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‘The Changing Complexion of Wealth’: Attracting More Diverse Talent at Merrill

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As mid-Atlantic division executive at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and chair of Merrill’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, Lindsay Hans oversees 3,600 employees and more than $300 billion in client balances while also leading the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Merrill has made significant strides in attracting and retaining diverse talent in recent years, in part due to the work of the D&I Council.

Via email, we asked a series of questions that touched on not only Hans’ professional knowledge and thoughts on diversity but what she does off the clock as well.

1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

Lindsay Hans: The changing complexion of wealth and its impact on the wealth management industry is undeniable. It is both a moral and commercial imperative to advance our profession  — to increase diverse representation within the financial advisor population.

To accomplish that goal, as an industry, we must take steps to make this profession more appealing to talent we wish to attract. This means everything from expanding parental leave benefits to providing additional resources via practice management, diverse councils and networks. Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries will be clients.

2. How has it been changing recently (2021), and how do you expect it to change (2022)?

The growth of diverse affluent populations is a multiyear trend. Since 2015, affluent Black/African American, LGBTQ+ and Hispanic/Latino communities have grown by 65%, 76% and 81%, respectively, while the affluent general population has grown by 53%. As a result, the economic influence of underserved communities is growing.

As an example, Black/African American spending power currently stands at $1.3 trillion and is poised for explosive growth. Through the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of these communities, we anticipate this growth will accelerate in the years ahead. There will be an increased expectation to meet clients and prospects where they are.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

Advisors of all backgrounds can educate themselves on the demographic trends shaping their clients and future clients. At Merrill, we are investing in resources to help advisors better understand how individuals in diverse communities achieve success and grow their wealth, their challenges and goals for the future.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

Overall there has been a deficit of information and research on financial topics that matter to diverse clients. For example, we reviewed more than 1,500 pages of editorial content in the top 17 women’s magazines. There were only five pages covering personal finances. Less than 1%. Which is why Merrill conducted its own research in recent years and disseminated it to the public.

Specifically, we have published multiple studies examining the financial motivations, priorities and challenges of the affluent Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino and LGBTQ+ community, as well as women investors. For example, in our Women and Financial Wellness study, we found that women would rather talk about their own death than money. That is a challenge that we must overcome as an industry to become part of the solution and ignite important conversations on financial security.

Finally, we are excited about our newly formed content partnerships with Black Enterprise, Essence, Univision, Pride Media and other outlets, to help increase the education on financial topics to diverse communities.

More on this topic

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic? Why/why not?

I now start (most) mornings with a ride on my Peloton bike. I wish I could say that I had that routine down pre-pandemic. The best part has been the community that has been built at Merrill through our #ThunderingHerd group rides Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. We really enjoy the competition, camaraderie and accomplishment that comes from that team ride.

6. What’s your biggest hobby, and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

Cooking, including working on perfecting my homemade pasta recipe and my Ooni pizza oven techniques!

7. How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

I partner with a local, New Jersey–based organization, Moms Helping Moms Foundation, to host diaper drives one or two times a year for families in need and to bring awareness to the community about diaper need. When I became a new mom of an infant four years ago, I took for granted never having to worry about buying diapers.

I now have an awareness of diaper needs, which, for some mothers, can cause more anxiety than food or housing insecurity. Inflation has only made the situation more serious; diaper packages that cost $25 last year now can cost $40.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

“Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship,” by Greg Boyle. I loved his first book, “Tattoos on the Heart.” There are so many lessons in these books about the power of compassion and kinship.

9. Any special holiday plan, activity or focus you’d like to share as we near year-end? Or a New Year’s resolution that you’ve decided on?

Making my Nana Rose’s butter cookies and taking the kids in their pajamas on the Polar Express train in Whippany, New Jersey!

10. Is there any other update/fact about you or a piece of advice/wisdom you’d like to share with our advisor audience? 

In the end, it is all about people. Your team is valuable. The concentric circles very quickly spread out to clients and other key constituents.

 (Pictured: Lindsay Hans, mid-Atlantic Division executive and chair of the Merrill Executive Council)