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With launch of new center, Investments and Wealth Institute expands diversity initiatives to address race, sexual orientation | Financial Planning


The walls of Garry Bridgeman’s office are lined with memorabilia documenting 40 years of success and industry firsts in wealth management.

While he may now be retired, the former Merrill Lynch advisor and Morgan Stanley executive isn’t finished. Bridgeman was recently named co-chair of the Investment and Wealth Institute’s center for diversity and inclusion, a new initiative launched this past fall aiming to address the industry-wide lack of diversity.

“You’ve got to do all you can, with as many other people that can and are willing, to put a shoulder behind this effort of trying to make a better world,” Bridgeman says.

IWI, formerly known as IMCA, which offers several advisor designations, is one of several financial planning organizations and companies bolstering its efforts to diversify the ranks of the wealth management industry.

As with other certifications for financial advisors, the number of people of color and women isn’t representative of the greater population. At IWI, more than 88% of its members are white, according to the institute. Fewer than 18% are women.

Garry Bridgeman was one of the first — if not the first — Black applicants to receive a CIMA certification in 1990. He also became the first Black president of IWI’s board in 2008.

IWI’s new group, dubbed the Thrive Center for Diversity and Inclusion, will incorporate the organization’s pre-existing Women in Wealth program, launched in May 2019. Now the organization is expanding its focus to address the lack of representation of race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, in addition to gender disparities.

Building on a diversity scholarship fund launched in Jan. 2020 that covers up to 40% tuition costs for underrepresented candidates, IWI has formed what it calls the Council of Ambassadors, which will advise and offer guidance to the institute on diversity and inclusion initiatives. The center also launched an educational hub and an advisor forum to host events and educate advisors on the barriers to entry for candidates who are largely unrepresented in the industry, according to the institute.

Bridgeman and IWI member Kevin Sánchez, senior institutional consultant and private wealth advisor at UBS, are serving as co-Chairs of IWI’s new center. Its ambassadors include D.A. Abrams, managing director of the CFP Board of Standards, and Craig Pfeiffer, CEO of the Money Management Institute, among others.

In recent years, IWI focused on supporting CFP Board’s initiatives, such as its research, rather than its own initiatives, according to Sean Walters, CEO of the institute.

“What we’ve been hearing is that we need to be clear about where we fit within the overall D&I movement within the industry as a whole,” Walters says.

The institute will be focused on advancing diverse individuals in their careers and helping them distinguish themselves in the marketplace, he says.

Organizations and companies across the industry have put more momentum and funding behind the effort to diversify the industry. This past year, racial equality for Black planners, in particular, was put under the spotlight amid widespread Black Lives Matter protesting and calls for change.

Merrill Lynch started releasing their financial advisor diversity metrics, and a NASDAQ proposal was introduced that would require publicly-listed companies to have diversity on their boards. Several firms boosted their funding to diversity scholarships and programs.

February 10

Bridgeman has often been on the front lines of racial change in wealth management. He was the first Black individual to work at a major broker-dealer in the state of Mississippi when he joined Merrill Lynch in 1979, and would later lead the company’s diversity efforts in 2006. He was one of the first — if not the first — Black applicants to receive a CIMA certification in 1990 in the second class of certificants, and the first Black president of IWI’s board in 2008.

The industry has been dealing with its lack of diversity for more than 50 years, Bridgeman says: “Now seems like a really good time to make progress.”

This content was originally published here.

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