Edward Jones on Monday outlined several actions it’s taking to address racism and bring more opportunities to people of color, including a commitment to conduct a pay analysis of its home-office employees and a $1 million investment in the National Urban League's Fights for You campaign.
Trade groups and companies in the wealth management space have been quick to issue public statements in response to the widespread protests over racism that have happened across the country over the past few weeks, as well as broader issues of endemic inequality that persist across the industry. Some of those statements were unclear on what tangible, on-the-ground actions firms will take.
“We recognize that our approach—to listen, learn, take responsibility and act in accordance with our values—requires commitment,” said Edward Jones managing partner Penny Pennington. “Beyond statements and platitudes is the real work, the real action of our 49,000 associates in support of real progress.”
Edward Jones said it has made a five-point commitment to address the issues. In addition to the National Urban League investment and pay analysis, the firm also plans to expand its Courageous Conversations program, launched in 2017 to facilitate candid discussions about diversity and inclusion issues. Nearly 6,000 employees have participated in these conversations in the past two weeks. The firm will also provide employees with a day to reflect in 2020 to focus on deliberate learning and listening.
The firm has also committed to equitable hiring, training, promotional practices and policies. That includes a meaningful increase in diversity among its financial advisors and senior leadership, and the introduction of a new annual report on inclusion and diversity.
“We commit to reviewing all talent processes systemically to identify places where bias may creep in and develop solutions that interrupt bias,” the firm said. “We will provide our associates more resources, opportunities and support to break through barriers that they may face. Through tailored programs, mentorship and support that meet our diverse associates where they are, we will provide more opportunities for success.”
Edward Jones has been an easy target for critics, who see an old-fashioned, largely commission-based brokerage where recruits, like religious missionaries, go door to door to drum up new business. And yet, while other firms talk a lot about the need for a more diverse workforce, Edward Jones has moved the needle. Employees there are younger than the industry average, with greater racial and gender diversity. Women account for 21% of its financial advisors, while 8% of its advisors are people of color. Industrywide statistics are hard to come by, but for reference, the CFP Board says only 3.5% of its 80,000 designation holders are black or Latino.
Edward Jones will also expand its unconscious bias training, which it started four years ago. It’s also introducing a new year-round program called Inclusion and Diversity 365 that will focus on fostering cultural awareness and empathy.