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Q&A with Crystal Cox, Wealthspire, an NFP Company

We sat down with Crystal Cox, vice president at Wealthspire, an NFP Company, to pick her brain on the state of the financial services industry. Where are we now? Where are we headed? Who will lead us into the future? Crystal offers her insights on some of the burning questions facing the industry.

Crystal spoke at the Diversitas symposium on November 3rd, 2021. The symposium was sponsored by the Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE). NFP is a member of FARE, a unique partnership of HBCUs and financial services organizations seeking to build sustainable economic wealth in diverse communities and increase the number of Black advisors and financial professionals through expanded research, increased training, and mentorship opportunities.

The virtual event dove into the future of the industry and opportunities for young professionals looking to succeed in financial services. We have published recordings from the symposium which you can access for free on our website.

Do you have any recommendations for how the industry can look to increase diversity and inclusion? Any steps individual firms should consider taking?

The first step is making your business an inclusive place to work, so people with diverse backgrounds want to work there. There are a number of things firms can do to show that they are committed to inclusivity, including offering gender-neutral restrooms, expanded health care coverage to include maternity care, adoption assistance, coverage for same-sex partners, transgender services, etc. You can also offer flexible work programs such as part-time positions, the ability to modify working hours, and the opportunity to telecommute. It’s also important to sponsor and attend events in the community that show your commitment to DEIB, like LGBTQ+ Pride or Juneteenth celebrations.

The next step is sourcing, recruiting, and retaining diverse talent. Post job openings on forums visited by underrepresented groups or even seek to leverage job boards specifically designed for diverse candidates. Use blind screenings of resumes and diverse interview panels so as to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process.

Next, foster belonging to retain diverse talent. Create sponsorship/mentorship programs which pair people in marginalized communities with a senior person in the organization (preferably a person with a similar background) who can help open doors and advocate for promotion and career advancement. Base feedback on the completion of projects and goals, making evaluations less dependent on personality-based observations that may be subject to bias. Establish clear criteria and hard metrics for employee evaluations and promotion decisions.

Outside of what you can do internally to increase diversity and inclusion, you can also take this initiative externally to shine a light on the issue, such as reviewing your vendor list (including investment products) and explore/expand options through a DEIB lens. Also, source speakers, authors, venues, and Centers of Influence through a DEIB lens. Make it known that your business is committed to working with other businesses that also value DEIB.

Lastly, track your progress on increasing diversity and inclusion, and stay committed to the work.

What characteristics or traits do you commonly see among successful advisors? Do you have any advice for aspiring advisors on how to hone those traits?

Successful advisors are tenacious but patient, confident but not arrogant, process-driven yet adaptable, excellent listeners and communicators, persuasive, empathetic, trustworthy, smart, genuine, organized, curious, and people focused. I’m a huge advocate for observing a variety of different successful advisors and their approaches and taking little pieces from each of them to develop a style that is genuine to you. Seek out mentors in the industry, ask to be included in client meetings and solicit feedback.

You likely already exhibit a lot of these qualities, but to hone those traits, take courses on behavioral finance, communication styles, public speaking, sales, organization skills and time management, etc. Become an expert in the areas which you are advising. Have coffee or lunch with other industry professionals like accountants, attorneys, insurance professionals and start to develop good relationships with them so they can be a resource for you, as well. There is always more you can learn, and you would be doing yourself and your future clients a disservice by thinking you know it all.

What would you say to anyone looking to get into the wealth management industry?

My uncle is a financial advisor, and he once said to me, “This is the best job in the world!” What I would say to anyone looking to get into the wealth management industry is the same. But it’s important to find a company that shares your values, a team with whom you enjoy working, and a role that suits your skills, qualities, and career aspirations.

There are many different functions within the wealth management industry. If you don’t necessarily want to work directly with clients but you love investments, there are investment-management teams, fund managers, etc. If you love the operational piece, there are operations departments. You can work in marketing, technology, compliance, HR, and more. There are a variety of directions you can go in the wealth management industry, and sometimes you won’t know exactly which direction fits you best until you get your foot in the door. My point is: Just because you’re hired as an operations associate doesn’t mean you can’t move into a client service role or into marketing or investments. Get some experience under your belt and make your career aspirations known.

What are you planning on discussing at the Symposium, and why do you feel that focus is important for attendees?

I joined the panel called “Setting Yourself Up for Success: Top tips to secure the internship and/or job of your dreams.” Based on my answers and what you’ll hear from me during the panel discussion, it’s probably obvious that I love what I do! So many people hate their jobs and I just can’t imagine what it’s like to spend 40+ hours a week doing something you hate, for a company or boss that doesn’t share your values, with a team you don’t enjoy.

Our panel covered how to find internships, the do’s and don’ts of interviewing, what to expect from internships and what to take away from them, and how to ultimately get yourself hired at a job which you’ll love. My goal during the panel was to help job searchers secure a number of job offers so they have the opportunity to select the one that will give them a sense of belonging. Finding the right job is like finding the right pair of shoes or the right bed – you spend so much of your life there that it’s important for your overall health and wellness that you enjoy it.

Crystal has been in the financial services industry since 2011 and joined Wealthspire in 2017. Crystal utilizes a comprehensive approach to wealth management that ensures client portfolios are properly aligned with their risk tolerance and goals. Her priority is to build deep relationships with clients so she can communicate in ways that are relatable and clear. She values being approachable, making her a strong personal advocate for all her clients.

At Wealthspire, Crystal is active on the Financial Planning Committee, she’s the Deputy Chair of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIBs) Committee, and she acts as the Internship Coordinator for the Midwest.

Crystal is also very active in her community, participating in organizations such as Forward Janesville, OutReach, Special Olympics, Gift of Adoption, SecureFutures, Schools of Hope, and more.

The Financial Alliance for Racial Equity (FARE) consortium is comprised of leading companies in the financial services industry. In addition to NFP, FARE is led by Franklin Templeton, M Financial and Nationwide Financial.