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PRIDE Month Feature - Q&A with University of Akron alumni Autumn Azar

To celebrate PRIDE Month, we’re spotlighting LGBTQ+ students and professionals in the wealth management industry. Autumn Azar, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and relationship associate at Dakota Wealth Management, shares her advice for members of LGBTQ+ community that are interested in a career in financial services, as well as her preconceived notions about the industry and how they have shifted over time.

What personality traits do you think make you a good candidate to work in the field?

Someone who is both able to speak well and listen to their client’s needs.  Being able to explain and guide the client based on their fears, desires, or needs is very important in order to provide a positive experience. Being able to listen and comprehend information well allows for you to tailor the information you provide the client exactly what they need.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ students/young professionals thinking about joining the industry?

Don’t hide yourself. I was scared to be my authentic self when starting out. I was afraid to dress a bit more masculine or announce I was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I soon realized that these traits are important to share and be open about, not only to be an example to others looking to join the industry, but for clients/potential clients to see who might be struggling to find an advisor who will understand their situation. Representation really matters. Growing up, I felt I had to hide who I was, but if I had seen other people like me in careers I aspired to work in, I would have realized that being a part of the community is something to celebrate, not suppress.

Did you have any preconceived notions about the industry before you started your career? How have those perceptions shifted?  

I thought that the industry would be extremely conservative and unwelcoming of anyone who wasn’t male or white. While there is certainly still a lot of hurdles and adversity in the industry (and job market as a whole) I have found that if you surround yourself with the right company, groups, etc. most people won’t have any issues, and some even celebrate your differences.  Like many things in life, I have learned that those that take issue with you are not worth knowing or working for. There are tons of firms and groups that will happily welcome you and encourage you to be yourself.

Are there any changes you would like to see in the wealth management industry? If so, what would those changes be?

I want to see more diversity in the industry. This goes beyond seeing more LGBTQ+ members.  I would love to see more women in prominent positions, more individuals of different religions, as well as a much more prominent mix of races working in the field. I feel that with a more diverse industry, different ways of thinking, and life experiences, we might see a shift in who looks to invest as well as who chooses wealth management as their career of choice. A more diverse group of people might make for a more understanding client experience that looks at people’s unique life experiences from all sorts of different angles. Only hiring one group will make for a limiting perspective on thoughts and life experiences.

How do you think the financial planning industry will evolve in the next five or ten years?

I hope to see more diversity and inclusion occur within the industry in the next five to ten years.  There are a lot of DEI events and initiatives across the country that might help make this a reality. Diversitas, as well as many others, will be integral in making this happen. I can see this happening in some form in the coming years.  It may not be a complete overhaul of the industry with every race, orientation, etc. involved but I hope to see a good start in the push to have more representation in the industry.

Autumn Azar is a relationship associate at Dakota Wealth Management, where she supports the Akron advisor team in client service, financial planning, and investment research and analysis activities. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics and a minor in Finance from the University of Akron. Autumn was a panelist at last year’s national Diversitas symposium. To read more information about her thoughts on the industry, click here.