Operations for the Future: Diversity for Success

At SIFMA’s 2019 Operations Conference & Exhibition, conversations revolved around the evolving role of the operations professional. A pivotal factor in this maturation: diversity and inclusion.

Attendees and speakers alike agreed that a successful future for the operations industry requires a prominent, consistent and meaningful focus on incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives at firms. While the keys to achieving this are multifold, a carefully considered and planned hiring strategy is one way to address this.

Staci Sullivan, President of Operations at TD Ameritrade Inc., said her firm is cognizant of the importance of sourcing, growing and developing diverse talent. She advises using the question, “Where are new talent pools we could be recruiting from where people have the attributes we need in the industry?” to help guide your hiring process.

Sullivan explains that in doing so, your prospective pool of candidates is expanded to include those who have the required skillset but may not currently work in the financial services industry.

Investing in and training hiring managers in unconscious bias and the value of diverse teams that offer different styles and varying types of thought leadership is also essential.

cathy bessant at the operations conference & exhibition

Cathy Bessant, Chief Operations and Technology Officer at Bank of America, touched on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the financial services industry.

In fact, when asked about ways to use artificial intelligence in the future, Cathy Bessant, Chief Operations and Technology Officer at Bank of America, said, “I’d like to use AI to eliminate human bias in hiring.” This can happen if we approach AI as a subset of human understanding.

She also commented on the widening gap of technology jobs and those with the skills available to fill those jobs, as there will be 1.5 million unfilled cyber jobs by 2020. “There’s a connection between increasing diversity in technology and filling the gap. We will not be successful unless we can think differently about the composition of our workforce and expand the pie of available candidates.”

At the end of the day, as Olga Naumovich, Managing Director at Goldman, Sachs & Co., pointed out, “Diversity is not just the ethically right approach but also the economically right approach. It allows us to address issues we haven’t even thought of yet.”

Within the financial sector, women today make up only 2.5% of hedge fund managers, 8% of venture capital partners, 9% of mutual fund managers, and 11.7% of senior private equity professions, according to research by investment advisory firm Bella Research Group and Harvard Business School. Furthermore, asset management firms that are owned by women and minorities are at a staggering 1.1%.

Clearly, there is still much to be accomplished, from a D&I perspective, in the financial services industry. However, firms are working to address these gaps. For one, TD Ameritrade Inc. is investing in Rock The Street, Wall Street, a financial literacy program designed to spark the interest of high school girls into careers of finance. The SIFMA Foundation is also making strides in this area.

Sullivan explains that this external focus, one in which firms consider what they’re “doing as a community and an industry from a financial literary perspective” and how they’re “helping people understand what careers are possible in financial services” is of the utmost importance.

panel at the operations conference & exhibition

The panel, “Operations Leaders on Priorities and Initiatives,” emphasized that a diverse and inclusive environment is essential to the success of the operations industry.

At the same time, an internal focus for firms on what they’re doing “to create a culture of inclusion that’s attracting and retaining diverse talent” is equally vital.

Frederic Crosnier, Head of Global Markets and Investment Banking and Capital Markets Operations at Credit Suisse, acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges for the future of the operations industry is, “How do you make the industry appealing to the next generation?”

The answer is seemingly simple: innovation. Yet, diversity of thought, background and culture are all imperative to innovation.

With constant change as the new norm, for us to succeed, “all ideas need to be brought to the table, as that is how we will continue to get better.”

Ellen Greene is Managing Director, Financial Services Operations for SIFMA.

Interested in learning more about D&I initiatives in the financial services industry? Check out Making Diversity & Inclusion an Intentional Reality and Diversity & Inclusion in Private Wealth: A Continuing Focus

The conversation continues today at SIFMA’s Diversity & Inclusion Conference. Hear from business executives, human resource professionals and diversity practitioners on how we can promote diversity, inclusion and parity to shape our workforce and serve our clients.