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Diversity Sorely Lacking in Advisory Business, Says Head of Minority-Run Firm

May 20, 2010
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Financial advisors must work to add more diversity to their offices so that they can better serve a growing minority population, an industry leader said.

But too often, minorities don’t even consider the financial services industry as a career, said John Rogers, chairman and chief executive of Ariel Investments. Rogers spoke at the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors national conference in Chicago.

“You have to have the right products for this diverse clientele that you’ll be servicing and the right people on your team to service this clientele,” said Rogers, who leads the largest minority-run mutual fund.

He encouraged financial advisors to reach out to schools in their communities to teach young students about the financial services industry. Too often, Rogers said, children don’t learn about the stock market in public schools.

In fact, he became interested in the market when his father began buying him shares of stocks as birthday gifts when he turned 12.

Because his father’s interest in the stock market helped foster his own love for the industry, Rogers became an avid fan of money management. He said his firm works closely with schoolchildren, even giving them money to invest in the stock market.

Rogers concedes, however, that it’s a struggle getting minorities into the business. While the industry has made strides, the efforts will take years. He pointed out that it has been difficult for him to attract minorities to his firm—either as employees or clients.

“I had this hope that I’d have a whole lot of minority customers,” he said. “We probably have more than other mutual fund companies, but it’s still a long time in the process.”

He added that, after 27 years, “I’m still working at it.”

Filed by Lisa Shidler of InvestmentNews, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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