Edward Jones renews effort to tackle industry’s diversity problem

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Edward Jones is, for the second time this year, relaunching a program aimed at diversifying its pool of advisors by bringing in planners of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

The Bridge program, designed to attract and retain diverse talent at the firm, follows the September revival of the wings initiative to draw in more women advisors. Edward Jones is in line with the industry, with women making up 19% of its advisors. However, it lags the industry’s 10% ethnically diverse planners at just over 7%.

Lack of diversity and inclusion of women advisors isn’t a problem that is exclusive to Edward Jones. In fact, the CFP Board and FPA are teaming up to make the board’s Center for Financial Planning a more diverse place. The industry has long been struggling to attract new minority and women advisors.

Bridge is not an acronym, but rather “just a strong word” to describe the firm’s national efforts to diversify its advisor base, explains Monica Giuseffi, principal of financial advisor inclusion and diversity at Edward Jones.

“Everyone has a great idea or has passion and wants to advance diversity inclusion,” Giuseffi says. “But without bringing it up higher to a national cohesive strategy, it’s just impossible to move the needle.”

The firm has come up with six strategies that it believes will help drive a more diverse and inclusive environment: three dealing with a practice’s health and performance and three dealing with advisor growth.

The firm is focusing on mentorship, business coaching and client sourcing strategies, as well as diversity summits, collaboration with financial advisor talent acquisition and external Edward Jones opportunity presentations.

“We believe that an inclusive group of associates is the best way to serve the varied and individual needs of our clients and will ultimately help those clients work toward their long-term financial goals,” Giuseffi explains in a statement. “A growing amount of research shows a direct correlation between diverse and inclusive workplace environments and strong business outcomes. Therefore, it was extremely important for us at Edward Jones to deploy a robust nationwide program to attract the best diverse talent to reflect the communities we serve.”

The Bridge program originally ran from 2011 to 2014 but failed as a result of having no clear guidance or cohesive strategy. The firm sees now as the right time to revive the program as it claims to have gotten a better handle on the issue.

“Now we have a strategy and now we have leaders across the field,” Giuseffi says. “It’s exciting to see numbers tick up, but real diversity and inclusion is when we achieve gender parity and adequate representation of ethnic backgrounds."

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