Minority Communities Want More Minority Advisors, Survey Finds

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An overwhelming majority of Hispanic and African-Americans say that financial services firms need to hire more diverse staffs, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Edward Jones.

About two-thirds of those polled, and more than three-quarters of Hispanic and African-Americans respondents, said that a firm’s advisors should more closely resemble their client base. Despite the need to recruit more diverse staffs, minorities have long been underrepresented in the profession.

Although Hispanics comprised about 17% of the total U.S. population in 2012, they made up less than 5% of personal financial advisors, including employee and independent channels, according to data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. African-Americans were also underrepresented, having comprised about 13% of the total population, but less than 5% of advisors. Slightly less than a third of all financial advisors were women.

Improving recruitment efforts is part of the solution, but retaining minority talent is equally important, said Jesse Abercrombie, a financial advisor at Edward Jones in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Simply having more minority role models among the advisors can help retain talent.

“If a minority financial advisor sees several other successful minority financial advisors, then they’ll feel a lot more comfortable in their own future,” he said.

In addition to having visible role models, firms also need mentorship programs, Abercrombie said. He volunteers as a regional leader for Dallas-Fort Worth in a mentorship program at Edward Jones called BRIDGE (Bringing Results through Inclusion-Driven and Guided Efforts). Abercrombie said that the program works on raising cross-cultural awareness, provides mentoring to new advisors and program members participate in recruitment events.

“We feel that if we have our team in place, and they see with their own eyes who they are, and we meet them, that they’ll join,” he said.

Abercrombie, who has been at Edward Jones for the past eleven years, wasn’t surprised by the survey data given the profession’s recruitment problems. He remembers reading about diversity problems when he started in the profession. But Abercrombie said that he has seen the financial advisor profession make headway in recruiting and retaining minority talent.

“I look at how it’s grown, and it’s gotten better. But there is still room for improvement,” he said.

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