Industry Inclusion and the Role of Informed Mentorship

One lesson about mentorship can be summed up by a quote from the tennis great Billie Jean King; she says it is hard to understand inclusion unless you have experienced exclusion.

Lexie Bishop, a director at UBS Wealth Management Americas, recently sat down with PLANADVISER for a broad-based discussion about the positive results mentoring can have on both an organization and those directly involved, and about how the advisory and wealth management industry benefits in turn.

Bishop has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and, in addition to her role as a director at UBS, she serves as the branch manager for the firm’s Boston South Shore office. In that role, she works with financial advisers and support staff members to build efficient, streamlined practices.

Along with the rest of the financial services industry, the events of the past several years, which have seen the collision of a pandemic with an impassioned and rejuvenated social justice movement, have increased the focus of both UBS and Bishop on the critical topic of diversity, equity and inclusion in the financial services industry.

She credits her firm for long being engaged with this topic and for already having taken real and concrete steps in the right direction, but, as recounted in the Q&A discussion that follows, Bishop says the broader financial services industry has some way to go before it more truly reflects the increasingly diverse and dynamic fabric of the U.S. society as a whole.

PLANADVISER: Can you please tell us about your own entrance into the financial services industry and what role mentorship might have played?

Lexie Bishop: Absolutely, and mentorship did play a big role. I started out in college studying physical therapy, but in my junior year I ended up doing a marketing internship at Smith Barney [now Morgan Stanley Wealth], which really changed my life’s trajectory. That internship was a hands-on learning experience that was so valuable for me. I was working with a large financial adviser and his team, and he ended up hiring me out of college. I was with that team for two years before moving to UBS.

Something I want to point out is that I have had multiple mentors and advocates over the years, and they have been both male and female. A lesson I have learned is that it is important to get those different perspectives. I credit the mentoring that I received for helping me to understand that I am capable of doing more than I thought I could when I first came into the industry. My mentors and leaders were willing to trust me and put me into situations where I could learn in a hands-on capacity. That’s a characteristic of a great mentor, in my opinion.

PLANADVISER: What other lessons about mentorship and inclusion do you feel you have learned in your time in the industry?

Bishop: One lesson can be summed up by a quote from the tennis great Billie Jean King. She says it is hard to understand inclusion unless you have experienced exclusion. As a young woman or as a person from a minority background entering this industry, it can be very challenging to see yourself in an elevated role if you don’t see someone that looks like yourself. In my case, early on in my career, it was hard to envision becoming a branch manager.

Another clear lesson is that representation and inclusion starts at the top. There needs to be full transparency on how leadership is committed to changing the demographics of this industry.

In 2019, UBS released it’s first Diversity & Inclusion Impact Report for the Americas Region. This annual report provides transparency on our D&I priority areas of focus, our strategic goals and our approach to achieving them. Knowing where we’re heading as an organization and how we all play a role in that journey is critical to succeeding. 

PLANADVISER: Can you speak in more detail about how DE&I considerations can and should fit into the hiring process? This has become an important point of discussion both in the financial service industry and in our society at large, as we can see with the debate about the Rooney Rule in the NFL.

Bishop: Absolutely. One thing that is clear is that we need a much broader candidate pool than we have traditionally sought out in the financial services space. In this sense, I think it is great that UBS mandates that there be diversity in the interview process [like the NFL]. Of course, that is just one step forward, but it is a concrete step.

At the end of the day, when you think about organizations that continue to be successful and relevant in an increasingly diverse world, it is because they continue to evolve and innovate.  Without diverse thinking and representation, it makes it extremely challenging for organizations to evolve or innovate. This is why I see inclusive mentorship as such an important part of the solution. It benefits the mentee as well as the mentor. Being a mentor can allow senior leaders to themselves learn a different perspective. If someone wants to develop their leadership skills, I always say that becoming a mentor is a great avenue.

The Rising Generation, those 40 years old and below, truly understand and embrace the importance of DE&I. They want to be a part of organizations that are defining high values and living up to them. For us to stay relevant in the eyes of our future talent and our future clients, we must execute on making our industry more inclusive and diverse.

I am proud to see that not only is UBS taking this seriously, but so are all the major wirehouses. There is a renewed commitment to making the industry a more equitable and inclusive environment.  There are always shifts or evolutions in our business and for those that don’t get on board early they often will get left behind. The shift our industry saw with advisers moving from commission-based to fee-based business is a good example. The early adopters benefited the most and those that resisted the change, well, some of them simply got left behind in that transition, and the same thing will happen to firms that are not open to engaging with this change.