Panel: False Ideas About Financial Advisement May Be Limiting Diversity

A panel of financial professionals said misunderstandings about educational requirements or beliefs that the industry does not serve all communities can hold back talented candidates.

Despite efforts in recent years to promote inclusivity in wealth management, there are still myths surrounding the industry that may be keeping talent away, according to a panel of financial planners.

Diversitas, a financial knowledge symposium created by the University of Akron in 2016, hosted online panel discussions Wednesday addressing issues of inclusion in wealth management. In panels representing women and people of color, the speakers aimed to dispel myths that have discouraged underrepresented individuals from joining the industry.

The panelists responded to the idea that people in financial services do not do good for the community—a myth they said can discourage potential candidates from entering the industry. Fanci Worthington, a branch manager at Cetera Investors, said her expertise has allowed her to directly impact her community, such as teaching financial literacy to prisoners and working with Girl Scouts on how to sell more cookies.

Worthington also addressed a common myth that only wealthy families have financial advisers; she said many types of families need them. Marvine Laurent, a senior vice president of finance and operations at Lenox Advisors, responded to the idea by discussing how advisers introduce wealth business products to protect those in single-parent households. 

The panelists spoke about the positive global impact financial advisers can make. Becky Kariuki, a director and business development officer at BNY Mellon|Pershing, used as an example how fintech has “changed the game in Africa.” Most people in Kenya and other remote regions manage their finances on an app, opening a “world of access to people otherwise unbanked.” 

Another myth panelists tried to debunk was the barrier to entry of the financial services industry, particularly when it comes to schooling.

“I was a theater major,” Worthington said. “You don’t have to be this math genius to be in financial services.”

Kariuki added that, early in her career at UBS, the CEO was an English major. She said companies used to hire almost exclusively from Ivy League universities, but today they look less at schooling and more at skills: “Everybody is welcome here.”

Emily Koochel, a senior financial planning education consultant at eMoney, encouraged underrepresented individuals to consider careers in wealth management, but she also spoke to the gender discrimination that still exists in the industry. She recounted an experience in which a male client did not want to listen to her proposal because she was a woman. A male colleague had to vouch for Koochel so she could finish her pitch.

Worthington, who has been in the financial services industry for 25 years, summed up the prevailing attitude when she said, “I don’t let anyone tell me what to do.”