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Practice Management > Diversity and Inclusion

3 Key Lessons From a Year of Crises

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What You Need to Know

  • Relationships with clients grew even more important in the past year.
  • Be purpose-driven in everything you do.
  • Diversity in our business will ultimately help everyone grow.

In 2020 we were wrestling with a triple pandemic — the health and economic fallout from COVID-19, as well as the social crisis that sparked a national conversation on racial justice that forced us to ask ourselves: Are we doing enough to make things better?

As an advisor, I always work to ensure the well-being of my clients. During the pandemic, that was more critical than ever. Some of my clients lost jobs; some had to deal with health issues; others had to contend with the shutdown of their businesses.

I had to find a way to help them through what was a very difficult time — both for them and for the country as a whole. Looking back, I can point to three lessons learned that helped me do a better job and be there for clients when they needed it most.

1. Relationships are at the heart of everything we do.

As advisors, we do more than give advice. We forge a personal connection with our clients who trust us to help them build a secure financial future.

During COVID-19, I had one client who started calling me three times a week. That was immensely gratifying. Clients in need remind me that I have the opportunity to impact those who I come in contact with.

I say this not to brag but to highlight the important role and impact we have on our clients’ lives. Our goal as advisors should be to develop these kinds of relationships with our clients.

2. Be purpose-driven in everything you do.

A sense of purpose is another way of answering the question: Why do I do what I do? At the height of the pandemic, I found the answer to the question in many ways, every single day. Through the conversations I had with clients who had lost loved ones to COVID-19. Through helping clients navigate major financial struggles.

Each day, I was reminded that our purpose at Edward Jones is to make a meaningful impact on the lives of our colleagues, clients and communities. This helped me to understand what was most important — taking care of our clients, working in partnership and valuing the contributions of every individual.

3. Visibility for diverse advisors is very important.

I want to show other financial advisors who look like me that they can do this. It became increasingly important to me that I serve as an example and mentor for other Black financial advisors in the firm and the industry.

Throughout my career, I’ve had mentors, other diverse advisors, who inspired me and cheered me on, and now I get to be one of those faces that other people look to. That kind of visibility is especially vital at a time when racial progress is front and center in society and in business.

Working Together

Building a better and more diverse industry is not just the responsibility of a few individuals, it is a collective responsibility. That is why I was so happy to see my firm, Edward Jones, make such a strong statement about diversity, equity and inclusion last year.

While the firm has made good progress in recent years, it decided last summer that it could do more and do it faster. In June 2020, we announced a five-point commitment to address racism and create opportunities for people of color.

The five points incorporated goals such as giving everyone a voice, continuing racial-equity training and anti-racism personnel policies, conducting an analysis of pay at our home offices in the U.S., continuing the focus on equitable hiring, training and promotion and supporting organizations and programs important to our clients, colleagues and communities.

More recently we announced our diverse representation goals for 2025 within the firm’s U.S. home office leadership team and financial advisors. By holding ourselves accountable, I believe we can make meaningful, positive systems-change toward inclusive growth for more of our colleagues and communities.

Of course, we will never forget this past year. But we have learned a lot about ourselves — as people and advisors. We have seen what we can accomplish for our clients when we have a purpose and a clear direction.

Jesse Abercrombie is an Edward Jones principal and financial advisor based in Plano, Texas. Since 2020, he has also served in a field-based role responsible for Branch Team Talent Acquisition, helping branch teams located in 12 areas throughout the Central and Eastern United States. He holds the AAMS, CEPA and CDFA professional designations and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of North Texas.


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