Clients Who Use Racial Slurs and the Stress that Can Come From Being a Minority FA
At a session where the challenges to creating diversity in the workplace were discussed at the CFP Board’s 2018 Diversity Summit, a conference attendee – a millennial African-American woman – spoke up about how traumatic it has been for her to enter the financial advisory industry this year.
“How can you be mindful of sending people into these spaces to help reverse-mentor folks to come along because it’s traumatizing, you’re exhausted and you go home every day and you wonder, 'Why am I doing this to myself?'” she asked at the conference in New York last month, referring to what she and other minority employees go through.
She raised the question: “At what cost” to the minority workforce are diversity targets being rolled out?
The attendee didn’t elaborate on her own experiences, but a conference panelist – Lazetta Rainey Braxton, Baltimore, Md.-based president of the AAAA Foundation and chair of the Association of African American Financial Advisors – shared her own experience.
“In the firm that I left before starting my practice, a lot of clients used the N-word,” Braxton said.
That included a client with $8 million in assets whom she onboarded to the firm, and whom she didn’t name. “I did all the work to bring in that client,” she said.
Braxton brought this problem to the attention of two principals at the firm, “who really didn’t know what to do with him,” she said, referring to the client.
She wanted to find out if there was any recourse for her for the actions of that client.
“No, there was no recourse,” according to Braxton, who said the explanation she got for the inaction was that the N-word “was said outside the workplace.”
Braxton expressed frustration over her experience. She said she wished she worked in a firm that valued their employees more than their clients, perhaps even going as far as saying there is no place in the firm for clients who behave badly.
Instead, “they did the dance with me. They said I didn’t have a case,” she said.
And after Braxton complained about the behavior of that client who used the N-word, she said she was offered another role where she would not have to deal with that client.
“They knew I wanted to serve middle-income folks, I wanted to reach my people,” Braxton said. “They said you can start that with our firm.”
Braxton said her reaction to that was: “You want to own me, but you’re not protecting me at all.”
It was at that point, Braxton said, that she decided to leave the firm. Braxton founded RIA Financial Fountains in 2008.
Braxton made it clear, however, that she has healed from that experience through her volunteer work at the AAAA Foundation, which aims to cultivate the next generation of African-American financial planners.
She said she shared her experience to help others who may have similar experiences or may be going through it now.
“Those who have the stories and the scars, you are not alone,” she said.
In a separate conference session, Carla Harris, Montclair, N.J.-based vice chairman for wealth management at Morgan Stanley, said firms must guard against the diversity version of “organ rejection,” or the tendency of the body to reject organs after transplants.
Harris said firms “must over-invest” in the success of minority hires that result from their diversity initiatives so that they are not rejected in the workplace.
“That has to be the mentality,” she said.
If minority hires are not well-supported within the firm, then when they fail, their failure will just be attributed to the individuals not being good hires, and that would defeat the purpose of diversity initiatives, Harris said.