Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Cetera Investment Services Case Study
Cetera, like many companies in 2020, renewed an intentional focus and investment in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Our leadership team wanted to create a sustainable foundation in this realm with:
- Measurable goals and impact
- Impact at all levels of the firm
- Long-term results
Starting at the Top
Among the earliest steps we took was to form an initial guiding coalition of senior leaders to serve as Cetera’s DEIB Council, form an Advisor Diversity & Inclusion Council and partner with CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ — the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Over the first two years, Cetera set the foundation of an equitable and inclusive workplace and culture — through an enterprise-wide unconscious bias education rollout, inclusive language guide, DEIB conversation starter toolkit, launching a Courageous Conversations series, creating employee resource groups (ERGs) and planning advisor resource groups (ARGs).
As we looked to 2022, we formalized the DEIB team internally by promoting an internal leader to chief talent and inclusion officer, adding a director of DEIB to support a growing network of ERGs and ARGs, and hiring a talent and inclusion specialist to implement and manage DEIB programs and processes.
I took on the role of executive sponsor for the Advisor-Led Diversity and Inclusion Council, supporting the council’s initiatives, subcommittees and various ARGs. It continually amazes me how much effort, heart and passion our advisors put into these committees.
Staying Accountable With Measurable Goals
Of course, we had to include accountability in our plans. By setting yearly and long-term goals, Cetera stays accountable to our purpose, mission and constituent groups — our team members, financial professionals and the external community.
- We are striving to achieve year-over-year improvement in the overall representation of women and racial and ethnic diversity at all levels through hiring and employee development.
- We are completing benchmarking surveys to measure a baseline and track year-over-year improvement in hiring and throughout the employee experience lifecycle.
- Our DEIB team partners with internal business areas to ensure DEIB is embedded in all areas of Cetera, including marketing and communications, conferences, procurement for supplier diversity, business development, legal and ESG Committee practices.
- We are strategically working to improve year over year in the representation of women and racial and ethnic diversity within the financial professional base and through acquisition of early career talent.
Robust Support for Team Members
Hiring goals aren’t enough to support a diverse employee base. We need to create space for everyone to be authentically themselves and have a strong sense of belonging.
With offices nationwide and many team members working primarily hybrid online, digital spaces are the most accessible to all. With that in mind, our ERG leaders have created robust, active communities, including:
- Asian American and Pacific Islander
- Black Employees and Allies Network
- CLARO, for Hispanic/Latino employees and allies
Each of these communities have online digital spaces to connect and collaborate. While these message platforms are a great start, we also have safe spaces for dialogue called Courageous Conversations, online meetings to consistently connect, relate and discuss sensitive issues and DEIB-related topics. This series is among the programming most attended by team members and is cited by many in the employee experience survey as part of what is contributing to the positive culture at Cetera.
In-Person and Virtual Opportunities for Financial Professionals
In October 2022, the Women’s Impact Network ARG and the Cetera Black Advisor Community ARG held Connect2Impact events in Nashville, Tennessee. These events were designed for advisors by advisors, led by Cetera’s Advisor Diversity & Inclusion Council and ARG leaders. Symposium agendas offered networking, professional development and keynotes with industry leaders and speakers on a wide range of topics to create a positive, collaborative experience, build community and foster connections and peer-to-peer learning.
Additionally, Cetera’s Advisor Diversity & Inclusion Council co-chairs have created the “Real Talk with Fanci and Steve” podcast. The co-chairs examine diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging topics for financial advisors and business owners who want to grow with diversity in mind.
Opportunities for Growth
Building a workplace and culture of inclusion also includes creating talent pathways for team members and financial professionals. A significant effort focused on talent pathways is Cetera’s Diversity in Financial Planning Scholarship and the Summer Internship Program focused on diverse talent.
Cetera’s Diversity in Financial Planning Scholarship is one effort that’s driving change and expanding our pipeline of diverse candidates. Caring Cetera, the firm’s advisor-led charitable foundation, launched the scholarship program for college students from underrepresented groups who enroll in financial planning degree programs. Scholarship recipients will have access to expanded new-entrant and mentoring opportunities designed to support their career development.
As a reflection of the tangible impact Caring Cetera has made, the program won a 2022 LUMINARIES award for Community Impact from ThinkAdvisor.
Taking accountability and transparency to the next level requires measurable results. DEIB metrics are regularly shared with leadership. For instance, in 2021 Cetera committed to a focus on diverse hiring at the leadership level and of the positions posted for hiring, we filled 74% of those roles with diverse hires.
Internally, we run an annual employee experience survey to listen to the voice of our team and keep a pulse on engagement and culture. This survey invites employees to rate Cetera on statements such as: “diverse perspectives being valued and encouraged,” “I can be myself at work,” “I am treated with respect at work” and “I feel part of a team.” In 2021, our scores increased for these questions and ranged from eight to 14 points over the global Qualtrics benchmark.
Cetera remains committed to continuing to measure, benchmark and improve our efforts to ensure we are sustaining a great place to work, supported by best practices, and serving the needs of our team members, financial professionals and the community. It’s not always an easy road, but we are proud of our efforts so far, and we’re striving to be better every day.
About LeAnn Rummel
LeAnn Rummel joined Cetera Investment Services in 1992 and serves as president and CEO, where she focuses on all aspects of the business. Additionally, she leads the firm’s executive committee and acts as president of Cetera’s insurance agencies.
LeAnn currently serves as a BISA board member. In 2014, she was inducted into BISA’s Circle of Excellence, which honors outstanding professionals in the industry. She is the executive sponsor for the CFG advisor-led Diversity & Inclusion Council.
Prior to Cetera, she served on PrimeVest’s executive committee and within the ING Advisors Network marketing team as vice president – financial institution channel and product marketing. Before that, she served as vice president of product sales and marketing for PrimeVest, managing the firm’s creative services team as well as the cash management, life insurance, retirement planning, financial planning and investment advisory departments.
LeAnn’s tenure in the financial services industry spans more than 30 years. She is qualified as a general securities representative (Series 7), as a general securities principal (Series 24) and as a uniform securities agent (Series 63). She also possesses her insurance licenses.
LeAnn received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis from Iowa State University.