Podcast: Building and Investing in Communities with Fidelity

In this edition of SIFMA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) podcast series, SIFMA’s Amena Ross, Managing Director of Advocacy, sat down with Wendy John, Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Fidelity, to review how Fidelity is building a community with its employees as well as investing in diverse communities nationwide through its commitment to financial literacy.

Explore this podcast to learn more about:

  • Fidelity’s five core commitments to diversity, equity & inclusion;
  • Fostering an inclusive environment through behavior-based approaches;
  • Fidelity’s emphasis on underserved communities and youth, with an outlook to April being National Financial Literacy Month;
  • And more!

For more information on fostering and expanding workforce, client, and supplier diversity equity and inclusion, please visit www.sifma.org/diversity.

Transcript
Edited for clarity

 

Amena Ross: Thanks for joining us for the latest episode in SIFMA’s D&I podcast series. I’m Amena Ross, Managing Director of Advocacy at SIFMA. I’m here today to talk with Wendy John, Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Fidelity about Fidelity’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, including their efforts on financial literacy and the ways in which recruitment and retention work in tandem to create a diverse and inclusive environment. Welcome, Wendy.

Wendy John: Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

Amena: Great. So, let’s begin with Fidelity’s vision of the future. What does the future of the industry look like in regards to diversity and inclusion, and how does Fidelity fit into that vision?

Wendy: Well, Amena, it’s a great way to be thinking about things and to start by looking forward, but maybe I’ll just take us back a bit. For myself, I have been working in various roles in the financial services industry for, I hate to say it, but over two decades. And I started off actually, on the actuarial path so, I actually, was in actuarial consulting working on pension plans.

So, always focused or in close proximity to retirement, but then through a number of roles made my way into this new role as the Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion. Now, along the way I was always in close proximity to our clients and our customers.

And so, I think a lot about when we think about the future of the industry it’s really important for us to think about the changes to our customers as well as the associates and the employees that work in financial services.

Fidelity is getting ready to celebrate our 75th anniversary and our customers and the associates, the suppliers that we work with are all very much more diverse than they were. And so, we recognize that diverse perspectives are critical to best serving our customers and creating relevant products and services. In order to meet the customer need we need to have that diversity within our own employee ranks.

This March is Women’s History Month and so, we have recognized that at Fidelity the really important role of the woman investor and really prioritize the needs of many women who, at some point, will be the lone decision-maker for financial decisions in their household. It’s just again, back to that actuarial route.

We know from life expectancy that many women, unfortunately, may outlive their partners. It’s very critical for us that we’re arming women with the tool to not only be financially independent, but also, very confident in the decisions that they’re making. So, I think that the future of our industry very much ties into the future of our future demographics and the shifts that we’re seeing.

And so, at Fidelity we have looped diversity very much into our vision and are trying to be very inclusive in the products and services that we provide.

Amena: Your experience on the business side has to really inform the initiatives that Fidelity is implementing in the D&I space. Which do you view as the most innovative in the industry and why?

Wendy: Great. At Fidelity, we have five core commitments to diversity and inclusion. It starts first with increasing the representation of diversity within the company at all levels. Secondly, ensuring inclusion and belonging across the workforce because as I mentioned before, it’s not just enough to have the diversity. You have to be inclusive, and really celebrate those different perspectives, and appreciate them.

I think third, the reason why that’s so important is around creating new opportunities and values for our customers, our associates in the communities in which we serve. We are committed to being open about our progress and being clear about each of our roles and responsibilities in terms of improving our diversity and inclusion.

I think when we talk about, “What are those commitments and where do we see the opportunity to innovate?” It really is in diversifying the workforce and where we actually are tapping into talent pools. Specifically, we have support for women that are returning to the workforce through a resume program that we have in partnership with Reach Higher.

We also have pipeline programs that focus on those who identify as female in high school and college-age as well as others from underrepresented groups to really ensure that they see financial services as an industry in which they can thrive and develop a full career.

We’re also within our workplace looking at and focused on advancing our talent from underrepresented groups into leadership roles. That’s back where I said about increasing the representation at all levels. And then, as we think about the communities and the customers we serve we recognize that we have a responsibility to be part of the solution as it relates to addressing systemic issues in the communities that drive inequalities.

Amena: Okay, so, how does recruitment and retention work in tandem to create a diverse and inclusive environment? What should companies be thinking about when crafting a D&I plan?

Wendy: Well, it’s not just enough to go out and hire in diverse talent although that’s an incredibly important component. I know everyone is very focused on the university pipeline, but the reality is we also have to look at experienced hiring. And at Fidelity, we really want to avoid just poaching other people’s talent. We talk about cannibalizing the talent.

You can’t just recruit your way from other companies to diversity so, we’re talking about and looking at adjacent industries and really saying, “What are the skills that are needed to do the work, and can we teach people about the financial services industry?”

As it relates to inclusion we really believe that is about a behavior-based approach. We think about it the same way that you think about forming other habits. It’s small, incremental steps that you do repeatedly that actually drives that longer-term, sustainable change.

That’s really what we ask all of our associates to think about. “Who are you in community with? How often are you exposing yourselves to people that have a different lived experience or different perspectives?” Because that actually informs how you think about the world, how you see the world, how you develop products and services, and how you engage with our customers.

We believe those are some of the behavior-based activities that our associates should be engaging in that actually will improve our recruitment, but also, very much our retention. And then, we believe in shared accountability. Each of us has the opportunity to inform our workplace, and we have collective ownership of the progress that we make.

And so, our action plan for all of our associates involves a combination of first, building awareness, learning some new skillsets. That’s a lot of like, “How do you engage with others that might be different from you?”

And by the way, that isn’t just across race and ethnicity or even gender orientation. We talk about, “Are you biased to extroverts? Are you including the introverts in the conversation? How do you make space? Safe space for everyone to share their opinions.” So, we really talk about changing behaviors, but also, creating that environment. Sharing responsibilities for different key visible tasks.

And then, also, advocating on behalf of others because we aren’t all experiencing our work environments in the same way. Even though we’re in the same environment we experience it differently. I think when other companies are thinking about drafting or crafting their diversity and inclusion plan first, start with understanding where you are today and have a vision for maybe where you’d like to go. And then, what are some of the steps that you can take that over time will really make the difference and close that gap?

Amena: Given that April is National Financial Literacy Month could you talk about the role financial literacy plays within Fidelity’s strategy for community support and engagement?

Wendy: Sure. We look forward to April every year because of the focus on financial literacy. We have had a long-term strategy of engaging within the community around financial literacy and education in general. We have impacted over 300,000-plus students as well as over 3,000 educators in just the last six years.

We’ve focused on underserved communities, and we believe in starting early. That children begin to form their impressions on finances or money by age six or seven. There are other stats that share that only 27 percent of young people know basic financial concepts.

So, we really advocate for helping everyone understand some of the basic skills around budgeting and saving. Compounding interest and how to actually, while achieving other goals making sure that you’re also putting aside money for emergency savings and prepare for what life may bring when we least expect it.

I think the other thing we would say is rigorous financial education leads to positive behaviors and better outcomes in other aspects of your life. We believe that health needs wealth so, for many of us, you’re one health scare away from being in a really, truly difficult financial situation. But also, building up really good finances actually also drives very good health outcomes.

There are some opportunities that we have really engaged in just based out of a need. In the last year in the midst of the pandemic, we became aware of the fact that there were many young students who did not have the technology that they needed to participate fully in remote learning. And so, as a result, we signed on with a number of other corporate partners for the Take on Race initiative that is intending to get that technology in the hands of up to a million children.

We just really believe in identifying solutions to systemic issues and getting at it early to have a real opportunity to impact outcomes for some time to come.

Amena: Right. So, I try to keep up with everything that Fidelity is working on currently, but do you want to share any other initiatives or programs with our audience?

Wendy: Well, one thing I would just say is we’re particularly aware of the fact that in the past year many people have been impacted so significantly by the Covid pandemic. And whether that is at its worst, the loss of life or in some families that may mean that others have lost jobs. Or some are just really juggling multiple commitments to caregiving.

We are very focused on one, both serving our customers who are also balancing all of those needs, but also, helping our associates in terms of our caregiver benefits and flexible work programs. I know for me, certainly, with responsibility for diversity and inclusion, and you heard me talk a lot about specifically attracting women in underrepresented groups we know that both have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

And so, we want to make sure that our associates know that they have the flexibility that they need to continue to do their work and don’t make a decision to exit the workforce unexpectedly. I think that’s what I would say is a real priority for us. And just making sure that everyone is able to achieve the financial outcomes that they have planned for themselves and their families.

Amena: Great. Thank you so much, Wendy, for joining me today. It was really a pleasure chatting with you. To learn more about SIFMA and our work to promote diversity and inclusion please visit us at www.sifma.org and click on the diversity and inclusion tab. And to learn more about Fidelity’s impressive work in this space please visit www.fidelity.com. Thanks, Wendy.

Wendy: Thank you, Amena.