Financial services is usually a step or two slower than other industries when it comes to change. We know this. Beginning in the eighties, brave advisors began to explore the concept of the RIA. Their ranks were thin. There were few options available to these entrepreneurs as they struck out on their own – truly independent pioneers, determined on doing things differently, and better. Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the RIA model began to gather a true momentum that continues to gather steam to this day. Consider that Fintech came into its own and caught fire in the independent wealth management space only about five to seven years ago.
We are slow to change, as a group. But when we accept change and disruption, replacing ‘old think’ with new, as not only a good thing but a fact of life, the reality is that our industry as a whole and our clients benefit greatly.
We reached what I can only hope is another tipping point this week, on topics that before now, we’ve only tip-toed around. Whispering about our discontent in small circles, and we would find ourselves lamenting once again how slow we are to take action. These topics are equality, representation, diversity and inclusion, to name a few. As an industry, it is in vogue to “talk” about these important issues, to have an “initiative” or even a micro-conference to discuss them. These finserv events are predominantly attended by the very groups that often feel on the outside looking in: women, people of color, the LGBTQ community. The events occur and are briefly covered, and the initiatives are important – but yet we remain stagnant.
Sometimes it takes an unexpected catalyst to jolt us awake. Something feels different this time. The energy and enthusiasm for tangible change is gathering strength fueled by hundreds, no, thousands of us in this business who are done accepting the status quo. We’re done merely “eye-rolling” at all of the stereotypes that never seem to die, the token attempts at diversity on the part of conference organizers, and insinuations that because many of us are merely small to mid-sized business owners and not “titans of industry” that we should shut up and just learn from these successful businesspeople who have come before us. We say no.
We are done staying silent and accepting the ‘old think’ – the state of affairs that suited the powerful well, when the majority of us had no voice nor any meaningful way to effect change. Turns out that our voices are not only being heard, but equipped with the power of social media and the courage of our convictions, we can be quite loud. But it is time (far past time in fact) that our industry evolves beyond merely talking the talk.
It’s time for action. It’s time to stop condoning behavior that makes respected professionals uncomfortable and demoralized. It’s time to speak up. It’s time to recognize and promote more women, minorities and the marginalized within our industry, and to create an environment in financial services that encourages the next generation to join us. We have a long way to go, but it feels to me like we’re ready for change – and regardless, it isn’t really a choice.
Raise your voice, using whatever medium makes you comfortable. Sweep nothing under the rug. Shine a light. Channel your frustrations. Support your friends and be true to your values. Our industry needs you.