Most business professionals are familiar with return on investment, but Ron Parker, president and CEO of the National Association of Securities Professionals, believes there’s a more important metric — return on relationships.
“If someone ever tells you that relationships aren’t important on this journey of life, don’t believe them,” Parker said.
Parker made the remarks at the Association of African American Financial Advisors’ annual Vision conference last week, during a panel on advancing the careers of Black financial professionals into executive leadership and board positions.
Each relationship will build upon the ecosystem that advisors of color are working to grow, according to the panel of wealth executives.
And when minorities get a seat at the table, part of their responsibility is to make sure they bring other typically underrepresented individuals to sit with them, the executives said.
Shundrawn Thomas, president of asset management at Northern Trust, said he is proud of the diverse representation at his firm, in part because he felt an obligation to wield his influence to make sure there are people from underrepresented groups in leadership.
Quoting one of his favorite proverbs, he said: “Unless the grain or seed falls to the ground and dies, there is no harvest.”
He added: “Realizing what we all want to accomplish, it takes sacrifice.”
When Carole Brown, head of asset management at PNC Financial Services Group, first joined the company in July 2019, she recalled being asked the question: “How could we continue to make diversity and inclusion part of the PNC culture?”
She responded: “I struggle with the word ‘continue’ because I don’t see that it is ingrained in our culture.”
Over time, the culture at PNC evolved, according to Brown.
“The goals of increasing the population of professionals of color are part of everything we do, and it is reflected in our evaluations of managers. It is a goal that is as much a goal as their sales goal and their revenue goals, so that it becomes an imperative up and down the spectrum,” she said.
At Wells Fargo, diversity goals have been tied to the pay of executives. The company will evaluate members of its operating committee annually to determine how much they’ve increased inclusion of diverse workers in their operations, and the evaluation will affect their year-end compensation, Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf told employees in a memo in June. Scharf said at the time that Wells Fargo needs to double the number of Black employees — who make up 6% of senior management — at the helm within five years.
Examine and evaluate
NASP’s Parker said firms should broaden their diversity initiatives to include an examination of all their systems and processes to evaluate if they “speak to those core values that you want to strengthen.”
“Are there things inside your organization that are contradicting your value system? You don’t have an open promotional system? To me, that’s not an inclusive culture,” he said.
“If you basically have no representation of Black men and women and people of color on your boards, that’s not a reflection of your culture and your values. So, you have to have courage to break apart these existing systems, he added.
One problem, Parker said, is that “corporations become victims of their own success,” because they can point to a successful track record and then fear changing any, or too many, aspects of the business.
Kristin Lemkau, CEO of U.S. Wealth Management at JPMorgan Chase, described the representation in the industry as “appalling” and also critiqued her own company by saying it is “worse than the industry,” as reported.
“I have aggressive diversity targets, and I would love to exceed them,” she said.
She told the audience and others on the panel: “We may be competitors in some sense but hopefully we can all lock arms together and say this is everybody’s problem.”
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