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Symposium Panel Recap: Busting the Myths: What is Keeping Women & People of Color out of the Wealth Management Industry

At our annual Symposium earlier this month, we hosted several expert panels, including one about the myths that are keeping women and people of color out of the wealth management industry.

The panelists tackled several common misconceptions about the industry while providing advice for those considering working in wealth management. Before we share takeaways from the event, meet the panelists:

  • Tonia Bottoms, Managing Director and Senior Managing Counsel at BNY Mellon Pershing, moderator
  • Marvine Laurent, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations at Lenox Advisors
  • Becky Kariuki, Director and Business Development Officer of Wealth Solutions at BNY Mellon Pershing
  • Fanci Worthington, Co-Chair of Advisor DEIB Council at Cetera Investment Services

Each panelist shared personal anecdotes to combat common myths about having a career in wealth management. If you couldn’t make it, we’ve recapped the conversation below.

Myth no.1: Everyone needs to be a stockbroker or in sales

There’s a perception that everyone working in wealth management needs to be a broker or make some sales to be in financial services.

“If the only thing we did was sell something, what are we going to sell?” Fanci said. “The product development side is a business just like any other business. You don’t have to be a statistics major to do many of the roles inside financial services.”

Becky agreed, stating that she’s had several roles unrelated to sales, including technology and relationship management.

“There are so many branches of financial services, and for many underrepresented communities, it’s also about what they’re exposed to,” Marvine said. “It’s important to seek mentors and those who can share the plethora of roles out there.”

The panelists busted the myth by sharing other roles within the industry — outside of being a stockbroker or in sales — including product development, technology, relationship management, and communication, among others.

Myth no. 2: You can’t impact communities for the greater good

In the last few years, job candidates have shown more interest in wanting to contribute to positively impact causes and communities.

“Financial institutions are uniquely positioned to have a sizable impact on social challenges because of our critical role in society,” Becky said. “We directly impact the ability of people to manage money and build wealth. It’s a ripple effect: companies gain access to new and fast-growing markets, attracting talent and improving financial performance.”

Marvine added that when she speaks to advisors, they always say the best part of their job is the positive impact they can have on their communities.

“Since I’ve been an advisor, I’ve taught financial planning classes at a prison system, helped Girl Scouts sell more cookies, and volunteered with all sorts of local organizations, ” Fanci said. “I helped a community that was struggling, and that was rewarding. The products we’re putting in place for our clients have an economic impact, and it’s a pretty powerful way to live your life.”

Advisors and financial institutions can have sizable impacts on the communities they serve — busting the myth that says otherwise. The panelists agreed that contributing to the greater good was a benefit of the career path.

Myth no. 3: You must have a financial background or a related degree

Many people think you have to have a financial degree or come from an Ivy League school to be successful in wealth management.

“The certifications can come, the willingness to go out and learn something new can come, but we’ve seen individuals from retail, personal training, and law backgrounds come into this profession.” Marvine said. “I think it’s about bringing a spirit of excellence and life-long learning.”

Fanci reiterated that conversing with people and practicing interpersonal skills are essential.

“Does it help to have some background in some form of finance? It doesn’t hurt, but most of what we do, you learn on the job,” Becky said. “What’s different about the eligibility criteria today is that it’s less about education and more about skills.”

The panelists busted this myth by sharing their backgrounds, which ranged from English, law, and theater. They agreed that many financial companies are changing the way they interview to focus less on a formal educational background, and more on specific skills that benefit the role.

Myth no. 4: The compensation options are limited

Several things need to be clarified about how money is made and how much income a person can make in wealth management.

“I have seen other payment structures, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the possibilities,” Marvine said. “Anyone willing to come in and work hard can have the same benefits from a corporate job, plus those that come from being an entrepreneur.”

Becky pointed out that the industry is changing regarding transparency around income, which helps with pay equity.

“I call it the ‘road from Ramen to filet’ because you don’t make a ton that first year,” Fanci said. “But you’ll consistently grow, and the growth is much quicker in this field than it is for others, and it’s without the debt.” 

The misconception regarding limited compensation options makes a career in wealth management unappealing to many. But, the panelists busted the myth by sharing various pay structures they’ve seen, which are comparable to those found in corporate careers.

There are all sorts of misconceptions surrounding the wealth management industry, which may seem harmless, but they discourage many individuals from considering financial roles — even when they’d be perfect for them! Truthfully, the wealth management industry needs diverse talent for well-paying, meaningful roles. The more diverse the industry, the better we can contribute to the greater good.

To learn more about the panel, check out this Financial Planning article. To watch the entire session, please click here, and stay in touch with us to hear about upcoming events and opportunities!