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To Boost Diversity, Go 'Where the Talent Is': Ameriprise’s Rudy Rodriguez

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Rudy Rodriguez, Ameriprise Financial’s vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, and one of this year’s LUMINARIES. Rodriguez has been working to increase the recruiting and retention of women and people of color throughout his career. 

Plus, Rodriguez is board chair of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, a board member of Minnesota LatinoLEAD, D&I chair for Minnesota State Colleges & Universities and chair of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association D&I Committee.

In his recent interview with ThinkAdvisor, the Ameriprise executive explains how the industry can better recruit and retain advisors from diverse backgrounds and communities.

How did you get started in D&I work, and how is this effort making a difference in the industry?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about engaging in the community, which led me to get involved with diversity and inclusion in various ways. Earlier in my career, during my time working at the “Chicago Tribune,” I participated in events that helped to advance and celebrate people of color. 

Also, I knew early in my career that I wanted to give back and pay it forward as someone who has benefited professionally from the support of others. With this objective, I became engaged in recruiting programs hosted by organizations like the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. 

I spent most of my career in marketing to Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ consumers. In those multicultural marketing roles, I developed deep insights about these communities. This experience helped me to understand and appreciate the business value of diversity as well as the importance of mentorship.

One of the ways that I am making a difference in the industry is by enabling the sharing of D&I best practices. It’s imperative that we work together as an industry to help increase the representation of women, people of color and all underrepresented talent.   

Can you tell us what you’ve been doing to expand Ameriprise Financials’ recruitment and retention of women and people of color? 

For the past six and half years, I have been leading the D&I strategy at Ameriprise. It is holistic and takes into consideration every aspect of the employee experience to help us recruit, retain, develop and engage underrepresented talent.  

One of the key elements of that work is encouraging our leaders to broaden their network of diverse professionals by going to where the talent is.

For example, we invest in sponsorships including the Conference of African American Financial Professionals, recruit at diverse institutions like Howard University and encourage our leaders to get engaged in industry diversity events to expand their networks.

Who helped you get started in the industry?

I am grateful to my leader at Ameriprise and my previous employers for their mentorship, guidance, and support with helping me advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Over the course of my career, I have built a strong network of people who share my passion for diversity. 

When I think back to my start in this field, I am grateful to industry organizations like the American Advertising Federation that recognized my commitment to diversity and included me in their work to diversify the advertising and marketing industry.  

What advice would you give to those getting started in the industry?

My advice is to build a network of leaders who can help you learn and navigate the industry. 

What advice would you give to financial advisors and others about how they can more vigorously support women and people of color? 

Many people in underrepresented communities are not aware of careers in financial services and the value that this industry can bring to our communities. It’s important for financial advisors to help create awareness of the profession among underrepresented professionals. To that end, I encourage financial advisors to help mentor the next generation of talent.

Bringing in new talent from diverse backgrounds makes our industry and companies stronger. Diversifying our industry opens new business opportunities and helps us reach and effectively serve clients. 

Can you describe the impact and importance of your role as D&I chair for Minnesota State Colleges & Universities and on SIFMA’s D&I Committee? 

Demographics are our destiny. Today, people of color make up more than 50% of the U.S. population. However, the representation of these populations in financial services must increase if we are to meet the workforce needs of our state and country. 

In my role as a board member, I help to advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, strategies, and resources that will help us ensure the success of all students at the university. Likewise, my role as the SIFMA D&I Committee is focused on fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the financial services industry, which is key to successfully serving clients.