The events of 2020 compel us to acknowledge the impact of racial, gender and ethnic inequities on communities and workplaces across the U.S. The socioeconomic systems constraining prosperity for all who are willing to learn and work hard are staggering in our capitalist economy. Workplace standards, market commitments, community investment and political advocacy are elements of the proactive approach currently underway across the financial services sector.
COVID-19, civil unrest and a presidential election brought U.S. citizens to new levels of awareness, conversation and action to address diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in the workplace. A renewed sense of organizational urgency and goal setting is being met with accolades and readiness by the legions of those working on these issues, and other employees as well. An organization’s commitment to DEI is likely to be an increasingly influential factor in attracting and retaining talent.
As financial services organizations rise to the equity and inclusion challenges within their own workplaces, there is broad acknowledgment that more must be done to reach underserved and underrepresented markets. Examples include accelerating product and service flexibility and competencies, such as multilingual education and purchase tools, as well as planning resources specifically designed for women.
The essential purpose of financial services professionals is to help people achieve their financial goals. This includes sharing in clients’ challenges and successes as members of our community — personal, professional or both. This is the guide that financial services firms use to demonstrate their commitment to DEI. Here are some of the ways firms can get it right.
Start at the top. Boards of directors who understand the financial opportunity fueled by our soon-to-be majority-minority demographics have a DEI plan in place that is reflected in all of the board committees’ plans — including finance, human resources and investment. Leaders define their “why” and use it as a guiding light to develop strategies and to make funding decisions.
Act locally. Prudential is an example of a leader in the financial services industry for their commitment to strengthening communities. Through their impact-investing portfolio, foundation and direct employee engagement, Prudential drives transformation within their walls and in the communities they serve. Fortune’s 2019 Change the World List recognized Prudential for investing in affordable housing, committing more than $5.6 billion in more than 30 U.S. cities.
Be transparent. Metrics enable an organization to understand the true levers of progress as well as the outcomes. When all stakeholders know what combinations of programs and policies work, they can replicate them and pivot as needed for scale across their own and other organizations.
Embrace that baseline metrics will evolve to meet the maturity of the organization’s capabilities and appetite.
Collaborate. It is often said that if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. It is with this conviction that life insurers and other financial services industry leaders are working together to build coalitions and programs that drive equality and upward mobility for women and minorities. The CEO Diversity Pledge for Action, innovated by PwC, is a collaboration that has gained considerable momentum. CEOs from 1,400 organizations — including LL Global and every board member of the American Council of Life Insurers — have signed the pledge to create a more inclusive workplace for employees, communities and society.
Organizational resilience is one of the most important elements of success in effecting change with DEI. We are not the first generation to deal with these issues, in and out of the workplace.
We will not be the last. The struggle is part of the human condition. Achieving the mission and goals of our industry regarding DEI means truly committing to change. It’s not only the right thing to do but also will contribute to our industry’s continued success.