A practical approach to diversity, inclusion, and growth for advisors


At Elevate earlier this year, I had an opportunity to host an amazing panel discussion on the topic of diversity and inclusion in financial services. As a follow up, I was able to sit down with two of our panelists to continue our conversation. Our goal was to keep the discussion pragmatic, focusing on actionable, practical and immediate next steps advisors can take to improve their businesses.

Chuck Adams, Co-CEO and Managing Principal of LCW, is an accomplished and adaptive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leader with over 25 years of proven experience leading transformation in organizations, ecosystems, and teams. He brings to LCW broad global leadership experience in Culture and Inclusion, Learning and Development, Talent Acquisition, HR Operations, and Legal Compliance.

Alisa Kolodizner, Co-CEO and Managing Partner of LCW, came to LCW with over a decade of experience as a nationally ranked, top-performing relationship, financial management, and strategic business consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, she brings an extensive background in developing, growing, and retaining relationships with billion-dollar businesses, clients, and colleagues. With over a decade of focus on client experience through emerging technology, Alisa has led product and sales departments through pivotal initiatives. A multifaceted sales and cross-silo leader, she thrives in transformative environments with diverse client-centric focused initiatives.

Q: How should advisors think about ‘representation’?

Chuck: Start by acknowledging that all humans are hardwired to gravitate towards people who look, sound, and act like we do (the official term for this is affinity bias). It could be argued that in early societies, this may have been necessary for survival. But now, we’ve evolved beyond that. We understand that different groups have different motivators, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge to share. When we say “representation” in financial services, at the most basic level, we mean “do you mirror the population you are trying to serve?”

It is important to not stop at what we might call “performative representation”—e.g., hiring a couple representative people to the team and then continuing with business as usual. The key to being representative is listening and connection. Are you able to talk to and learn from people who are different from you? Are you serving them the way they need to be served?

Alisa: And I would add that it is important to remember that “representation” goes well beyond race or ethnicity. What about gender representation? Global perspectives? Growing up as a female first generation immigrant from a Jewish refugee family, it is so valuable when a professional of any kind takes the time to listen to and understand my perspective, before just trying to sell me something.

Diversity is not how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.

Ola Joseph, international speaker, author, and consultant

Q: What are some concrete ways that representation can help to grow an advisor’s business?

(The following list summarizes our longer discussion)

Having a practice that represents the clients you serve results in:

  • Higher client retention—Clients are more likely to stay with you for longer and you are more likely to be able to work with multiple generations of the same family
  • Faster growth and innovation—Different minds, more experiences, and more perspectives empower you to innovate your business in a rapidly evolving industry, giving you the ability to disrupt before you are disrupted
  • Growth via new business—Affinity bias can work in your favor! When shopping for an advisor, when potential clients can see themselves in your organization you gain an advantage.
  • Talent retention and hiring—Creating an environment where diverse perspectives are heard and welcomed generally results in a more positive workplace in general. Younger generations are particularly drawn to diverse organizations

Q: How can an advisor take a few steps towards better representation in their practice?

Alisa: Try talking to some diversity and inclusion professionals! These issues are complex and sometimes emotional for people, so it is not surprising that so many advisors feel too overwhelmed to take the first step. If you choose to start working with a diversity professional, they will likely begin by evaluating where you are now and then suggesting a realistic plan forward that is based on your business goals. We’re all working towards stronger, healthier businesses. Generic “diversity” isn’t the goal. The goal is increasing representation in such a way that it benefits everyone.

And if you aren’t ready for a professional, just start by getting curious. Ask questions across your network. How are others handling these issues? Authentically and respectfully asking about and discussing cultural differences is a great start.

Chuck: I’d add, be vulnerable. Don’t let your fear of being vulnerable stop you from being curious. Showing that you care about representation through your conversations and how well you listen (both to your clients and your staff) is a great first step. Accept that you might feel uncomfortable and that’s ok.

Q: What barriers to representation might advisors face?

Alisa: Fear of doing it wrong is almost aways the biggest one. That fear stops a lot of advisors from even saying the words “diversity” or “representation.” Accept that everyone will get it wrong at some point. You have to be willing to be vulnerable enough and humble enough to learn from that. Working with an experienced diversity professional can help with some of the discomfort.

Q: How can advisors know they are on the right track?

Chuck: Your team will tell you. If you’ve truly built a diverse practice and an open environment where all opinions are welcome, you’ll hear both the good and the bad. I think too many leaders worry that if they open the doors to vulnerable, frank conversations, they’ll be pounded with a constant flood of negative comments. We’ve found that is not actually the case. You’ll also learn what is working and how much more welcome people feel. Lean into all of that feedback. Only a person who cares about your organization will bother sharing their suggestions for making it better.

Also, I’d say that you are “doing it right” when you feel constantly challenged but growing. There will be some discomfort, but it won’t be all negative.

Alisa: When your intent (what you want to accomplish) and your impact (what you are accomplishing) are aligned, then you are doing it right . I’m not sure the perfect balance ever happens, but that is what we strive for.

Diversity and inclusion resources for advisors

For a book that the LCW team recently enjoyed, check out: Learning in Relationship by Ronald Short

You can also hear from LCW directly via their podcast, Brave Conversations with LCW, where they have global conversations on diversity, equity, inclusion, and culture. To learn more about the great work LCW is doing, visit: https://lcwinclusion.com/

To access Envestnet’s extensive diversity, equity, and inclusion library, click here. You’ll find a wealth of free training materials, recommended consulting services, and diversity-focused job boards.

Envestnet is committed to providing an equitable, diverse, and inclusive work culture, where everyone is treated fairly, feels a sense of belonging and value, and has the resources and support they need to achieve their full potential. Learn more about our efforts at https://www.envestnet.com/corporate-social-responsibility.

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