Finance’s diversity efforts should involve opportunities for young people, experts say

A commitment to diversity should include giving young people more opportunities to gain experience in the corporate world, said panelists at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association's Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Suzanne Shank, chairwoman, CEO and founding partner of Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., said she is a proponent of offering internships and hiring young minorities and women for client-facing jobs that provide opportunities for advancing to the management level.

“Young people ... need that first push, that first job, that nurturing to get to the next level,” she said.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, applauded SIFMA for having a "rich history” in understanding and championing diversity, which she said is "not just limited to gender, ethnicity and race,” but also includes diversity of thought.

Noé Hinojosa, chairman, president and CEO of Estrada Hinojosa & Co., said minorities have the skills and talent necessary to succeed but are lacking in opportunities. Regardless of race or ethnicity, “you better know what you’re talking about, and you better know how to apply that value,” he said.

Rich Daly, CEO of Broadridge Financial Solutions, said a key advantage of focusing on diversity is having the largest pool of candidates possible, thereby giving a firm a chance to hire the strongest talent.

“Diversity, pure and simple, is good business. If you’re going to face a marketplace, and in our case it’s facing a global marketplace, you need to reflect the marketplace you’re facing,” Daly said.

Embracing diversity "can clearly make your organization more successful and feel good about doing the right thing” — but “you have to be committed,” he said.

“It is a constant battle,” Shank said. "We must continue to beat the drum in every aspect of business, because it’s really a society issue. America is going to be majority-minority in less than 30 years, and if we don’t choose to embrace every component of our society, America is not going to move forward [and] our economy is not going to thrive.”

Beatty also discussed Dodd-Frank Act Section 342, which in part deals with how regulators should address firms’ supplier diversity. When asked whether agencies were taking sufficient steps with regard to supplier diversity, Beatty said she thought that the government and regulated entities could do more.

"You’re going to see [Congress] being more upfront with it,” she said, adding that lawmakers need a “measuring stick” to help ensure accountability with Section 342.