Changing the Financial Services Industry One Conversation at a Time

4 min read
January 21, 2019

Three weeks before his assassination, Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, urged every gay person to come out:

As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell your neighbors. You must tell people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. And once they realize that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.

Even now, more than 40 years later, the LGBTQ community’s most powerful weapon is simple, although not necessarily easy—we need to show those in the majority that they know, love, or serve people like us.

Open, ordinary interactions can help destroy the myths, stereotypes, and “otherness” associated with being LGBTQ.

I’ve used this theory of conversation and connection as fuel for my diversity and inclusion work within the financial industry. A 2016 study authored by David Broockman at Stanford University and Joshua Kalla at the University of California Berkeley found that a simple 10-minute, non-confrontational conversation with a transgender person can significantly help combat anti-transgender attitudes.

Personalizing these issues by telling stories about our lives and challenges can help us succeed in improving diversity and inclusion.

Rianka Dorsainvil and her podcast 2050 TrailBlazers show just how powerful of a role conversation plays in moving the needle. This podcast aims to spark conversation about diversity and inclusion (or the lack of it) in the financial planning industry. For two seasons and counting, the podcast has shown how telling personalized stories can teach us all to be better, more inclusive advisors.

The Birth of the Idea

Rianka founded her financial planning firm, Your Greatest Contribution, in 2015, after working in the industry for six years. She’s the president of that firm and a leading voice on diversity and inclusion within the financial advice industry.

In the decade Rianka has been involved in our industry, she has gathered an impressive list of awards and achievements. She was named to InvestmentNews 2018 Rising Star Award and the 2015 40 under 40 award, as well as Financial Advisor Magazine’s 10 Young Advisors to Watch.

She credits owning her own firm with allowing her to be her full authentic self: “My realness and authenticity is what helped bring people in.” That authenticity lead to happiness, and that happiness turned into success.

But despite her success, Rianka often felt like an outsider at industry conferences and events. Diversity seminars drew the same set of participants, time after time. And, time after time, she was asked to share her own experiences to move the needle forward. She originally had reservations about taking on such a large task. Instead of asking herself “Why should I do this?” she asked herself “Why shouldn’t I do this?”

Progress Through Conversation

Still, Rianka embraced her calling and looked for ways to extend her audience. A podcast, she thought, would give her the best platform for telling stories about diversity and inclusion. The format seemed more conducive to focused listening than industry conferences. It was private and personal and available whenever people had time to tune in.

She named her podcast after a study that predicted minorities would be the majority in America by 2050. But while the country might be on its way to transforming into a big beautiful mosaic, the financial services industry was not. She set out to change that through conversation.

In the first season, she built a foundation for understanding diversity and inclusion. She had dynamic speakers like Cy Richardson, a member of the CFP Board’s Diversity Advisory Group, Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a long-standing thought leader in our industry, and Phuong Luong, a rising star, to share their experiences with diversity and inclusion. They explored diversity statistics both in the profession and in the United States as a whole.

The podcast didn’t just focus on problems, it also highlighted possible solutions to bring the profession into alignment with a more diverse America.

Rianka was shocked by the positive response to Season One. “The hope is that you’re not preaching to the choir,” she said. “The hope is that not just black and brown people are listening.”

And that wasn’t the case. After the very first episode, she had white men and women reaching out. This led to even more conversations about what people didn’t know, their role in the problem, and what they could do to help.

These discussions lead to a second season focused on allyship. The podcast explored what effective allyship looks like and how it has or hasn’t worked in the presenters’ lives. She had conversations around trailblazing inclusivity on a corporate level, exploring dynamic allyship, and how white women can use their privilege to move the industry forward. The response to this season has been even more overwhelming, and she realized the importance of having these conversations and people sharing their stories.

“With the diversity and inclusion movement that’s happening in the personal finance industry, it can’t just be black and brown people standing up talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion,” she said. “It needs to be all of us.”

Keeping the Conversation Going

The podcast’s success inspired Rianka to keep the conversation going. She’s embarking on a third season that will delve into the unique traditions and ideas of money and familial financial responsibility across different cultures. This will help us as advisors improve our planning process and make our firms more inclusive.

Rianka is also sharing the lessons she’s learned from the first two seasons of her podcast in XYPN Diversity Committee’s first quarterly conversation of 2019. She’ll highlight why having open and honest conversations is so important when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion. She’ll also provide specific tools and techniques she’s learned from these conversations that can help us all become better advisors.

Join the XYPN Diversity Committee’s Quarterly Conversation on Thursday, January 24 to learn how you can help change our industry one conversation at a time.


About the Author

Brian Thompson, JD, CFP® is the founder of Brian Thompson Financial LLC. His firm specializes in helping LGBTQ couples set and achieve their goals, protect and grow what they already have and guide them to the lifestyle that brings them fulfillment and happiness. Brian also serves as President of XYPN's Diversity Committee, whose mission is to lead the industry by attracting, supporting, and developing a diverse group of Financial Planners so our community can embrace our differences and make us all more knowledgeable, more accepting, and better people.

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