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Financial Firms Change How They Ask Employees About Gender

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What You Need to Know

  • A growing number of financial firms are expanding gender-identity options beyond male and female.
  • UBS expanded its gender self-identification options in May 2020.
  • The CFP Board now collects data on planners who identify as non-binary.

Although a significant number of financial firms have significantly stepped up their racial and gender diversity initiatives in recent years, fewer of them have taken similar steps when it comes to those who identify as non-binary (neither male nor female).

But several organizations have expanded the gender-identity options with which their advisors, planners and other employees, as well as applicants, can voluntarily self-identify.

Most recently, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards added a non-binary gender option for current CFPs and future applicants, after announcing its plans to do so early this year.

“CFP Board began offering and collecting data on the non-binary gender option on April 1,” a spokeswoman told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday. Now, “all CFP professionals and candidates seeking CFP certification have access to this gender option and Mx. prefix in the CFP Board system.”

The data will be available starting May 1, on this web page, she said, adding: “The non-binary option data points collection will continue throughout this year. At this point, we don’t know how quickly we will be seeing this number increase as CFP professionals usually update their records at various times throughout the year. The non-binary gender option results will also be included in our annual milestone numbers announcement at the beginning of each year.”

UBS Expands Options

Meanwhile, in the annual Americas Region Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Impact Report that UBS released in March, the company said: “At all levels of the organization, an essential aspect of our progress is rigorous measurement that incorporates data evaluation, qualitative assessments and voluntary self-identification options, which we have expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race/ethnicity, military veteran and disability status.”

UBS has “modernized our self-identification options to now include sexual orientation and expanded gender identity, in addition to race/ethnicity, veteran and disability status,” the report goes on to say.

What that specifically means is that when an employee now joins UBS, or at any point in their tenure with the firm, it provides the following sexual orientation and gender identity options that can be selected voluntarily: Bisexual, Gay/Lesbian, Heterosexual/Straight, Other preferred term or Prefer not to say. These expanded self-identification options were added in May 2020.

TD Ameritrade’s RIA Platform

TD Ameritrade Institutional last year updated its new RIAConnect technology to expand the gender-identity options for next-gen and other advisors looking for M&A and different business partnerships.

Just after the tech platform rolled out, it drew the attention of advisor Cait Howerton, who said on Twitter the next day: “Exciting to see #RIAConnect for #NexGen Advisors being offered by @TDA4advisors, but it was disappointing to see the only gender options made available within the intake were male + female. Gender isn’t binary, @TDA4advisors.”

More on this topic

Kate Healy, head of GenNext efforts for TD’s RIA business, responded in a tweet: “Thanks for picking up on that — we missed that for sure. We will work to update the gender fields.”

Later that week, the change had been made. “Hi Cait, we want everyone to be included in the excitement for #RIAConnect, so we’ve utilized your tweets to make that happen. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!” the firm said on Twitter.

However, that was before Charles Schwab’s acquisition of TD Ameritrade was finalized in October 2020.

On Thursday, Schwab spokesman Rob Farmer told ThinkAdvisor that, “on the TDA side, RIAConnect and RIAConnect Next Gen both offer the following gender options”: Male, Female, Non-binary/Third gender, Gender neutral, Prefer not to say and Prefer to self-describe.

“We are of course always working to be more inclusive and to foster and promote diversity both at Schwab and in the industry at large,” he said. “The Student Program at IMPACT registration process is one example where we are offering a broader selection of gender options and we expect to offer more such opportunities we continue the integration process.”

JPMorgan, meanwhile, “encourages employees to self-ID as a way to support an inclusive environment,” a company spokeswoman told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday. “Additionally, employees have the option to add personal pronouns and preferred names in their signatures and company directory.”

Similarly, at Wells Fargo, “applicants may select Male or Female as a gender option, though this identification is voluntary and they may choose not to answer,” a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“Once a person is hired, they have the option to further refine their gender via an optional gender identity question,” she explained. “And all employees may choose their own pronouns, which we respect and use according to their preference.”

Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to requests for comment.