Clients, Friends and Family,
After a well-celebrated “Plan B” wedding ceremony, my wife, Cassidy, and I left for a little makeshift honeymoon in the mountains of Colorado. It was exactly 1 week before that George Floyd’s life was taken in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A vivid juxtaposition of grief and joy in our society. To be completely candid, much of our honeymoon was spent in discussion about what had happened to George Floyd on May 25th, Breonna Taylor on March 13th, Ahmaud Arbery on February 23rd and countless others in our country’s history. I wrestled with the privilege that comes with being white and male. Cassidy wrestled with celebrating our marriage as a woman of color raised in a family that is quite vocal in remembering their own times of being profiled.
The day I returned, Karla, Jeffrey and I had a candid conversation about what we were seeing, what we had experienced personally and if and how we should speak out as a financial services firm. Karla was able to describe her experience and perspective as a Hispanic professional. Jeffrey, who has worked in the Hispanic/Latino community most of his career and is married to a Mexicana, shared what they have seen and heard over the years. It is our belief that our voices are influential, no matter how pervasive the injustice. And while many seek to use their lack of awareness as an excuse, we are searching for the alternative route. A route of extreme ownership and self-education.
As a firm, we have stacked hands on listening to our client’s stories (many of our clients are people of color) and learning how our words and actions are received, regardless of their intentions. We also realize that a person’s relationship with money is tied to their cultural upbringing, and that systems of racial inequality can deeply impact a family’s financial plan. Here are some statistics covering the issues, both positive and negative:
- Under 4% of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professionals in America are Black or Latino, and only 15% of clients who work with CFP®’s are Black and Latino. (Link)
- 23% of CFP® Professionals are female (Link) even though in 51% of households, women control the family's finances. (Link)
- 2018 saw a 78% increase in the number of female CFP® Professionals since 2003. (Link)
- 2019 saw a 12% increase in the number of Black and Latino CFP® Professionals from the prior year. (Link)
Progress is happening, but there is a long journey ahead for our industry. As a family practice, the question sits in our laps, “what part do we play in the progression of diversity and inclusion while the demographics of financial firms, and those who are receiving financial advice, do not reflect the demographics of the communities we serve?”
We will start with asking, and listening, and asking, and listening. But we will also act. Here are the 3 ways we are/will be pursuing diversity and inclusion at Ambient Financial Advisors:
- We are currently giving a percentage of our revenue to The Association of African American Financial Advisors (Link) and The Association of Latino Professionals for America (Link). Both of these associations specifically help African American and Latino professionals find careers in the finance industry while also providing education and career paths for the next generation.
- As our practice continues to grow, we will be looking to hire additional staff in the near future. For women and men of color, we will lower the industry’s barrier to entry by hiring and training with an inclusive mindset. This does not mean hiring purely based on race or gender while ignoring professional competency. Nor is this just an equal opportunity acquisition. This means being culturally sensitive and racially inclusive when hiring within an industry that is vastly white and male, to better serve our clients.
- We are in conversation to engage in a financial literacy program for students and adults in our local community, with a specific emphasis on schools with lower-income, under-served families.
Our team was quick to point out that by releasing these words, we are taking a side in an industry that often avoids taking (intentional) sides. But our ears and hearts are reverently turned towards the Black community as we process the most recent and long-standing loss of life. We will remember this time.
In our efforts to engage those who find themselves in times of transition, grief and loss, we recognize that the recent events, and inequality in general, bring significant amounts of pain that demand empathy, care, rethought and action. It is our determination to not sit on the sidelines of these movements.
Last part. We are thankful to be powered by LPL Financial, whose Diversity and Inclusion program for both their internal employees, and us as advisors, is state of the art. Our Diversity and Inclusion team creates space for advisors of all kinds, including advisors of color, advisors with disAbilities, Veteran advisors, Female advisors, those advisors who identify as LGBTQ, and more. We recently scored a perfect 100 in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality. You can read more about their efforts HERE.
Thank you for your continued trust and support through turbulent times, as we steward our little corner of the finance industry.
~ Christopher Hill and your team @ Ambient Financial Advisors