Making Progress on D&I in Financial Services

In theory, the case for a diverse and inclusive workplace is a simple one. As an Ernst & Young study and guide, “Creating a strong sense of belonging for all,” shows, employees who experience the feeling of belonging at work are more motivated, perform at higher levels, and are physically and mentally healthier[1].

In turn, this results in a real business and community impact. It creates an environment where everyone thrives, there is stronger team collaboration, and business performance is elevated, both in terms of innovation and quality[2].

Yet in practice, implementing successful D&I initiatives and then having the structure and workforce to not only maintain but also grow these programs can be a challenge.

While there is still much to be accomplished, from a D&I perspective, in the financial services industry, firms are working to address these gaps.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “Financial Industry Leads the Way on Diversity and Inclusion,” on the financial industry leading the S&P 500 index in terms of overall workforce diversity. Out of all the industries, banks and insurance companies received the highest score on average in a ranking of the most diverse and inclusive industries in the S&P 500[3].

This progress, significant in many ways, underscores the industry’s recognition of the changing demographics of their clients-a customer base that is increasingly diverse- and the need to match this internally at their firms to better serve their clients.

In fact, women are the fastest growing group of investors in the wealth management industry, controlling about $14 trillion in assets in the United States[4]. Meanwhile, African Americans have purchasing powers of $1.1trillion, and Latinos have a $1.6trillion purchasing power[5].

Firms recognize this shifting landscape, and that when clients identify with, relate to, and feel a sense of belonging with the individuals serving them, their professional relationships flourish that much more.

Curiosity and a willingness to peel back layers and find commonality is the foundation of creating a sense of belonging. Being cognizant of unconscious bias is one way to ensure a firm fully and successfully creates that sense of belonging, not only for their clients but also for their employees.

Unconscious bias touches every area of a company, influencing recruitment, resourcing, performance management, and development opportunities[6]. As a result, it can significantly impact an individual’s recruitment potential, work assignments, and upward mobility.

In order to counteract this, pause and think before a decision is made, which studies noticeably reduces unconscious bias[7]. As well, review these decisions- ensure they are objective and don’t include stereotyping[8]. Taking these steps changes one’s perception to factual before unconscious bias can even affect the decisions that are made.

At the end of the day, no matter one’s role at one’s firm, everyone can embrace the differences of others and help build a sense of belonging. Everyone can have an impact on their firm’s culture.

Interested in learning more about D&I initiatives in the financial services industry? Check out SIFMA’s D&I resource center, as well as our blog content.

Cheryl Crispen is Executive Vice President of Communications and Marketing at SIFMA