking, “What are you proud of that you’ve done well with their finances, and where do you need to improve upon so that we can get everything out on the table?” We can eliminate what I call that money fog—fear, obligation and guilt. Having the conversation lifts the fog so you can be clear about who’s responsible for what. 

When you start liberating people to take the deeper dive and own how they want to live, it gets contagious. Then when people are asking them for money, they can say, “Well, hey, I improved my situation, you can too.” 

Historically the African American community has navigated toward annuities and whole life insurance as a way to invest versus the stock market. Also, they tend to want to own rental property. Shed some light on that for us.

In terms of exposure as African Americans historically, we like things that we can see and feel and know that there is a contract. That goes in line with what we’ve experienced within this country of having property taken from us. So if we know we own it—with the deed and with the contract and paying the premiums—there’s a feeling of having guaranteed income, even if there are other opportunities to grow that income. African Americans historically have anchored their wealth in real estate. They are also very comfortable with insurance because insurance has been around for a long period of time. Also annuities have a component of insurance tied to them as well. 

Now I’m not disparaging any of those asset classes—they are important. What I’m also saying is, I see wealth transfer among the white populations—which have significantly more wealth—is happening through the stock market. There is the ability to grow your wealth exponentially with this concept called compounded growth, while your money is constantly working for you. There are also tax considerations that make stock ownership or exposure to the market more attractive as well. African Americans have to be more comfortable with the stock market because a lot of their assets are in retirement plans. And there has to be that basic understanding and comfort level with knowing that there is potential for growth, noting that  markets do go up and down. We’re not saying that there’s not that volatility, but over long periods of time it has worked out well for other populations.

[Wanting to own rental property] is still an extension of what you know—if you own a home, you know what you need to maintain it. How we in our community fall short is that we don’t have the capital. You need a capital fund for home ownership. That capital fund is going to cover you when your renters tear up your home. When you have to fix stuff, right? When you’ve got to keep landscaping or if you can’t rent it for four months and you’ve got to still cover the mortgage on it. 

I’m sure there are some [readers] saying this happens with my clients and they’re not people of color. What I want to emphasize over and over again is that the wealth gap and the economic conditions compounds these issues within our community.

Something that is important in both of our lives and especially in the African American community is our religious beliefs. Tell us how that plays into money. 

So what institution historically has the most longevity in terms of organizational strength? The black church. Now we’re looking at several generations later where there is still some strong residual commitment to supporting the church. So the black church has been kind of the center of economic distribution—good or bad. It has supported people when society couldn’t really be there for them—whether it was helping them with rent, making sure they were fed, proving a place of refuge when the world was still saying you’re not welcomed here. So as a part of the biblical understanding of stewardship, I grew up with this understanding of you give to God first of your fruits and that really equated to 10 percent. So if you’re giving to God first and then yourself, you have to help people understand how to live off the remaining 90 percent when that 90 percent reflects a terrible income gap and a wage gap as well. So that cultural understanding of giving to the family and also giving to the church is a sensitivity that advisers have to be aware of when serving black clients.

This is where the f word comes into play: fiduciary. That means keeping your client’s best interests first. Our clients are telling us what their interests and what their goals are, and if you don’t have the cultural competency to understand that and take the deeper dive, then you’re not being that fiduciary that they need and deserve.

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.