Diversity Summit Challenges Us to Become a More Inclusive Profession
The atmosphere at the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning’s recent Diversity Summit was electric. The room was literally buzzing with attendees’ anticipation over the day’s packed agenda, the highlights of which included a stirring opening discussion between Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, and award-winning journalist and producer Soledad O’Brien. That buzz grew louder and heads were nodding as Arlan challenged those assembled to reject cultural cliches and gender and racial stereotypes — or risk missing significant business opportunities.
Arlan’s challenge and her enthusiasm set the stage and the tone for the rest of the Summit, helping to energize attendees and inspire deep conversations about the future of our profession. With the help of an impressive group of facilitators — including leaders from financial planning firms and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) experts — Summit attendees imagined what the financial planning profession could look like in the next three to five years. We asked them, how might we design a future financial planning profession in which DEI is deeply embedded, from education to executive leadership? And how would the profession look, feel, sound and be experienced differently with DEI practices embedded? That discussion will inform firms’ design and implementation of DEI measures and metrics over the next five years.
These and many other thought-provoking sessions focused on identifying the most effective strategies for advancing diversity within the financial planning profession. But they also sought to inspire transformative change.
A personal highlight for me was the fireside chat I participated in alongside LeCount R Davis, Sr., the first Black CFP® professional, and Kamila Elliott, CFP®, the first Black chair of CFP Board’s Board of Directors. LeCount’s humility and softspoken nature belie his trailblazer status and the tremendous impact he’s had on our profession since opening his own firm more than 50 years ago. Not only was LeCount the first Black CFP® professional, but he also founded the influential Association of African-American Financial Advisors , which is dedicated to expanding the community of successful Black financial professionals. His unwavering commitment to motivating and preparing the next generation of financial planners is inspiring, and undoubtedly paved the way for many current CFP® professionals.
While LeCount reflected on his professional journey, he also spoke of his dedication to working with underserved populations and deep-seated belief that financial planning can solve many of the socioeconomic problems facing Black communities — something he and Kamila have in common. Kamila has spoken widely about the opportunities to use financial planning to close the racial wealth gap. She is a fierce advocate of cultural competency, urging firms to invest time and energy to understand the unique challenges, priorities and relationships of the diverse families they serve.
Kamila and LeCount also agreed that having diverse leadership in place at financial planning firms is key to making our profession more inclusive. They both encouraged attendees to be authentic to themselves, have confidence that they belong in the room and not see themselves as limited by things like class or skin color. I was proud to share the stage with both of these inspiring thought leaders. Together, they represent an amazing arc from the first Black CFP® professional to the first Black CFP Board chair.
The Center’s annual Diversity Summits — of which the 2022 event was the fifth installment — have become a catalyst for the kind of change that Arlan, LeCount and our other distinguished speakers have called for within our profession. Firms and financial planning professionals who are committed to making our profession more diverse and inclusive come to the Summit in search of actionable solutions — proven initiatives, best practices and other tools they can use to transform their workplaces and their own behaviors.
Our sponsors are also committed to this transformation, and we’d like to thank them for their generous support of the 2022 Diversity Summit:
- Premier Sponsor: Merrill Lynch
- Leadership Sponsor: Vanguard
- Partner Sponsors: Ballentine Partners, LLC, Edward Jones, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Prudential Financial and J.P. Morgan
- Certified Sponsors: Wealthspire Advisors and Wilmington Trust
- Center for Financial Planning Founding Sponsors: Charles Schwab, Envestnet, Inc., Merrill Lynch and Northwestern Mutual
The contributions of our sponsors are vital to our mission, and we are grateful for their support as we move toward a more diverse and inclusive financial planning profession.
Our collective efforts are moving the needle. In 2021, for example, CFP Board welcomed the most diverse class of CFP® professionals in our history. Yet we also know there is much more to do.
Much like our guests, the CFP Board and Center teams left the Diversity Summit energized to continue implementing bold initiatives that can make our vision for the profession’s future — one in which every American has access to competent, ethical financial planning advice — a reality. We look forward to working with our partners, Diversity Summit attendees and other stakeholders to further challenge the status quo and build the more diverse, sustainable financial planning profession that we need.
Because if we’re going to serve the entire country, we need to look more like the clients that CFP® professionals serve.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn on November 30, 2022.
About the Author: Kevin Keller, CAE is Chief Executive Officer of CFP Board. CFP Board’s mission is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning.