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Building a more inclusive and diverse financial services industry

Seeing an opportunity and taking action: The Association for Wholesaling Diversity

Across prime wealth accumulation years, Black Americans are less wealthy than white Americans. Findings show that, even holding initial wealth constant, white Americans are also more upwardly mobile and less downwardly mobile, in terms of wealth, than Black Americans.1

President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society.

The 2023 Black History Month theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how African Americans have resisted historical and ongoing oppression, in all forms. By resisting, Black people have made progress in their fight for justice and equality, and have served as a model for other social movements..2

Upward mobility less likely for Black Americans

In 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and some fifty-five years after landmark civil rights legislation intended to equalize access to housing, education, and employment, the net assets of the median Black family in America were less than 15 percent of the net assets of the median white family. The typical white family had median net assets of $188,200; for the typical Black family the median was $24,100. In other words, white families had almost eight times more net assets than Black families.3 On top of having less wealth than White Americans, Black Americans are less likely to move up the economic ladder and more likely to slide down it.4

Last summer, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “Diversity in the Financial Services Industry and Access to Capital for Minority-Owned Businesses: Challenges and Opportunities.” Chair Sue Kelly opened the hearing, saying, “A simple snapshot of our country’s current employment composition displays some disparities among certain populations, particularly with regard to women and minorities. As a society, it is our responsibility to encourage the diversity in financial services that reflects the makeup of our country.”5

Seeing an opportunity and taking action: The Association for Wholesaling Diversity

The Association for Wholesaling Diversity (AWD) was created by black wholesaling professionals in 2016 for black wholesaling professionals working in the financial services industry. With diversity and inclusion at the top of the organization’s agenda, the association is invested in educating the generations to come, with the goal of building a workforce that reflects their underserved demographic.

AWD’s mission is to strengthen and grow the black wholesaler community while aiding the ongoing professional development of all black wholesalers and leveraging and scaling up their combined networks to facilitate career advancement for all black wholesalers. And with an eye on the future, AWD’s mission includes recruiting, training and welcoming black students, job seekers and career changers into the thriving black wholesaler community.

Wholesaling is a relatively small community of financial professionals. For black wholesalers, it is significantly smaller. With over 13,000 wholesalers in the U.S., the most common ethnicity is White, making up nearly 70 percent of all wholesalers. Comparatively, there are just under 8 percent of Black or African American ethnicity.6

Dedication and passion contribute to a more inclusive and diverse company

Jon Thomas, ChFC®️, CLTC - Regional Vice President – SecureCare LTC for Securian Financial, is a Securian Financial Wholesaler, who through his dedication and passion, is contributing to creating a more inclusive and diverse company.

His mentors introduced Jon to the financial services industry in 2008. A graduate of Morehouse College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) in Atlanta, Jon recognized that the financial industry could provide a pathway to life-changing financial security for him and his family.

With encouragement and support from Ron Williams, VP/Managing Director/Academic Outreach Chair for AWD, Jon joined AWD in early 2022. Attending the virtual monthly meetings is like “going to Church” for Jon. He said that coming together and connecting with black wholesalers, both professionally and culturally, creates fellowship. It’s a safe space to receive help and support amongst peers, as well as a resource for development.

In his role as a financial wholesaler, covering seven states in the Midwest, Jon is the face of Securian for many financial professionals and clients.

I’m working in the Midwest, and I’m traveling around Omaha, Des Moines and Topeka. Places where there are not only few Black folks, but I may be the only Black financial professional many of these folks have interacted with. It gives me an opportunity to have visibility and I think it represents Securian well, to have me, a Black man, in this role. It speaks to the importance of the work AWD is doing.” Jon Thomas

Today, Jon is paying it forward, teaching and mentoring young black students in the AWD development program to help prepare them for financial certification. The 12-week program provides a pipeline from predominately HBCUs through the AWD Wholesaler Development ProgramTM for careers in the financial industry.

Charles King, Internal Sales Senior Analyst, participated in the AWD program with mentorship from Jon and is now an internal wholesaler for Securian.

“It’s an amazing program. I would definitely encourage any young Black professional looking to make their mark in the finance world, to take advantage of the opportunity like the AWD mentorship program,” said King. “I started out in the service center (with Securian) to get my foot in the door. The goal was to work towards wholesaling.” And just six months after finishing the AWD program, King had an internal wholesaler position.

“From my perspective, the work AWD does is impactful for two reasons,” Thomas said. “The first, is they are mentoring and sponsoring young Black professionals into the world of finance. And they are connecting them to a phenomenal career — a career that provides life-changing opportunity for individuals and their families. And secondly, from a corporate perspective, it’s increasing the visibility of Black professionals in the world of finance. And as more insurance companies and financial firms take on Black wholesalers, it gives visibility to Black professionals in the field and the market as we represent companies while visiting agencies and financial professionals.

Securian Financial is a gold sponsor of AWD

As a gold sponsor of AWD, Securian provides funding to help raise up young Black people and impact change. We are pleased to support a dedicated group of individuals looking to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace while providing the opportunity for financial security to the Black community.

Our hope is this investment results in more Black financial professionals, passionate to help drive change for an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace and community.

Jon Thomas and Charles King are Securian Financial employees and therefore have a financial connection to Securian Financial. Their statements were given freely.

Jon Tomas is a Registered Representative of Securian Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.

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What is a Wholesaler?

A financial services industry wholesaler is an intermediary for, or a representative of, an organization that develops solutions or manages assets in the financial services industry (e.g., mutual funds, REITs, annuities).

A wholesaler's client is the final seller of solutions and/or assets to investors and consumers, be they institutional (family offices, pension plans, etc.) or retail (financial advisors, IARs, agents, etc.).

Nicole Hansen, and Cynthia Billingsley Smart are Securian Financial employees and therefore have a financial connection to Securian Financial. Their statements were given freely.

1. Ember Smith, Ariel Gelrud Shiro, Christopher Pulliam, and Richard V. Reeves. “Stuck on the Ladder: Intragenerational wealth mobility in the United States.” The Brookings Institution. June 29, 2022.

2. “Black History Month.” November 30, 2022.

3. Ann F. Thomas. “The Racial Wealth Gap and the Tax Benefits of Homeownership.” New York Law School Law Review. January 2022.

4. Ember Smith, Ariel Gelrud Shiro, Christopher Pulliam, and Richard V. Reeves. “The Black-white gap in wealth mobility and what to do about it.” The Brookings Institution, June 29, 2022.

5. “Diversity in the financial services industry focus of hearing.” Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, July, 2022.

6. “Wholesaler Demographics and Statistics in the US.” Zippia, as of January 27, 2023.

DOFU 2-2023