Fostering Inclusivity in Financial Services

November 28, 2019

Fostering Inclusivity in Financial Services


Every year, the Women in Wealth Management Awards celebrates the accomplishments of women who are working hard to grow and transform the wealth management industry. CI Direct Investing is thrilled to participate. 

Our mission is to give all Canadians equal opportunities to build their wealth. That means ensuring women have equal access to resources and education on financial literacy, and options to invest their money in a way that is effortless, reliable, and affordable. 

It’s a mission that’s woven into the fabric of who we are. CI Direct Investing is a proudly gender-balanced company, led by a woman.

Our CEO and co-founder Tea Nicola, a finalist for this year’s Woman Innovator of the Year, is hosting a keynote discussion on creating an inclusive environment at the upcoming Women in Wealth Management Vancouver conference.

We caught up with Tea prior to her talk to chat more about how CI Direct Investing built a gender-balanced team in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and why she puts special emphasis on supporting women in the industry:

Why do you think it’s important to have initiatives aimed at women’s leadership in the wealth management space?

It goes without saying that knowing how to manage your money is critical to building a successful life. 

A generation ago, women were left out of conversations about their household’s financial future. That’s why you see women in my parents’ generation who become widows and don’t have a clue what to do.

Today, of course, women are earning more money and are far more involved in managing the family investment portfolio. Not only that, but as we see $30 trillion dollars change hands from one generation to the coming decades, women stand to be among the biggest beneficiaries of these inheritances. 

But the industry hasn’t caught up. Today, most wealth professionals, a full 85% of advisors, are men. And that comes at a cost. One report out of the US found that the finance industry is missing out on a $700 billion opportunity by not sufficiently understanding and servicing women’s needs. 

Those are pretty staggering statistics. It sounds like a compelling case for businesses to lead in this space?

Creating an environment where women are empowered to lead and succeed is a no-brainer. 

It’s notoriously difficult for businesses to thrive with a homogeneous team over the long-term. To start with, it’s much easier to understand your customers when your team reflects them. Gender balanced teams make for more profitable companies

When people feel included, they’re happier. And we know that happiness directly impacts a team’s productivity and efficiency, which makes for more successful companies. 

How has CI Direct Investing been able to buck the trend?

We didn’t set out with a specific objective of building a gender-balanced team at CI Direct Investing, but we’ve always had the mindset that inclusivity is non-negotiable. As a result, we’re able to attract the right people.

And we’ve done it despite being at the cross-roads of two male-dominated industries: tech and financial services. 

For a long time in both of these industries, companies would argue that it’s impossible to build gender-balanced teams because of a “pipeline problem”. This is the idea that there are simply not enough qualified women candidates. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

If you don’t build up women who are early in their career, then you’re certainly not going to be able to find qualified women for your leadership team. Meanwhile, when women who are earlier in their career don’t see other women succeeding in leadership in a company, they’re not going to be confident that it’s an environment where they can grow.

Right. What are some of the ways that firms can provide those growth opportunities?

First, invest in your people. If you hire people who are early and mid-career and support their growth, they’ll stay with you. This has been a particularly important aspect of how we’ve built our team at CI Direct Investing.

Managers can influence this by leading career development conversations. Talk to your direct report about where she wants to go. Help her visualize herself in a leadership position. When someone can imagine a specific possibility, that’s a powerful thing. Verbalizing that goal brings it closer to reality. 

At CI Direct Investing, we back this up by offering a generous education budget and we encourage folks to use it. 

And of course, when we’re talking about opportunities for women, motherhood and maternity leave has to be part of the conversation. This is particularly pressing in the wealth management industry. It’s challenging to take time off work in an industry where each advisor is responsible for their book of business. But there are ways to make it possible for a woman to build her business, and have a family without repercussions. 

Parenting is a shared responsibility, so at CI Direct Investing it’s really important to us to support the men in our company, encouraging them to take paternity leave and share the load. If it’s better for their family, it’s better for CI Direct Investing.

Any final thoughts?

Inclusivity takes commitment. There’s no silver bullet here. But I’m encouraged to see the industry start to tackle these challenges. Because that’s what it will take to innovate the financial services industry for the customers it serves.

On behalf of all of us at CI Direct Investing, congratulations to all of the Women in Wealth Management Awards finalists!

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