S02 EP02: Trailblazing with Inclusivity at the Corporate Level


When we think about how to incorporate inclusion into our careers, we think on the individual level. Many of us in the financial planning profession work within RIA firms. We have small teams, and within those teams, we’re actively working to build diversity initiatives, promote allyship, and build systems within our businesses that continue to support marginalized voices.

But what about bigger businesses? How do they incorporate inclusivity at a corporate level?

Tom Nally, as President of TD Ameritrade Institutional, has had focused on building a culture of inclusion for a long time. The Financial Planning Association (FPA) is actively working to prioritize diversity as a membership organization. Both of these large organizations have been trailblazers in the financial services industry, and I was so excited to sit down with Tom Nally and Ed Gjertsen II to discuss exactly how they create actionable plans to build an inclusive culture. Ed Gjertsen II is one of the co-founders of the FPA National Diversity Initiative and is the a past President and Chairman of FPA National as well as a past President and Chairman of the FPA Illinois Chapter.

Both of these men have been key players in bringing inclusivity to the financial planning profession and financial service industry as a whole. Ed and Tom believe that inclusivity is a foundational part of their corporate culture. They get their employees and members involved at every level of the process. In recent years, TD Ameritrade has taken several steps to create more space at the table for everybody, including:

  • Rewriting job descriptions to be more inclusive

  • Changing hiring best practices to focus on hiring for both capability and experience

  • Building internship and scholarship programs that promote inclusivity

  • Empowering 20+ Chief Diversity Officers at every level in their organization to take charge of different initiatives and make change

Tom and Ed have so many fantastic insights for small business owners, individuals in a larger firm, and employees at larger finserv corporations.

What You'll Learn:

  • What actionable steps you can take to change the dialogue around attracting talent

  • How to get employees involved in diversity and inclusivity initiatives

  • Why it’s important to incorporate different voices in the conversations around diversity, including those in the majority (and why Ed reached out to men to join the women’s panel at FPA Annual Conference this year)

  • How to spark conversation and encourage people to think about the impact that inclusivity has on the industry

  • Why TD Ameritrade has leaned into inclusivity as part of their business’s core structure and best practices

  • How to approach individual conversations around diversity and inclusion, even when they feel uncomfortable or awkward

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript

Rianka: 00:00 Tom, Ed, thank you so much for joining 2050 TrailBlazers today.

Tom: 00:05 Thank you Rianka. We appreciate the, uh, the opportunity to participate and look forward to the conversation.

Ed: 00:11 Absolutely. Looking forward to a good conversation.

Rianka: 00:13 Thank you. Me too. Me too. So with 2050 TrailBlazers. Um, I just want to note you two. This is the first time I'm having two guests at one time. So this is a very special episode.

Ed: 00:27 It's a very high bar, Tom, very high bar, so we can't mess this up because we might be the only two she ever has on the podcast.

Tom: 00:34 I think it's apropos for trailblazers, right we're we're two trailblazers.

Rianka: 00:39 Yes. Let's look at you blazing trails already and speaking of blazing trails, you know, it's why I specifically and intentionally picked you two, to come on to the episode today. As you know, season two the theme is allyship and what we're learning from episode one is that allyship is a verb, it's not a noun. It's an action and it's a practice over time. It's not something of it is who you are but is also with what you do. And Tom, for you from a large company standpoint with being the president of TD Ameritrade, TD Ameritrade is definitely blazing trails and I'll get into that here shortly about what you guys are doing, but also Ed, from a trade organization standpoint, you're one of the past presidents of the Financial Planning Association, one of the past national presidents, um, and I believe also a chapter president. And now you're the chair of the conference that's coming up actually this week.

Rianka: 01:50 So, um, yeah, you two are, are very special. Tom, I first met you and I don't know if you remember this at the center for financial planning kickoff. It was the launch in New York about three years ago and I was, that's when I first met Kate Healy my fave. And um, I was on a panel with her and then you gave a keynote and during the keynote I cheated a little bit because there's a video out there of, of the keynote and I wanted to share a quote again, sharing, you know, why I chose you to come on. You mentioned that increasing diversity is important to meet the needs of investors, financial planners need to be prepared to serve and increasingly diverse client base and also sharing how demographics are shifting. 85 percent of the population growth over the next 10 years will come from minority and ethnic groups. And also, uh, another form of diversity is specifically within the financial service industry is just the age gap. You know, millennials are the largest group in the workforce, but they represent a very small portion. So TD Ameritrade is blazing trails as far as, you know, being a, I don't know, holding the torch from a large organization standpoint and just paving the way and you guys are a really great example of what, um, through any red tape, what large organizations can do.

Tom: 03:27 Yeah, Rianka. I do you remember that day. And, uh, you know, we really proud to be the founding sponsor of the CFP, a center, you know, it's really important work and we are trying to be a leader here because it is so important that as an industry, you know, we, uh, we take the appropriate steps necessary in order to make sure that we're prepared and, you know, it is a, it's a, it's a moral imperative. I think it's the right thing to do. You know, America is changing from a demographic perspective in every category, right? I mean, whether it's age or race or ethnicity in, in general, you know, it doesn't look the same as it used to and it's going to continue to change and we need to be prepared as an industry to serve the needs of that changing demographic. And right now we're not, and you know, our industry continues to be skewed older and very, very white and that's just not gonna gonna cut it in the future. So we're very passionate about this and we think, you know, we need to take action and uh, and, and get some things done that can better prepare us to, to serve the needs of, of the investing community in the future. It's absolutely critical.

Rianka: 04:52 I hundred percent agree with you and also from the investor standpoint, uh, we want to make sure that we are providing, we as in the financial service industry are providing them with a plethora of financial advisors or financial planners that matches their identity. You know, sometimes they feel a comfort in working with women or feel a comfort in working with someone that share a cultural background, um, you know, that's similar. And so we want to make sure we're providing consumers and investors not only with great products and services, but also practitioners that look like them as well.

Tom: 05:34 Couldn't agree more. Absolutely. And it is true. I mean, there's been so much research around people you know, want to work with someone similar to themselves, feel that they can relate on shared experiences. And you know, as we know, most folks don't walk into their planner's office and say, I want to beat the SNP by five points they walk in and they say, am I going to be okay? And that human being connection is so important. So to give people that ability to connect a on a holistic level is super important.

Rianka: 06:12 Yes. Thank you. And Ed, let's, let's, let's take it to you really quickly. So, Ed, you and I met when I think this was my very first board meeting. I was the NexGen president elect. You were president at the time. I was nervous as heck. I'm like, who are all these people? And they're asking me all of these questions and I think I showed up appropriately and you know, uh, represented the NexGen community good. And you came up to me afterwards and you said, Rianka, you know, don't be nervous. Um, you know, you are not in this alone. You have a great leadership team and then you have us. And I wasn't shocked because, I mean this is the financial planning profession. And so it's like this helping profession. But I was, I was very encouraged that you specifically came up to me afterwards and just say, hey, we're here to support, we're here to help and we want to help grow, you know, the NextGen community. And um, even with, with that, in addition to the next Gen community, uh, where you showed a lot of passion, you also showed a lot of passion in diversity. Um, and it was just a couple of years ago that I found out that you were one of the cofounders of the diversity committee for the Financial Planning Association. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Ed: 07:43 Yeah. So, so first off, you did hold yourself well on that first meeting. So well done, Rianka.

Rianka: 07:49 Thank you, I was nervous. That was nerve wracking, Ed.

Ed: 07:53 Yeah, I did see that. Which is why it's, you know, when you see bright up and coming people, you want to make sure that you give them a good path. And that was part of it. I mean A you're very personable, but B, it, it, it, it goes back to a lot of things in terms of it's just not about diversity, it's about being inclusive, right? It's reaching out, it's stepping across, it's embracing and, and just, you know, letting everyone know, hey, by the way, let's talk about this and let's kind of move things forward. Which is exactly the genesis behind, uh, the FPA's diversity initiative is. I was, you know, we were in Nashville, I think it was 2006 and I was sitting next to a good friend of mine, Lee Baker, who at the time I believe was either leadership in his Georgia chapter for FPA and literally it was a room of 75 people.

Ed: 08:37 I looked around and I don't know what struck me, but I looked at him, I'm like, dude, you are the only man of color in this room. And I knew Lee I didn't really know him that well. And so we had this conversation kind of back and forth and when we were walking the halls, I'm like, you know, was that okay in terms of just approaching you and what started from there, we started looking around the room, we got to the general session and we didn't leave. Leave our fingers and toes in terms of the folks who did not look like, you know, a old pale and male in the room. And we grabbed Trudy Turner who was a leader in Texas and sat down with FPA staff and said we need to make a change. And they're like, oh yeah, we're doing it. And we pulled the fancy brochure off the rack that had, you know, this is FPA and it had one of everybody and I'm like, this is where you want to go, but we're not doing it. And that was sort of the catalyst and the genesis behind the FPA diversity initiative back in '06. And a proud to say, you know, we've had a lot of scholarships that we've offered. Rianka you're one of the recipients. We've had some great leaders in the industry. Lazetta Braxton, Neil Harris, uh, Kathleen Boyd, another NextGen person. I mean, this is, this is the difference between checking a box and embracing and bringing people through the door.

Rianka: 09:52 Yes. And as form of allyship, you know, again, from a trade organization standpoint, FPA, the financial planning association is one of the trailblazers. And so it's like for both of you, for Tom with TD Ameritrade and Ed with the Financial Planning Association, you two are not just walking the walk, uh, your, uh, me or talking the talk, you're walking the walk as well and not only giving from a time perspective, you're also giving financially as well.

Tom: 10:24 So Rianka, I just want to say Kudos to you for actually being a trailblazer yourself. I mean, it is true. I mean, if we're going to move the needle and have a better representation, you know, uh, and have our industry actually look like the brochure that Ed was mentioning. It's about rolling up your sleeves and getting out there and pounding the pavement and taking action. Right? Everyone can write a check, everyone can have some crafty little statement, but you know, if you really want to make a difference, you have to, you know, put a put effort behind the initiative and really drive true change and I think it's great when you say ally is not a noun, it's a verb, and that's absolutely critical. It requires action and it's something that we're really passionate about as well. I mean, it's one of the reasons why, you know, we have Kate who is basically our torchbearer for TD Ameritrade in a very senior level within the organization and externally in the financial planning community to help drive change.

Tom: 11:28 And, and I think one of the issues that we're faced with is, you know, young professionals being able to look to our industry and identify role models that they can relate to. And I think, you know, you deserve a tremendous amount of credit for, for becoming one of those role models early on in your career too. I mean, that is you, you are, you know, carrying a torch is a significant burden and I think you should be recognized and applauded for that in the same way that we want people to look to Kate and say, you know, what, she's been very successful. How can I do that? How can I get involved? How can I make this a career that I can be really proud of? So it's exciting work, but it's definitely work.

Rianka: 12:11 Yeah. And thank you so much Tom. I appreciate that. And you know, speaking of Kate and, you know, as far as like looking to Kate saying like, you know, how can I do something that she's doing the difference with Kate to me from what I've seen that TD Ameritrade has done is Kate is in the c-suite. She, she's not in an HR role where it's ceremonial to have a, a DNI or diversity and inclusion director or for her specifically, she's the director of Generation Next. You TD Ameritrade, specifically put her in a c-suite, uh, where there's power. Actually, you know, uh, where, you know, she has an awesome blog that she puts out. I believe monthly called Advocate play on her name and advocate, which I think was brilliant. I'll make sure I'll put a link in the show notes so that the listeners can keep up with her blog, but you know, tell us more. Why was this decision made and how other large firms like yourself can take the lead of just not placing a ceremonial person in a Generation Next or diversity and inclusion position, but actually giving this person power.

Tom: 13:39 Well, I think if you just take a step back and take a look at the challenge that we're facing as an industry. I mean the problem is real and something needs to happen and you know, like I mentioned, it's got to be an action oriented solution that's going to really drive change. And if you don't do that in a meaningful way, we're never going to make any progress. So we thought it was really important to, uh, to make sure that Kate had the empowerment that she needed to drive that change. It's super critical and she has not only a seat at the table, but she has a voice at the table as well. Believe me, Kate contributes to our organization beyond just her, her stated role, but that stated role is super critical for the future of our industry. And you know, I feel like we work in a very altruistic type profession.

Tom: 14:32 I mean, we're doing the right thing for the people of America and we need to make sure that we're understanding what are the people of America, you know, look like, who, who is the people that need to be served? How do we make sure that they have the appropriate resources that they can tap into. And that is a boots on the ground, roll up your sleeve, you know, job. And um, I will tell you, it can be sometimes a little bit disappointing if you're in a room or, or at a conference and having a conversation with people who may not necessarily see the light and understand, you know, what we're actually facing. But I think if people take a step back and realize, you know, I think more organizations would do what we did with people like Kate and try and create those, those role models that are focused on driving real change.

Ed: 15:26 And Tom, I think that, you know, it's to your credit as well, right? Again, it's you look around the industry and with all due respect and you just feel some organizations are just checking a box, you know TD and and you and your staff and and Kate and Rianka you as well, right? Trailblazer, you're making that action. Again, it goes back to that allyship, but you're, you're doing it in an authentic way and I think that is the difference that I see when I'm looking at diversity as you truly feel when people are doing it for the reasons that means something to them rather than just meeting a number and to TD's credit. I mean it's the leadership. It starts from the top and you're making this a, an effort, which is what we sort of saw with the financial planning association.

Ed: 16:09 It wasn't just me and Lee and Trudy. It was talking to the board and talking to the leadership at that time and really coming up with a practical way of moving it forward. We had lots of folks on the FPA board. Louis Brahas is one of those folks who was talking about diversity and diversity and diversity and um, you know, the, he just couldn't get anywhere with that. And, and we had a panel at one of our very first diversity panels, you know, you've got Louis on the panel and John Rogers from Ariel and a bunch of other luminaries and, you know, Louis looks at me and he points out in the room and he goes, that guy, that guy, that white guy right there, that's why we're talking about it. And I think that kind of goes to the point of this podcast is that you're looking for allies who aren't, um, who don't look like you know, you, there, there are others there, there are the champions of the folks out there saying, you know, what? Shaking our friends and colleagues up in the industry saying, you know, why it's up to us to make this happen. Um, and to Tom's point, again, sometimes you're, you're a little bit dismayed when, when people are like, what, what problem? Like, where do you live? Uh, so that, that, that again, it goes back to just active leadership and persistence. It's, you, you just got to keep at this because it'll change possibly over time, but we'd like to make that change happen a lot sooner than later.

Tom: 17:33 Yeah. And I appreciate that. And, and those are great points and the FPA has really done a great job and demonstrated leadership in the space as well. And you know, I think from a TD Ameritrade perspective, a lot of it has to do with who we are culturally. I mean we are a very authentic organization, you know, internally and externally. We try and just, you know, you be you and we think that that's how you get to the best answers for your clients. It's how you have the most productive a conversation and dialogue and you know, we've been very focused on building a culture of inclusion, uh, for a long time. And, and we take that very seriously. And, and I think we do try and be action oriented around a those initiatives because we ultimately believe that, you know, you can hire great people, let them do their thing and let them be their true authentic selves. You know, in the office. It's, it's really sad sometimes when you see people that are very different in their home lives or their external life than they are, uh, at work. I mean, it's absolutely critical. I mean, if you really want to get the most from your people, you just gotta let them do their thing. So we spent a lot of time focused on that and it's, it's a, a very, uh, it's a foundational component of, of our organization and our culture.

Rianka: 18:57 And so what are some of the ways, specifically, again, to help some of these other organizations out there? Tom, what are some of the ways that you're encouraging your employees or members of your organization to embrace what it means to be an ally and to support one another?

Tom: 19:16 Well, I think it starts at some of the most basic things. I mean, you've got to get people involved all the way throughout the organization, right? It just can't, as you mentioned before, we can't just be, hey, we've got this person in HR who's the designated, you know, fill in the blank for whatever the title could be. We actually have we call 20 chief diversity officers that are at every level of the organization trying to drive that awareness and change within the organization. You know, thinking about your hiring practices, you know, we want to. We rewrote all of our job descriptions to try and make them more inclusive. We have a rule within the organization which I think is really powerful is don't just hire for experience, higher for capabilities and if you think about that, if you're just hiring for experience, you're always going to go back to that same well and you're never going to be able to expand that talent pool.

Tom: 20:19 So we try and encourage people to take a chance on somebody who may not necessarily have what is perceived to be the relevant experience, you know, because they're just getting started. But hire somebody who has the capability to thrive in that particular role and we can continue to expand the talent pool and, you know, drive change of who has the seats on the bus, let's say within our organization, you know, we look things like internship programs and you know, how do we make sure that we have the appropriate representation, uh, of what are changing demographic looks like, you know. And then of course there's things like the scholarship program, we give away a dozen scholarships every year to students studying financial planning. We give away two university grants, one for an established program, you know, like a Virginia Tech, like uh, our, our esteemed host is from. And then we also look to you know a school that maybe is starting a financial planning program that, that doesn't necessarily have the resources to, uh, to, to get those programs up and running. And in some cases there we've, we've gave university grants to historically black colleges and so on and so forth. So we really try and do whatever we can as an organization to have an impact. Words on a piece of paper don't really matter. It's about actually doing little things and big things to actually drive change.

Rianka: 21:54 Right. And it's something that you pointed out, something that you said that I want to point out is that, um, you mentioned to hire for pretty much like the potential that you see in this person, not necessarily experience at every level. And that also speaks to career changers because I've noticed a lot of people I would probably say almost on a weekly basis Tom reach out to me and somehow they stumbled upon the financial planning profession. Um, and they're like, hey, I, I, this is something that I want to do. I'm in, I'm in banking or I'm in, you know, a whole different sector of the financial service industry. But I just found this thing called financial planning and I want to do it, but I'm having a hard time finding, you know, a firm that will take me or organization that will take me because I don't necessarily have experience in, you know, financial planning. But I have a ton of experience and you know, organizational X, Y and Z or whatever background that they come from. And I think we're missing out on a really great opportunity to bring talent in from other industries and the strengths that they're bringing in that could be so beneficial to the financial service industry as a whole.

Tom: 23:13 Absolutely. No question about it. And you know, Rianka, I mean we have a, a challenge in our space where you've got a wonderful career. I mean just think about financial planning. It is rewarding financially. It is rewarding personally. You are helping people, you know, be able to sleep at night, to achieve their dreams, to make sure that their family's taken care of. But yet most people don't even know that the industry exists and we've got to broaden that net. And you know, sometimes if I go speak at universities, one of the things that I asked for is don't just invite the students from the business school because those students have a much higher propensity to understand what a financial planner is or whether that career exists. But we need to invite the people that are in the humanities schools and you know, the, the sociology majors, psychology majors.

Tom: 24:09 Because the more and more that the technical aspects of our industry get automated and technology, um, helps deliver, you know, the, the, the granularity around the financial plan or the investment platform or whatever it may be, the more you have the need for what's most important to the financial consumer. And that is that human connection, that empathy, that relationship that allows people to feel good that I know that I'm in good hands with somebody that understands who I am. And I think when people think about, hey, it's gonna be really heavily sales driven or I have to be a quantitative oriented person, it can turn them off a little bit. So we've got to change the dialogue around the way that we try and attract talent into our space because it really is a wonderful career and a really noble profession. But we've just got to get the word out.

Ed: 25:11 Tom, that's a great point because when people often think of our profession, they think exactly that. It's technical and Rianka. You had mentioned those who are crossing over, let's say mid career changers and they're like, well, I don't know anything about planning on my I'm like have you kept a checkbook? Yeah. Do you have a will? Yes. Have you made a mortgage payment? Yes. While the investment side, I'm like, do you have a 401k? Yeah, so people often discount their human experiences, which a lot of what we do is sharing that, whether it's our own experiences that we're engaged with or the privilege of, of, you know, the position of a financial planner is hearing the experiences of all these other people and then sharing that wisdom amongst the group and I think that is a key part to all of this is again, I look at the work that TD is doing in terms of career changers. It's incredibly important again, the financial planning association. You walk into a chapter meeting. I meet with a lot of folks who are thinking about moving over into the profession. I'm like, go to a meeting or two go to your local chapter meeting over here is a local chapter meeting and go start talking to people. Go start getting engaged in regards to the conversation and I think helping people walk through the door or in some cases pulling them through the door. Does a lot of good in terms of where we're heading in a profession.

Rianka: 26:28 Agreed. Agreed. And you know, to, you know, tom was mentioning about the scholarships that TDA is giving to students and also to universities and Ed, you mentioned how um, you know, the Financial Planning Association, Financial Planners Association also provides diversity scholarships as well. And you mentioned beginning, um, you know, I am a recipient of that scholarship. It was back in 2014. Um, it was, you know, I probably wouldn't have been able to go to that conference if it wasn't for the scholarship. I'll put again information in the show notes. I think it will be too late for this year, but definitely check out this scholarship opportunity for the various conferences for next year. But it was um, it was pretty eye opening, you know, it was great to see, uh, the other financial planners there, people who are engaged and care about this profession as much as I do. Um, and uh, you know, speaking of the conference, again, it's just so happens that this is the week that the podcast goes live is the week of the FPA annual conference and you're the chair.

Rianka: 27:39 Uh, and oh, you know, during one of our catch up sessions, um, you mentioned that there's a woman's panel. And I'm in my head, I'm already thinking, oh, okay, here's yet another woman's panel. Is this, is this going to be ceremonial in my head? So this is what's going on in my head. And, but of course, you know, why? Why would I think that if, if Ed is the chair, right? It couldn't, it couldn't be just all, all women. So tell us how you, how you shook it up, what, what will we not normally expect to happen.

Ed: 28:14 It kind of goes back to the premise of the champions have to be within the industry and so that, that topic came up, hey, you know, let's, let's have a women's panel and we'll talk about issues. And I'm like, really? If I have five women onstage telling me that it's important to have women, I'm like, it's, it's at times people think, well, it's just self serving. And so what I tried to do and what the task force was looking at was, um, finding champions who didn't, who weren't women, right? So I reached out into the FPA universe and found two very qualified folks. Uh, I won't give away who is going to be, but they are active in pursuing, um, diversity within their organizations. So it's, it's two white guys, uh, one of which owns his firm and the other one is an executive with this firm and why it's important from not only just just the, the general purposes of diversity, from a business standpoint of doing that.

Ed: 29:12 So again, I wanted folks like, who look like me, uh, one of the gentlemen is much younger, but to talk about why diversity and inclusion, whether it's gender, race, ethnicity, is so important, um, to the, to the organization. And uh, I'll steal thunder from one of them. When I was prepping him on the call and talking to him about this. He goes, you know, I just happened to hire folks who are the best planners and they just happened to be women. I'm like, you need to repeat that on stage because that's huge. And that kind of, Tom goes back to your point about, you know, we're, we're not looking, we're looking for people with capability and we're just not checking a box for the sake of checking a box because again, that's not authentic. You're not giving that person a good chance. So you want to make sure it's a good fit first. Um, and from, from, from that element. And I think that's critically important. But one of the other challenges that I saw early on in the planning of the conference was we kept going back to the same group of people and it wasn't for anything else other than the fact that these are known people. And so one of the things we strove to do was to broaden the speakers at the conference. Um, you'd like to have, in my opinion, a lot more. And I think you've interviewed, uh, uh, one of the speakers,

Rianka: 30:34 Yeah I did, you know, 2050 TrailBlazers is providing opportunities for everyone

Ed: 30:39 Yeah, which is, which is just terrific. And so it's more of a, it's more of active thinking and just being, as we've talked about during this whole, this whole a podcast, being active, actively engaged, going out, reaching into different communities and testing maybe some unknown speakers at this level because you need to have good speakers at this level. And so from that standpoint it was once we started sort of reaching out into the different communities, what we found from our side was just an ability to really get some qualified diverse speakers at the conference. And I'm really looking forward to it. But the woman's panel, panel in particular, I just wanted to shake things up a bit and have, you know, the folks who are generally attending hear from folks like them about why it's important to increase diversity efforts.

Tom: 31:29 You know? Ed I think that that's a really a fantastic way to, to shake things up and not have the same speakers and get some unexpected voices advocating on behalf of this movement. You know, one of the things that we think is really important as well is you've got to integrate some of this messaging into broader, you know, mainstage type discussions, because what happens sometimes is if you go to some of these women's sessions or whatever the session is, um, you'll find a lot of the same people in the room that are the or the, you know, the attendees. So you're speaking to the same group over and over and, and those people already get it right. What you need to do is find a way, and we've tried this, at TD Ameritrade to integrate the messaging around the importance of diversity and inclusion into those mainstage discussions.

Tom: 32:29 So when we have, you know, that that more general audience, you can get people that maybe have never talked about this thought about it, you know, pondered the impact that, you know, this could have on our industry to think a little bit differently. We recently had our elite conference. We invited about 200 of our top clients to a, a, a small event each year. And you know, we had Kate main stage with the full population of all of these industry leaders engaged in dialogue and the conversation was very different than we've seen in the past that were sessions that are just focused on women or, or diversity and inclusion. And it was really, really thought provoking dialogue. And I think that we actually, you know, hopefully expanded people's perspectives around why this is so important. So changing the panels, super important, but changing the audience is super important too so we can broaden that reach of, of impact.

Ed: 33:32 And, and indirectly that was another reason why sort of idea ulterior motive behind a panel with men on it or a women's panel with a couple of men on it was just for that point, Tom is, is we knew or we would think that if we had a women's panel just talking about women's issues, you would narrow the audience. So how do we do it in a way to expand the audience to talk about and then coming up with, you know, here's what this session is about. So again, you're not predisposed to what Tom, you were talking about in regards to, oh, it's another women's panel and we're just going to talk about these issues. So again, it's trying to break free of some of the efforts because, you know, part of it now is there's so much conversation going on, at least that I see in our profession around diversity and inclusion. At some times you start narrowing your focus. You're like, okay, I've already been to a session like this. Uh, and it's upon those who are putting these things together to try to break that mold, which I, which I appreciate and embrace.

Rianka: 34:30 Yeah. 2019. This is, this is a call to action for, for all of the conferences. Let's shake things up. Let's, let's be the movers and shakers. Let's show the other industries that, you know, we know what we're doing and, and, and we're going to be the trailblazers on, on this. And you know, Tom, you mentioned that, you know, there was this very small conference that you had where, you know, Kate was on stage and know was talking to about 200 advisors. But, you know, earlier this year you had the uh, national link conference where you have Viola Davis on the main stage and I'll share in the show notes the blog that Kate wrote about it and it's like where you start the race matters and it goes to the point of, you know, well one, thank you for having someone mainstage I know she didn't just talk about diversity, but just her background, her presence there is diversity.

Rianka: 35:30 Um, so thank you for having someone mainstage and not 6:00 PM at night when we know everyone is going to the wine bar and, and really not paying attention. It also goes to what you say. What I say is like we were continuing to preach to the choir, right? And we need to, you know, have, have a different audience to to hear this message. And it goes back to, um, what kind of both of you have said about allyship is like, there has to be a different messenger. It's expected for someone like me who looks like me to champion diversity to champion racial, ethnic, gender diversity, age diversity. Because, you know, I'm all three of those things, but for someone who looks like you to to actually stand up and speak when I am horse, like I, I can no longer carry this torch and you two are basically saying, hey, it's okay, I got your back.

Rianka: 36:34 Um, so I appreciate the work that both of you are doing because it's not always easy and at some point in time it's almost a sacrifice because it's like, well, what will others think, you know, because I care about diversity so much. And so I, I know that they're, you know, there's probably not everyone agrees with diversity and inclusion and, and, and the time and the resources that we're spending on this specifically within our industry, within our profession. So, you know, how do you make the case for this, for those naysayers, for the people who just haven't seen the light yet. Like how do you make the case for this

Ed: 37:19 Part of it, I mean, part of, part of standing up is challenging. So, you know, for me, people who know me know I'm well intended and so one challenge is, was heading into this on a bigger stage. You just want to be careful. You don't trip over yourself. So I met with folks who I knew within the industry who were friends. I'm like, how do I not say something really stupid that, that will kill the whole thing. So I remember having a conversation with Sandra Davis, Sandra Davis, good friend, good colleague. She's a African American woman. So I'm like, Sandra. I'm like, what do I call you? I African. And she's like, if you call me African American, I'll be angry. I am a black woman and I'm proud of it. I'm like, okay, check the box. So noted. I'm like. So I think part of this is the challenge of just having these direct conversations time and time and time again.

Ed: 38:07 I've seen this over my career with an FPA just starting with groups. Like, I'll just kind of, you know, I'll be brought in because you know, people know me and we're having a conversation will be me and they'll be surrounded by six, seven African American advisors and the conversation is very polite and then we start talking and then they're like, oh, you're helping us and you're part. So the conversation just goes from relatively reserved, to deep and meaningful. And I think that is one of the, we find that at least I see in the profession is the worry of saying something offensive or what could be deemed offensive. So, you know what, I don't even want to engage. Me, I tend to be a little bit more flippant about it. I'm like, you know, might you know who I am, I'm a good person and let's just have a good conversation and then head to the wine bar.

Ed: 38:52 Right? So that's the, that that's kind of the fun part. And I think, you know, from a, again, from a, from an action standpoint, um, what I tell people is just relax a little bit, right? Don't be so worried. Just just take each other for what it's what it is, because like you had said Rianka, there are some folks who just don't get this and embrace it. And I remember when FPA came out with its diversity statement, I got the angry calls from a, from a small number of members who didn't see we had a problem, the most mind boggling one was a woman from North Carolina who said, why are you pointing out that we have a problem of gender within the association? I'm like because there's like 78 percent men. I'm like, what? She's like, well, I don't see a problem. I'm like, well, I'm sorry, but off you go.

Ed: 39:42 Um one of the more challenging conversations is when FPA came out embracing sexual orientation that caused a little bit more ruffles. And as I politely told one of our members, I said, I'll agree to disagree with your position, but maybe you don't need to be a member of the association. Um, because this is what we're about. And, and again, applauding TD and I'm familiar with a lot of the work that TD does on, you know, just be yourself, that that's we want people to come in, I want to learn from people who aren't like me who have different experiences and so you're not always going to be aligned and we have to be okay with that, that, that you know, what, you don't want to join the party, your loss, but ultimately, you know, trying to, to, to grab people and get them into a bigger group and share experiences. It's what's really going to make this profession standout.

Tom: 40:29 I agree. And you know, Rianka, you had mentioned, you know, you check a lot of different boxes, right? And you know, people like Ed don't check and I don't check any of those boxes, but remember we all need each other. If we're gonna, if we're gonna make this work. And it is very interesting because I very often come across people that don't necessarily agree, but I actually like to think that they just don't understand yet. And we've had not. We have an opportunity to have dialogue with many people and get them to see the light and people are motivated by different things. Some people get passionate because of the moral imperative, you know, that that's out there. Other people need data and you need to have that data in your back pocket to demonstrate to them how listened the face of America is changing and our business needs to reflect, you know, the clients that we're going to serve on a go forward basis.

Tom: 41:26 And that goes all the way down to your, firm your workforce, you know, because your clientele is going to be very different tomorrow than it is today. And sometimes you can move the needle and get people to look at things through a different lens that may be more relevant to them and actually move people from a position that they may have held because maybe they're looking at it through the different lens. Maybe they haven't considered, you know, the full impact of or the importance of, uh, of, of diversity and inclusion. And I think having the emotional component and the, the data to back up your position. Because some people will look at it just through the lens of a business and other people will be very engaged and motivated based upon the that human engagement perspective.

Ed: 42:18 And Tom, that's a great point. If you can't motivate people through their heart, you can almost certainly motivate them to their pocketbook. So come up with the data that shows them, you know, here's, here's what increasing diversity means to your bottom line and whether they're, again, aware, unaware of that might help them as well. So it's incumbent upon all of us to use all different sort of motivation levels to make that, as you said, needle move forward a little bit.

Rianka: 42:42 Back to Ed's point of, uh, you know, just asking the right questions, right? And when it comes to a diversity, when it comes to speaking about equity and inclusion, there's no right way, you know, just like with parenting, there's no book because if there's a book on parenting, you know, please share it. Right? And so when it comes to, you know, how to approach a diversity, equity and inclusion within a specific industry, there's no right or wrong way. There's, there's no book, and so we're kind of building this together and um Ed with you sharing, you know, uh, you know, you come with good intention and it's something that Andrew shared in our previous episode, which is why I started with Andrew because we dive deep on what it means to be an ally and how can you show from a verb perspective and not, a noun how you're practicing what it means to be an ally and how to have awkward conversations. I mean, it's awkward. Um, and so how to approach someone, uh, from a teaching, from a teaching standpoint, Andrew, uh, gives really great points. So if you haven't checked out that episode, make sure you go back to episode one and, and check it out because he gives really great points. So thank you for sharing that Ed,

Ed: 44:04 You know, one of the things to bring out, this, is this is a duality, right? This is two way. So, uh, the current president of FPA, a Frank Perrey, African American, uh, was addressing the Quad A conference here in Chicago. And what he was telling the audience members was that, look, this is a two way street, you have to walk through the door, it's up to us when you walk through that door to embrace you. And I remember a great conversation I had with LeCount Davis who was the founder of Quad A and I think he was the first African American with a CFP and he, he, he remembers walking into a, an FPA chapter meeting and he's like, I am the only man of myself in this room. And Alex Armstrong, who is one of the luminaries of our profession, came up and started talking to him and, but it was LeCount having to walk through that door and having Alex there, which is again, the, the, the, the, the duality of this whole, uh, this whole movement is, it goes for both.

Ed: 45:10 Look at what you did, Rianka, you stepped up to become NexGen president, right? You didn't, you didn't get necessarily pulled into it. You're like, you know what, I'm going to go and I'm going to move forward and I'm going to try to do something with my voice. And, and, and move forward and I think that's part of it. We can't pull somebody into an FPA diversity scholarship. You actually have to apply and once you apply and should you get the scholarship, we will, our community will embrace you. But again, it kinda goes back to what Tom said earlier about, you know, reaching out to historical black colleges, right. We're going into places that normally I guess we wouldn't go into, but we're trying to pull folks in, but you've got to be a willing participant. And then to your point and what we talked about, having those good casual, candid conversations about what we need to do to make change.

Tom: 46:04 You know, Ed, to that point. I do think it's so important that if you really want to change people's minds and get them to think more broadly, everyone should start with listening rather than speaking. Right? I mean, I think Stephen Covey had a quote, seek first to understand then be understood, so many times today in our society. I think people start with pontificating rather than listening and trying to understand someone's perspective because that gives you insights into influence. You know, if you don't understand the perspective that someone else is coming from, it will be very, very difficult to change their mind. So I think taking a step back and listening, when you first, when you're engaging in that dialogue can make a world a difference in, in getting them to see your point of view.

Ed: 46:50 Was that directed at me, Tom? Or was that just a moment?

Tom: 46:54 That's a general statement.

Ed: 46:58 Yeah, it is. But again, it's that point it, it's having those conversations. Um, you know, you almost feel like telling folks, you know, what, if you, if I approach you, you whatever preconceived notions you think you have about me, I'll drop all preconceived notions about you. Now let's again just have a conversation and I think that in itself is, is having that willingness to have that conversation, letting our guard down a little bit. Um, and just having, just tell me about yourself again, that, that is sort of my passion behind diversity is I love meeting people who have different backgrounds and learning from them. And to your point, Tom, it's not about me dribbling on, it's about trying to absorb other people's experiences because I think as a person, as a practitioner to to the point, again talking less and listening more is so important, especially when we have these conversations.

Tom: 47:50 You know, there's a wonderful little four minute piece that you may have seen that Heineken did. It's called a worlds apart I believe. And the concept is you get two people very different, you know, whether it's their political views or, or you name it any at all the different ways people can be different and they don't know about each other's differences. And they come together, they get to know each other on a personal level and then there's like a reveal. And I would recommend just watching that. It's incredibly moving and I think it teaches everybody a lesson about judging people. And it's just wonderful. If you google it, it comes up, it's a four minute video and it really is very, very well done. And I think we can all learn something from it.

Rianka: 48:36 No need to google. Just go to 2050TrailBlazers.com and it'll be in the show notes. There you go. So before I let you two go and just thank you so much for being a very gracious of your time. You know, has there been any personal experience that solidified the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for you?

Tom: 49:00 So I think, you know, from myself personally, I'm always, you know, having conversations or engagements with people that almost fill up the tank and get you reinvigorated and, and focused. And you know, I'll remember early on when I first started attending some of the pride parades, um, and saw some of the protestors and it just really, you know, it, it hurt, you know, and, and at a deep level to see, you know, these are my friends, some of these are my people are my family members that I'm here marching with and for to demonstrate how important it is for everyone to be able to be your authentic self. And you know, it just struck a, uh, an emotional chord with me because I felt like, I'm not here, you know, because I just want to support them. I feel like I had a responsibility to be there when I saw that and it was a very moving experience and I would recommend getting involved in something like that and, and seeing what people go through on a, on a day to day basis, you know, that may be perceived to be different and listen, everybody deserves the right to be happy and the right to live their lives as they see fit and uh, that those types of experience I think can really be moving and motivating at the same time.

Ed: 50:30 Well, mine was a little different. Um, I had dropped my son off, I think it was a Saturday morning at a local baseball at a high school for a baseball event. I was looking for breakfast and driving around and this was the city south side. This is the woodlawn neighborhood. And uh, I saw a place with a lot of cars outside I'm like oh, okay, this is a restaurant, so I'm going to go have breakfast. And literally I walked in the door and I was the only white man in the entire place. And I'm like, just for a nanosecond, I'm like, now I get it, now I, all of the things that I've heard from all my colleagues in terms of going into FPA events or, or other events where they're like the only person of color, I'm like, I have a small understanding of what you mean.

Ed: 51:14 And literally all eyes are on me. Um, so my guess is there's not too many people of my color who show up there and sat down on the table and had a lovely breakfast and I'm like, you know what, I have at least a small amount of appreciation for what others may see when they are, when they're coming into our profession. So I. So I understood that and that really stuck out for me as one of those moments where I'm like, okay, so just a little bit more appreciation for, for what's going on. And, and it, it, it urges you on it urges, you on to sort of make a difference because you don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Uh, to your point, Tom, whether it's sexual orientation or gender or you don't want anybody to feel uncomfortable because you know what, you're a person and you know, this great country of ours, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we can make people, uh, and help people get their to their path, whether it's from our professional standpoint or, or just, you know, a kind gesture to someone else, it's, we're making the world a slightly better place.

Rianka: 52:19 That's fantastic. Thank you two, for, for sharing that. Is there, is there any last parting words that you want to leave the listeners of of 2050 trailblazers before you, before you go?

Tom: 52:30 I would just say we need everybody's help. I mean, this is a, uh, incredibly important, uh, area of focus for us, both as human beings and, uh, and as business leaders and we need everybody to, uh, to be actively engaged, to drive real change if we're going to make a difference. So please help.

Ed: 52:54 Yeah, I think from my standpoint, it's a call to action, right? It's that door, right? You've got to step up and you've got to reach out, and this is a, this is a responsibility on everyone's side is if you have misconceptions or preconceived notions about the industry, reach out. Um, if you're unsure, it's just, that's, that's the. Again, Tom mentioned earlier, it's not a brochure, it's not a website or anything like that. It's people connecting with people. And so those who are, let's say, hesitant to come into the profession because they don't look old, pale and male. Um, it's up to you to walk through the door, right? It's up to you to stand up, walk through the door, or just start eliciting and asking questions. It Rianka, you know, again, this podcast is, is another great way of reaching a broader audience to be like, Hey, listen, off we go. If there's friends and colleagues and things like that that you now bring them along, you drag them along to the next, you know, association conference or TD event or, or wherever it goes to get people actively engaged because that is the only true way we're going to make change is when we reach across, grab a hand and say, hello, welcome. I'm glad you're here. But again, that's from both sides.

Rianka: 54:05 Well thank you. You two have shared so much great actionable information, both from a organization standpoint, from a company standpoint and also from a trade organization standpoint. You two both individually are trailblazers in and have your own right and to also to be leaders or have led organizations and um, you know, with such passion, I just want to say, you know, thank you.

Ed: 54:35 Thank you very much, Rianka.

Tom: 54:36 Thank you for having us, Rianka.