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Black wealth managers remain underrepresented in the financial services industry, and while there’s been progress in recruiting and supporting the career development of advisors from that community, more can be done, say two of Canada’s top wealth advisors.
Mark Miller, senior portfolio manager and senior investment advisor at TD Wealth Private Investment Advice in Mississauga, and Andrew McDonald, portfolio manager and investment advisor with the McDonald Group at CIBC Wood Gundy in Toronto, are the only two Black advisors in The Globe and Mail and SHOOK Research’s inaugural ranking of Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors of 150 financial professionals.
Mr. Miller says he lauds the industry’s efforts. In particular, he cites his firm’s parent company, Toronto-Dominion Bank’s $10-million commitment to the Black Opportunity Fund, a charitable organization that raises capital to fund Black-led businesses and charities. However, he thinks there needs to be a collective effort from the industry, educators, and wealth professionals to inform the Black community of these opportunities.
Mr. McDonald adds that while he’s seen an increased interest in financial services as a career choice from Black students, there are still some assumptions about the industry that need to be dispelled because it’s holding people back from exploring opportunities.
One assumption is that doors won’t open because of skin colour, he says. However, in his experience, and one that Mr. Miller echoes, the industry recognizes and rewards hard work.
Both advisors say they’ve never experienced overt racism in their more than 25 years each in the industry.
“Were there subtleties that I wasn’t aware of? Perhaps, and I could sit here and speculate, but I thought I was given a lot of opportunity to progress,” Mr. Miller says.
Mentorship and building relationships
When it comes to succeeding in the industry, mentorship, advocacy and seizing opportunities are important.
Mr. McDonald says when he started as a sales assistant at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, he was recognized early for his hard work. This resulted in people advocating for him and introducing him to other people in the firm, which ultimately changed the trajectory of his career from sales to wealth management.
Mr. Miller, for his part, adds that he didn’t have a dedicated mentor when he first started but he did have people who gave him opportunities, which “made all the difference in the world” in terms of where he is today.
More established and rigorous training programs for Black students and community outreach programs for the greater Black community, such as going to schools, community centres, and churches, would help increase the industry’s exposure, the advisors say.
“People will move into the industry if they can relate to the person and say, ‘Yes, I could see myself in that career,’” Mr. Miller says.
He adds that programs set up by financial institutions in which advisors can sign up to speak at a school or a community would be beneficial, especially for advisors who want to give back but don’t know where to start.
Mr. McDonald has spoken with students at the public school and university levels. He also mentors Black students and is open to conversations with students who are interested in financial services as a career.
“I think hybrid training programs that run for a longer term [than 18-24 months] in which you join a team, get mentorship, have a specific role and you are in a team that is vested in you becoming successful is key,” Mr. McDonald says, adding that training programs would incubate, train and retain top talent.
He says it’s not okay that at his firm there are only six or seven Black advisors out of 800, and out of that handful, there isn’t a Black female advisor. The marketplace is filled with opportunities. The challenge for the financial services industry is to capture that change.
“It’s the smart thing to do, recognizing that we have a duty to shareholders to have a workforce that can serve Canadians of all backgrounds.”
– Renee Sylvestre-Williams, Globe Advisor Reporter
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– Compiled by Globe Advisor staff