S02 EP04: How Media Outlets Can Use Their Platform to Take on Diversity & Inclusion

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Suzanne Siracuse is the CEO and Publisher of Investment News. Suzanne and the rest of the leadership team at Investment News have felt strongly that bringing diversity and inclusion initiatives to the forefront of their publication wasn’t just the right thing to do - they felt that it was their responsibility as one of the leading publications in the financial services industry. Through their Women Advisor Summit Series and their Women to Watch Series, which launched several years ago, they dove head first into the diversity and inclusion conversation in both the financial services industry and the professional world as a whole.

It didn’t take long for the team at Investment News to expand their coverage beyond celebrating women in the industry. They quickly started to focus a large part of their coverage and the different programs they sponsored to promoting diverse professionals and organizations. Then Investment News took it a step further and started publishing content on diversity and inclusions best practices for advisor firms.

Conversations about diversity and inclusion can be uncomfortable, but Investment News has stepped forward as an entire platform to prioritize these conversations - which is a brave thing to do. However, they don’t see it that way. Suzanne, in particular, was shocked by how many people told her that she was brave for taking the publication in this direction. Investment News has received some backlash, which Suzanne calls, “heartbreaking.”

But this same negative feedback inspires them to keep moving forward and using their platform to continue these conversations. People want to feel included, and Suzanne believes that creating an inclusive environment in the financial services industry is imperative for its growth and success. This episode is incredibly inspiring, and takes a look at the D&I conversation from a completely new angle - you don’t want to miss this!

What You'll Learn:

  • How Investment News has used their media platform to start conversations around diversity and inclusion

  • What type of backlash they receive as a publication who is promoting inclusive movements - and why it pushes them to continue the conversation in spite of the negativity

  • What goes on behind the scenes of the various Investment News awards

  • How the Investment News team works together to continue pursuing and highlighting inclusive conversations

  • Why they continue to contribute to the inclusion movement in the financial services industry

  • What inspired Suzanne to get started creating the Women to Watch movement

  • How media outlets can provide different experiences rather than different content to include more voices on their platform

  • How other media outlets can get involved in an authentic way with the D&I movement

  • Why jumping on the “bandwagon” of diversity and inclusion isn’t enough

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript

Rianka: 00:00 The mike is hot Suzanne.

Suzanne: 00:02 I love it. I love it. This is fantastic.

Rianka: 00:05 The mike is hot. So I know you are coming off of a high with just wrapping up the excellence and diversity awards where investment news celebrated you know outstanding practices Diversity Champions.

Rianka: 00:19 Rising stars see it be it role models and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Celebrating Lecount Davis who is the nation's first black CFP professional. You know why was it so important for investment news to use your platform to highlight this.

Suzanne: 00:38 Well thank you first for her having me and for having investment news on your very important podcast series. We're all very honored.

Suzanne: 00:50 So you know we've been doing this for 20 years writing Investment News is about to celebrate its 20 year anniversary and over the years we've realized that we can't just be a news organization even though that is still a critical part of our mission and our strategy. We've realized that we had quite a platform. We have not only most financial advisors reading us on a daily or weekly basis but we also had the industry reading us. And when you have that kind of a situation it allows you to step back and say are we doing everything that we can to make this industry as great as we think it is and as great as the many people that I've met over the years are. And I think the diversity and inclusion initiative was something that we as a group as a leadership team at investment news felt was our responsibility to go that next step and really bring this to the forefront of the industry. We started as you know with our women to, women advisors summit series and then our women to watch series, saw the success of it, both from a

Suzanne: 02:14 I would say the feedback that we got from our attendees at our events from people that were reading what we were producing and publishing and but we also felt that there was a movement that was starting to happen in a good way. Women were getting even more confident there were more and more women being highlighted in the industry and we definitely felt like our initiative had something to do with that.

Rianka: 02:39 Yeah

Suzanne: 02:39 We thought let's do this but not just women but for you know all types of diversity.

Rianka: 02:47 Absolutely. And the women advisor summit it holds a special place in my heart. So I'm going to make sure we touch on that specifically here in a moment. And you know going back to the excellence and diversity awards you know I recall us just having a catch up conversation about it and super bummed that I could not make it.

Rianka: 03:07 But I know you are. Or Investment News is going to have a similar award ceremony next year. Is that correct.

Suzanne: 03:14 Absolutely. So we started out last year with um we started out this year I should say. With the fact that. We wanted to not just do an awards ceremony but we actually wanted to devote a good amount of our coverage to the important people and practices that were doing right and doing it well. So we grabbed Gabriel, who's our editorial director, and I wrote a letter to the industry a column to the industry that we published the first issue in investment news this year 2018. And we basically said we are going to highlight individuals of diverse backgrounds that have made a difference and are role models to the industry and we call that. That. Section of our

Suzanne: 04:09 Coverage personal journeys and then we also devoted a column that would appear once a month on best practices in diversity and inclusion through your firms and both of those. Basically enabled us to start learning more about what was important when we formed our D&I advisory board that was going to help us with our event and with our award and recognition.

Suzanne: 04:43 Awards and what they stood for. We knew that we were starting with some really good content and really good examples of who should be recipients of those awards. And again it can't just be about awards it's actually got to be more than that it's got to be part of our mission and that's what I think we've been able to do at investment news. So the culmination of the awards ceremony which was last week. And to see the work that was done to meet the people that we highlighted and recognized to hear them and to see them interact with each other was a really important, and one of the I think standout moments of my career quite frankly

Rianka: 05:35 Suzanne let me tell you I was following along on Twitter and famo the fear of missing out hit an all time high.

Rianka: 05:44 Suzanne, I'll tell you because it wasn't only just you know recognizing some awesome practitioners and firms and organizations who are truly moving the needle when it comes to diversity equity and inclusion. You also had a morning kind of like think tank where you had panels and you had very important conversations around specifically gender and racial diversity.

Suzanne: 06:11 Yes. And LGBTQ as well

Rianka: 06:14 And LGBTQ. Yes I saw that and I was just like this is amazing. What what are you all going to do with that information.

Suzanne: 06:23 So we have the entire thing transcribed and we'll be using it or stories we'll be using it to help us form webcast content. We're going to be producing a web cast on it.

Rianka: 06:37 It was recorded?

Suzanne: 06:40 We, no, actually it's transcribed. But we're going to use kind of those highlights and create a Web cast around

Rianka: 06:48 okay that's going to be amazing.

Suzanne: 06:49 Yeah it's going to lead off January, in January of 2019. So some of the things that we learned it's really on that premise, you know what did we learn from this year of really devoting coverage time and effort and resources to making sure that we were highlighting this important initiative and you know factor that is going to I think represent a huge part of the growth of the financial services industry.

Suzanne: 07:25 So again we were really excited to meet a lot of the people that we wrote about. They're all so very humble but they also really want to get the word out. So it was it was a perfect opportunity.

Rianka: 07:40 Yeah. And you know there are there's a lot of talk right now and I'm sure you are hearing this as well is that we all feel in the financial services industry that there's just this wave of you know D&I initiatives and you know some organizations are jumping on this bandwagon to make them feel good feel better about themselves and a lot of people feel like it's more so ceremonial. But the reason why I specifically asked you and the reason why I wanted to highlight the investment news platform on 2050 TrailBlazers is because you all have a, a history of highlighting diversity in a way that is not just ceremonial. And I think you just explained it very clearly here where yes part of you know the Excellence in Diversity Awards was acknowledging people who are doing phenomenal things, giving them a platform so that they can continue the great conversation that they've started within their nucleus within their sphere of influence. But now that they're on investment news we know that that's going to broaden their reach. But also you all are repurposing that content that you all had with the conversations earlier in the day. And so yeah you guys are not just you know talking to talk but you're walking the walk as well and something that you had mentioned that you know quite a few people came up to you and said that you were brave.

Suzanne: 09:28 Yeah, um, that was, like shocking to me, you know people were, First of all thank you for doing this. Thank you and to the team for highlighting this, and it's really important for a variety of reasons. Wow you're pretty brave to take this on, and I just thought that was so, I don't know I never thought of it that way you know what I mean, I'm like it's something that needs to happen. We're the I say voice of the industry and it's our responsibility to do something. When you see injustice or when you see something that you think could be better if you got involved in it why wouldn't you do that.

Suzanne: 10:16 So again I think for not just me but the entire team at investment news like this was not something that we deliberated on, it was, like, yeah. Okay great. Now how do we do it. OK let's do X Y Z. Here's plan. And listen, we we made sure that we enlisted people that were experts in this in the industry that represented diversity and got their opinion to make sure that we were heading down the right path.

Suzanne: 10:47 Because you know we're going to make mistakes along the way. We're not perfect but we really have passion around it and we believe it's the right thing to do. And you believe it's an important thing to do. And by the way this is not to detract from the non diverse people in the financial advice industry. This is just to give a voice for those that really don't have one or haven't had a large enough one and we feel that's important, it'll just make the industry better. So yeah, so I never looked at it as brave. But, um, yeah I just was like the right thing to do.

Rianka: 11:27 Well what you'll are doing are brave you know and D&I. And you know. Not a lot of people feel that it's necessary within the financial service industry. That's shocking to me. But yeah there's a lot of people who don't feel like we need to be having these conversations around diversity and inclusion around gender diversity racial diversity LGBTQ. And the list goes on as far as the many facets of diversity which is a beautiful thing. But yeah a lot of people don't think these conversations are important. So what you are doing is brave because you are highlighting something that, it's very uncomfortable. These conversations can get uncomfortable. And when you step forward and not only put yourself forward but your entire platform forward there could be potential backlash and has your company or have you received any type of backlash for standing up for something like this.

Suzanne: 12:33 Unfortunately, yes. So, years ago we did a story on same sex marriage and the legalization of same sex marriage. And what that would do to benefits and why advisors need to be paying attention to that and how that would be, that would impact same sex couples, et cetera. And we weren't even taking an opinion on it, we were just stating the facts. And we had several cancellations of our, of people subscribing to our newspaper. We had several letters written to us you know Why are you covering this and you know et cetera, so we knew then that that listen in.

Suzanne: 13:29 That's the beauty I guess of the U.S.A. is that you do have freedom of speech freedom of expression et cetera. So people feel free to provide us with their feedback. But again we we also felt like this was facts that we were putting forth. Imagine if we actually were purposely going out and saying we want to give a voice to those that you don't really have one in this industry. So we knew that there would be potential backlash and about a year and a half ago. The American College was awarding a scholarship for some of their courses to an African-American financial advisor. So we were doing some things in the college and I said We'll donate an ad to promote that, right. Right. Oh great. Thanks so much. And you know I do that on occasion with a lot of nonprofits, invest in others, the foundation for financial planning, et cetera, and we had a meeting with them probably three weeks after the ad ran and I was like How did you know, did you get feedback, and their like oh yeah we got a you know we got a lot of you know good people you know submitting nominations for scholarships and then yeah it was great, advertising works.

Suzanne: 14:59 But then they pulled out the ad and they showed me a yellow post-it note that someone had scribbled a very hateful message on about you know why are we bothering to do this etc.. So they had gotten feedback directly you know and um, to see it actually written down and was just it was heartbreaking.

Suzanne: 15:27 But that just made us even more confident that we were hitting a nerve and that we were going to continue to you know again I go back to help provide a platform for those that don't you don't really have that. And um. And then we also recently with our D&I efforts I've gotten personal letters and we've gotten cancellations of our subscription and what I would say is if anyone out there that is listening to this or hears this and think that we're going overboard or what have you. Please know that this is, we're trying to be inclusive which means human nature people want to feel included. And we do believe that an inclusive environment in the financial services and financial advice industry is imperative for its growth and success. And you know just to be able to make some difference and to highlight someone of a diverse background whether it's LGBTQ whether it's racial whether it's gender and have people young people older people that are seeing that and saying wow I know I can do it. Wow I never thought of that as a career. I think I'm going to give it a shot, because look, so-and-so did it. Or you know they're really producing some great research in that area. And I know I could be helpful to help the next generation of investors with that.

Suzanne: 17:08 That's important stuff. So we're not, we're not going to not do that. And so I hope that the people that are skeptical realize that we're doing it because it's not only the right thing to do it's also you know good for business and good for the industry.

Rianka: 17:25 Absolutely. I 100 percent agree with you. And yeah thank you. Thank you for the time and energy that not only you but your team. You have a phenomenal team that work with you. And just thank you for what you all are doing because you don't have to do this. You know you can just have stories about you know just personal finance and investors and Millennials or Gen X or baby boomers and social security optimization strategies. But you are you know moving in a different in a different space where it's you're becoming a multimedia multipurpose multifaceted platform and it's needed. It's definitely needed. So thank you and thank you to the team for doing what you're doing. And you know this excellence in diversity is not the first of your recognitions or think tanks. I think people they just see the awards what they don't know is that there are think tanks in the morning time so with the investment news 40 under 40 with the women's advisor summit with the women to watch, there. It's like yes we're celebrating these individuals. But what a great opportunity to bring these individuals together and so much there's so much brain power in one room. When you bring these individuals together. So the Excellence in diversity is not your first rodeo in a sense of pushing this diversity agenda forward. If if I recall it started with you know 40 under 40.

Suzanne: 19:18 Absolutely. And first let me just say thank you for your comments around the team because again I may be the face of the organization at times and on this podcast I'm the voice of it but it is, we are really close team and they are the ones that reporters and editors are producing the amazing content, you know events team helping to execute on all of these things. Regarding the think tanks and the awards ceremonies such you know the marketing team the sales team I mean everybody, its the audience team I mean multimedia.

Suzanne: 20:04 We're not a large company let's put it that way right. So everybody has their hands in making these initiatives a success and creating importance around it and talking about it and sharing it on social media and talking to their sources about it and their clients about it.

Suzanne: 20:23 So it's been great, but yeah you're right. Like so, 40 under 40 is a franchise we started, a, we just had our 5th year and and it was interesting because we would do it was you know there was a lot of art work goes into it as you see in some of the wonderful visual treatments that we have digitally. It's a lot of work. I want to say anytime you do an awards program and soliciting nominations and going through them and reading every single one of them think about it, that's like in addition, that was nobody's one job, like that was just, you know what i mean

Suzanne: 21:02 And we get together as a group at the end and vote on who we we believe is you know the best suited to receive it that year. And you know we did it for several years before there was any kind of under anyone underwriting it. Helping us underwrite it because listen media has undergone quite the a quite the evolution as well. So in order to do these programs and continue them and do them well we very much need help from the financial services community to help us underwrite some of this. Cause it does cost a lot of money and we even years without it being underwritten the 40 Under 40 initiative was critically important we're like oh my gosh we better start highlighting and focusing on the next generation of advisors and leaders in the industry. What's more important than that quite frankly.

Rianka: 22:03 Absolutely, and from a and from a diversity standpoint from a from you know I think we keep talking about it but I think it's going to hit full full on in a few years. But there is a talent shortage. And so as far as just CFP professionals there are more over the age of 70 than there are under the age of 30. And so from a diversity standpoint if you are under 40 that is diversity. I mean you are young in this profession and there's not many of you. And so again being that ally that investment news is you will all have started highlighting and giving these individuals a platform. I can only share what investment news have done for me and my platform because of 40 under 40. And so being in its fifth year times that by 40 individuals like that's multiplied. That is a platform a voice that you have given so hundreds of other people.

Suzanne: 23:05 Yes it's pretty. It's pretty cool. And we feel really great about it especially when the 40s that we've selected go on to do amazing things like like yourself and so many others that are you know not only not only leaders but they're they're changing makers. And in fact we started. A think tank. Around our 40 Under 40 called Future of Business by the future of the business and it's only open to our 40 Under 40s from that year and alumni. And we did it for the first time three years ago and found out that you know we're like What are the most important things that you're worried about. You know and of course you know the talent shortage always comes up but financial literacy was the. Was the thing that really was sticking out with them. And of course you know how technology is going to impact business but financial literacy piece really made us

Suzanne: 24:08 I think sit up and really pay attention to it. So we started to focus a bit more of our efforts around learning about that. I'm really excited to say that that was our thinktank for women to watch this year's topic. And it was so popular. And we feel like we haven't even scratched the surface. We're embarking on a research paper around it. We are actually going to be continuing our discussion around financial literacy we're working with some of the 40 under 40s to create a portal we're going to be launching a part of or Web site that will be resources for financial advisors looking to be more involved in financial literacy in their communities or you know back to their high school and what can you do. You know one person can make a difference if embraced by many, right. So how do we keep the momentum going and I think that's what we're trying to do with all of these initiatives whether it's our you know women advisor summits which we are expanding to six cities next year. Our women to.

Rianka: 25:23 What

Suzanne: 25:23 Yeah I know. I know I never in a million years thought that was going to happen.

Rianka: 25:28 Did it start off with, it started off with two or three?

Suzanne: 25:32 It started off with 1 and it started off with a female executive basically saying to me I think it was like TD Ameritrade conference or something. You know Suzanne you know as a woman publisher why are you doing an event for women. And I said Well you know I thought about it and I just don't know, doesn't that doesn't mean that we're treating everyone special and shouldn't if we're equal shouldn't we all be you know embracing all the same things and she made me think about it differently. She's like you don't have to have different content you just need to provide a different experience because, have you ever walked into a room, and I know you have, in this industry and felt like wow there's no one here that looks or sounds or acts like me. A lot of people in this industry have never felt that. And when you go to like I went to the Association of the African-American financial advisor conference and I was minority there and I can only imagine how that feels for minorities walking into some of these large industry conferences where there's you know no one that looks or sounds or acts like them and so how do you create an experience that is really highlighting your uniqueness and that's what the women advisor summit did and in fact so we tried it you know as we always do, let's try one.

Suzanne: 27:11 And so we tried it and it was successful and people came and sponsors said okay we'll try you for next year. So we did three. We did our first one in Chicago and then we did our second one in Washington D.C. and that is when we talked a little bit about last week when we were speaking about. It was great we saw these women come in and also there was say there was like I think maybe 125 women there, financial advisor women and we had about 10 percent African-American women. Which was the most I've ever seen in any of these events in terms of percentage. And they I mean you were one of them.

Rianka: 28:03 Yes.

Suzanne: 28:03 They were so excited to see not only women but to see women of color there. And there is a camaraderie there is a oh my gosh. You know. Did you ever have this happen or just sharing experiences that you want to share with people that have gone through the same thing or that think the same way and there's nothing wrong with that. And to see the friendships that were formed that day and the networking abilities that were formed that day. And it just cemented in my head and everyone else from investment news that was there. That OK we need to keep doing this and we need to make it bigger. And each year our women advisor summits got bigger and now we're like OK, we added Denver this year we had a record number there and we're going to add two more cities next year. Our women to watch event again trying that for the first time. Had no idea how it was going to go. And from you know from the first one that we did where we had I think 200 people supporting our first women to watch luncheon, to having over 400 this year in just three years and call to action that I'm sure people find like I don't know. I'm I'm very I'd say in people's face at times. Like OK, there's some major firms that are in here. You have women leaders, you have women advisors, you have women clients, please support this effort. And we're moving the needle.

Suzanne: 29:44 The goal is to have over 500 at our one in March. So and with our D&I one, our first year we had close to 250 at the luncheon and that's a great start. But there were still major firms not there so they are getting a phone call from me, you know

Rianka: 30:05 Be on watch, major firms, Suzanne is calling,

Suzanne: 30:08 I will be calling saying please support this please. It means so much to the people that are there. It means so much to, we actually get a lot of not a lot that we get students that attend the regionally sponsored and this year they were sponsored by one of our See it be it role models and we had ten a Delaware State financial planning students that came they were all they were all of diverse backgrounds and they were amazing. They came up after they were like thank you so much for having us. Thank you for doing this. And I feel inspired and I wasn't sure. And now after hearing some of the people that spoke I saw myself in this person or this person I mean that's why we do it, you ask like why are we doing this, like that's really the main reason, we better it does matter, and you know if we want this industry to keep growing and keep being successful and relevant then you better you know think about this stuff. So yeah yeah

Rianka: 31:21 It matters. It matters. And this is this is how investment news is moving the needle right. You all are. This whole year honestly has had coverage around D&I. Very intentionally. And also from the you know think tanks the award recognition ceremonies what can other media organizations do? And this initiative in their own authentic way.

Rianka: 31:53 Like what. What is some advice for other media organizations who may be afraid because of the potential backlash of saying yeah you know we want to step into the D&I space. But what about our subscribers or we want to step into the D&I space, but you know we're afraid to do it wrong. What just what advice do you have what what what were some of the learning curves or the learning opportunities that you had encountered or your team because you all just went into the unknown and said we're going to do this.

Suzanne: 32:33 So that's a great question and I think that, media, anyone that's involved in media, right, like meaning editors writers publishers anyone that really has a responsibility around content and content creation and content initiatives you go into media knowing that they are going to be times you're not popular. Right? So. You know I think back on a movie that I saw when I was growing up that was very influential to why I was fascinated with media and that was All the President's Men and how Washington Post reporters broke the Watergate story. Right. And if it wasn't for their commitment to getting to the truth, I don't know I don't know what would have happened. Right.

Suzanne: 33:34 And listen, we, every media outlet out there has had situations where they've had to write something not so nice about one of their advertisers. Um, not that it's not so nice, it's that's true that they just don't want it broadcast or why are you harping on that. Etc. and you so you have to really maintain that Church and State mentality. It's incredibly important because readers are smart. And they will see right through it if you do not call people out out when they need to be called out.

Suzanne: 34:10 So having said that, I think that people in media are predisposed to try to do the right thing and to be the watchdog for whatever industry they're covering, right, whether it's the New York Times or Washington Post covering politics or government or large corporations or whether it's you know investment news and everyone else in the industry that's covering the financial advice industry. We do have a responsibility we are a watchdog for the individual investor and to make to help make the financial advice community the best that it can be, right. So one thing is we're already there. The media is already predisposed to that. So what are some of the things.

Suzanne: 34:57 Well I think you have to believe it. You have to be, you have to be authentic. Because I think as you mentioned earlier you do see companies that are jumping on the D&I bandwagon. And you can tell which ones are you know kind of half are dipping their toe in or half in it, or doing it just because their boss told them to. And then you see ones that embrace it, it's part of their mission it's part of their core values. We talked a lot about that in our thinktank. Julia Carlson who founded this firm Financial Freedom. She was one of our 40 under 40s and she was her firm was one of the firms that won this year at our D&I event. And it's all back to core values for her, they don't hire people that don't feel the same way. Now it's a small firm and so you're much more nimble to be able to do, to be able to structure your firm like that. But you can tell when people are authentic. And when they're just kind of oh maybe I should be doing this as everybody else doing it.

Suzanne: 36:07 So that would be the second thing is that you have to have someone in leadership that is, that really cares about it and is willing to take the chance and is willing to devote resources to it. And then I would say take a page out of Bloomberg's book. Meaning I think I read, it's like a year ago where they said, you know they're always being asked moderate panels on a variety of different topics in the mainstream business community. And they said we will not you know we will not do that unless we see diversity on the panel that are that we're asked to moderate. And I thought that was really, what a message, and what a message from that kind of a news organization. So, getting our cues from someone like that and then implementing it implementing them into what we do at investment news is critical. And every single media outlet has the opportunity to do something, the same kind of way. And I think you know in our industry you know there are several media outlets that are trying to do that and I say great keep doing it but try and do it in a way that makes the most sense for what you believe and where your expertise is, as opposed to just kind of doing it because everybody is telling you to or it's the thing to do or what have you. It goes back to being authentic and really really caring.

Rianka: 37:42 So investment news I am 100 percent sure that if you have a reporter or someone that wants to cover a story let's say for example around LGBTQ and they could potentially go to Fred who's you know one of the editors or go to someone else on the team and say hey I want to cover this without a doubt knowing the thread of of culture and inclusion that you all have at investment news Fred would say sure of course and let me know how I can support you. However what advice do you have for reporters at other organizations or other media outlets who maybe want to cover topics such as LGBTQ racial diversity gender diversity and constantly being told no and shut down. What advice can you give them.

Suzanne: 38:37 Sure. I can't even believe that again I go back to being shocked and like I can't believe that somebody an editor or publisher tell a reporter purposely don't cover that. I mean there has to be a point to this.

Rianka: 38:54 You'd be surprised.

Suzanne: 38:56 Wow. There has to be a point to the story, right. Like the reporter has to come up with like a good like here's why I want to do this. Here's why I think it's important. And if they've done that and they're still being shut down. I would say you can do a couple things. You can continue to push it because nothing will change. If it's not, if it's not confronted. Or you get get others behind you to say this is why I think it's important to cover this. And then I would really question the leadership of why they don't feel something that should be covered when it's obviously an important issue affecting our industry. And again that's what media is supposed to do. So have all your ducks in a row have your eyes dotted your T's crossed and if you've done all of that and still no movement I would get others to help around you to help support. And then if that doesn't work then I would you know either seriously question the the the team that is leading the charge. Unfortunately.

Rianka: 40:11 Yeah. And you know the reason why I asked this question because 2050 trailblazers has had the lens of financial planners and financial advisers and ways to support them within their practices and within their firms. But having you on from a media standpoint your your job is just as important with covering these topics and around diversity equity and inclusion. And so there are diverse reporters out there who want to cover this and are being told no or not being told no directly but in a roundabout way of Oh but let's cover this social security optimization strategy. I don't know why I keep bringing that up but. But yeah. So thank you for that and hopefully for the reporters that are out there who keep getting pushed back that hopefully something Suzanne shared that can can help you in this. And something that you mentioned offline Suzanne that I want to share with the listeners is that you know here recently you've changed your hiring practice.

Rianka: 41:21 And again this is for the media outlets out there also sharing with those who want to be in financial services but may not want to be a financial planner. There are so many career options and avenues and being a reporter it could potentially be one of them. And so you mentioned that you changed your hiring practices and and you have a diverse team. And I honestly think that's why when you put on these various initiatives and think tanks they are done extremely well because you have a diverse team who can bring you know diverse thought and cognitive thought to the forefront and is not just you know a

Suzanne: 42:09 it's not lip service. It's just not lip service. Yeah.

Rianka: 42:14 Yeah, it's not lip service.

Suzanne: 42:15 You know one of the secondary benefits I would say to spending and devoting our,more time on being on this topic over the last year was you inevitably learn something yourself not just you know we're not just you know kind of preaching to the industry. This is what you should do and blah blah blah. You know that has to sink into your own firm.

Suzanne: 42:41 And we recently were sold by Crane Communications who had started us who launched us 20 years ago. We were sold to a very small London based company and so we're part of a really small company now but it's very exciting. One of the things that had us excited quite frankly was the three pillars of their mission statement which was around they want to focus on investing, they wanted to focus on technology and they wanted to focus on diversity. And so all of those things are very important to what we're covering at investment news. And we spent a lot of time with their leadership and so far so good. Right. Two months in but so far so great it's been wonderful. But through that transition a little more responsibility came to me and that meant not having to follow exactly the way another company our parent company had dictated for many years which there was nothing wrong with it, it was just it was just a formula. Well now you know that kind of falls on to me. So we decided through feedback that we were going to instead of having you know the hiring manager you know make all the decisions on the hiring of who they're bringing into our organization.

Suzanne: 44:13 It was going to be a team approach and that on that team we were going to have a diverse set of hiring perspectives. Meaning if we are hiring someone that was in a position where they had less experience, it was more of a junior position. Why is it all senior people deciding who that what that person's going to be and what their job is going to be etc.. So instead we're trying to have peers become more involved in the hiring process so that we can better identify who would fit in with our culture as well as have a peer articulate what our culture is from their perspective and it's been, like we hired five people over the last I would say 6 weeks and using that practice that new practice and I don't think we ever hired faster. And so far they're all like knocking it out of the park and for whatever reason it may not be purposeful. They're they're all diverse they're all diverse candidates. There are five women and two are minorities.

Suzanne: 45:32 So and that wasn't even you know I'm not saying it wasn't even like. That's exactly what we're setting out to do. That's just what happens when we have a diverse group go through the hiring process. So learning that along the way learning how we can be a better team a better culture. Just from listening to some of our you know role model winners some of our rising stars some of the firms and of course being inspired by Lecount our lifetime achievement award winner. You know we we will be able to take a lot of what was discussed at the think tank and at the awards not only to say communicate out to the industry at large but to our own internal practices and that's just what an amazing benefit I think firms that go back and go through this process themselves and that start to pay attention to it happening within their own organizations we will see that secondary benefit come shining through.

Rianka: 46:49 I spoke with a couple of your colleagues before this interview and you don't know this. Hahaha

Suzanne: 46:55 Now I'm scared.

Rianka: 46:57 and I know you don't like being on the forefront. I know you like to be behind the scenes but I do want to highlight your career just a little bit before I let you go. Because any time I asked any one of your colleagues about you and I was very excited to let them know like yeah, I'm having Suzanne on 2050 trailblazers and you just see like this elatedness of just like yeah she is the culture at investment news is a reflection of her. And how you are a visionary and how I think you just played down the the transition that had that happen from you know the crane communications family to now being a publicly traded on the U.K. investment news. And how no one lost their job and how much you fought for the integrity of of what investment news stood for and you fought for your staff.

Rianka: 48:05 You fought for a lot of things and then ultimately how you're just an amazing person overall. And so we have to highlight how you came from you know salesperson starting off in the beginning to now you're the CEO What did that look like. I know that's a big question

Suzanne: 48:31 So. Well first I'll say that luckily I didn't have to fight too hard for my team because Von Hill Group which is our new owner wanted everybody and so that was. But to fight to make sure the Von Hill Group was our owner was very important to me and to the other leaders at investment news. So yes that was quite the. That's another. That would be another podcast going through a merger and acquisition oh my lord.

Suzanne: 49:06 I didn't know what I didn't know let's put it that that way. So yeah I started in sales and I would say to now be the CEO of Investment News which has been a passion. Has been I've had, I've gone through so many life experiences during my 20 years at investment news. I definitely consider it my family. I definitely consider it like a part of me. So I was very happy when we were sold to someone that wanted to keep it intact and just grow it and was giving me the reins to kind of do some things that we've wanted to do for awhile so that in itself is incredibly exciting in terms of you know you know did I think I was going to be a CEO one day. I probably didn't think about that but I definitely always wanted to lead. That's been an important part of my journey and I've learned quite a bit. I am certainly not perfect and I learned a lot in 20 years and did a lot made a lot of mistakes and hopefully have tried to correct them over the years. But the thing that I've been has always kept a fire burning. Was the fact that my. I was very lucky to have parents that told me that I could do whatever I wanted.

Suzanne: 50:49 Meaning they supported me in everything that I wanted to do. They were my biggest cheerleaders. They never, especially my dad, my dad was older when he had me. And you know it was from the silent generation or you know he fought in World War Two a very strong silent man. And he was very much a proponent for me to go to college and to have a career and to find what my passion was in life.

Suzanne: 51:29 And that was critical. And I guess I feel so bad for people that don't have that and that they have to be self-motivated and I think part of it is you do have to be self-motivated. But boy does it help if you've got parents or a mother or father or an aunt or an uncle or a cousin or brother and sister or sister they are cheering you on. I think that that is really really an essential part of giving confidence to know that you can do big things and important things. So I think that that's just a really critical step. I also think that I'm happy that I've had a team that has provided me feedback. Right. So if you're a leader and you don't seek out feedback from people around you that work for you that are colleagues that are peers that are people you do business with. I think that's a critical error. And sometimes it's hard to hear and sometimes you disagree and sometimes you don't want to hear it. But that would be a really important leadership lesson is seek out feedback. You don't have it all figured out and try and take it in in the intention that it was meant.

Rianka: 53:00 That was amazing feedback Suzanne as far as just like what other leaders can do. And I think it's important for them. Other CEOs other professionals in C suite level to hear that that it's OK to receive feedback. You don't have it all figured out and if you do maybe you need to change careers because what's the challenge. You know I think we all should be in a position to receive feedback so that we can better ourselves because when we better ourselves we are you know just a better team member a better colleague. And all of that. So what's next Suzanne. I mean what's next. With investment news you have a new owner now a new parent company. Yeah. What's next.

Suzanne: 53:52 So I think you know we're going to continue just making our you know 40 Under 40 women to watch women advisor summit D&I initiatives bigger and more important, and out in the forefront and having a platform like this. Definitely helps. So thank you. We are we're going to embark on a bit more around financial literacy because I think actually financial literacy ties in very directly to diversity and inclusion and the initiatives and importance of that, starting young and educating people on that. You know money isn't a scary thing that it's a critical thing. And there are ways to learn about it that aren't boring. There are some amazing initiatives out there. So our goal is to highlight a lot of those initiatives next year. And actually we're starting in December with. One of our big cover stories on financial literacy the importance for it for the growth of the industry and how advisers can help. Right. I think that I think advisors are awesome. They're great people. The majority of them that I know that are great. There's a few bad apples just like in any industry and unfortunately media does cover a lot of the bad apples so you know let's try and try and shed some positive light on what's going on in this business. But the, there's a lot of financial advisers that want to help, that want to be a part of the solution and they just don't know where to start.

Suzanne: 55:41 So we're going to try and put together a portal of sorts to make it easy for them to access and figure out how they can help and how that is going to inevitably help investors and and help our economy and also help our talent shortage and increase diversity in the financial services industry. Financial literacy I think can help all of those things. So that's I would say is the next big thing. And then you know I think one thing to leave with would be around something that I was inspired by Michelle Obama, she just gave an interview last week around her girls initiative. And she said something really important that I'm going to take in and reflect on as we move forward into 2019 with our initiatives and that was like let's let's not let everything be fear based let's let's really focus on hope. And so even so taking that back to the D&I initiatives.

Suzanne: 56:56 A lot of the jargon, or a lot of the language that I hear including from us is you know if you don't get onboard the D&I bandwagon you're going to be out of a job you're not going to have any clients. You know you're going to be out of touch. You know people aren't going to want the products you're selling, whatever it may be. But it's it's very fear focused, and if we can instead shift it into hope. And there are going to be more people that need your help. And so let's look at it from that perspective and say Look at all new investors that are going to need assistance. And let's hope that we can diversify not only our client base but our, would it be, it could be the products that we have the services that we offer so that everyone in this country can get some kind of financial advice. And I know your model is very much in tune with that Rianka and a lot of the younger advisors that I'm talking to are very focused on that. So I would say Let's stop thinking about it coming at it from a fear perspective and really start looking at it from a optimistic or hopeful perspective because there is so much to be optimistic about and there's so much to be hopeful about.

Rianka: 58:26 Wow thank you so much, Suzanne. And there's no better way to end the conversation than on hope. So thank you so much for your time and sharing all of your wisdom here on 2050 trailblazers. I really appreciate you and your time.

Suzanne: 58:41 Thank you so much. All of us investment news appreciate this opportunity and congratulations on you're doing.

Rianka: 58:47 Thank you Suzanne.