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Kenneth Correa, National Business Development Executive at Merrill Wealth Management

Practice Management > Diversity and Inclusion

3 Ways to Address Disparities and Empower the Latino Community

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What You Need to Know

  • The affluent Hispanic/Latino population grew 81% between 2015 and 2020.
  • To best serve these clients, it’s critical that advisors understand their unique experiences, motivations and goals.
  • Financial services companies must continue prioritizing work to deepen their commitments to recruiting and retaining Hispanic and Latino leaders and advisors.

It can be hard to imagine that someone who immigrated from Colombia as a young child and was raised by a single mom in Queens, New York would one day be a senior leader in the wealth management industry. But in some respects, it makes perfect sense.

The complexion of wealth in the United States is changing at a rapid pace. If U.S. Hispanic/Latinos were an independent country they would account for the fifth largest GDP in the world, up from the eighth largest just five years prior. The affluence of the Hispanic/Latino community is also accelerating. From 2015 to 2020, the affluent general population in the U.S. grew by 53%, while the affluent Hispanic/Latino population grew by 81%.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ve been reflecting on my 24 years in the industry. While the industry has steadily evolved, there remains ample work to be done. To best serve Hispanic/Latino clients, it’s critical that we better understand their unique experiences, motivations and goals. By doing so, we can build a wealth management industry that’s more equitable and inclusive of all communities.

Throughout my career, I’ve noticed key factors that make a meaningful impact on connecting with the Hispanic/Latino community.

1. See visibility as credibility.

Growing up, I was conditioned to believe that to be successful you had to either come from, or have access to, money. But that wasn’t my reality. I grew up the child of a single, widowed mom, having lost my father at a young age. She worked tirelessly as a seamstress and cleaning lady to help ensure I had every chance I could in life.

I didn’t understand what paths were possible for me. I couldn’t look within the financial services industry and “see” someone like me to understand that this was a possible outcome in my life. In fact, all I thought about was that by working twice as hard I could get half as far. So if I worked harder, I could potentially level my own playing field.

This is why all financial services companies must continue prioritizing work to deepen their commitments to recruiting and retaining Hispanic and Latino leaders and advisors. For example, at Merrill, we hold virtual recruiting events featuring Hispanic/Latino financial advisors to hear firsthand about the opportunities available in the wealth management industry.

It is also important to be visible to clients and prospects and to demonstrate that we have a deep understanding of the Hispanic/Latino community’s financial journey. Our research shows the affluent Hispanic/Latino community’s emphasis on planning to financially assist family members, including aging parents. The community is also three times more likely than the affluent general population to be driven by a desire to make their family proud.

2. Democratize access to advice.

Amid the current environment, working with an advisor is more important than ever. However, recent research uncovered how challenging it can be to find a financial advisor: Among affluent Hispanic/Latino respondents without an advisor, 32% didn’t know how to find an advisor and 23% found it intimidating to reach out to one for the first time.

Furthermore, 73% of Hispanic/Latino respondents without an advisor would be the first generation in their family to have this type of relationship with a financial planning professional, according to an online survey done by Concentrix this summer for Bank of America and Merrill.

To ease and demystify the process of finding a financial advisor, we launched Merrill Advisor Match, a new online tool that connects people seeking financial advice with a financial advisor.

3. Deepen trust in the communities we serve.

Forging meaningful relationships with community organizations and individuals is an impactful way to showcase a company’s commitment. This work gives stakeholders a line-of-sight into the day-to-day challenges facing the Hispanic/Latino community, as well as building on existing relationships and growing the trust of the broader community.

Within Merrill, I chair our Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council, where we have formed a Business Innovation Committee made up of financial advisors. The committee members create opportunities for advisors to be part of local events to build communities and grow relationships with potential clients.

We have also developed relationships with key organizations, such as L’Attitude and the Association for Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). We know it isn’t enough to simply sponsor events — you have to show up.

At the recent L’Attitude conference in California, Andy Sieg, president of Merrill, was on stage with conference founders welcoming attendees on opening day. Merrill brought a huge contingency of leaders and advisors to be visible and part of those important conversations.

While the wealth management industry has made progress to become a more inclusive and welcoming environment for Hispanics and Latinos, a lot of work still remains. However, let’s take a moment during this Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our advancement and our positive momentum.

I am bullish on our community and fiercely optimistic on the future of our industry because we are the architects of it. The best is yet to come.

Kenneth Correa is national business development executive at Merrill Wealth Management. 

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as “MLPF&S” or “Merrill”) makes available certain investment products sponsored, managed, distributed or provided by companies that are affiliates of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”). MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, Member SIPC and a wholly owned subsidiary of BofA Corp.


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