Many individuals struggle with conversations about the differences in lived experiences among people of varying racial and ethnic groups.
Acknowledging differences can be challenging on many levels — and yet, recognizing diverse experiences, attitudes and concerns can serve as a critical first step toward delivering more equitable client service and helping more individuals and families improve their financial wellbeing and meet their unique goals.
In financial services, representation matters. That’s why TruStage / CUNA Mutual Group has taken steps to conduct research in ways that lead to more inclusive data — and it’s why diversity, equity and inclusion are a focus both inwardly among our own employees and outwardly with respect to clients and customers.
With our 2022 What Matters NowTM report, we sought to better understand the wide range of hopes, dreams and worries affecting people today so that financial professionals can better meet consumers and clients where they are and connect them with tools, resources and financial products that address their individual needs and concerns.
Common Experiences Make a Comfortable Starting Point
Given the events of the past few years, it’s no surprise to learn that worries have been on the rise among all racial and ethnic groups — and not just financial worries. By and large, the majority of survey respondents agree that they want their children to achieve more financially than they have in their own lives.1
Yet a shared focus on well-being is sometimes expressed in diverse sets of worries across different groups. For example, Black, Hispanic and White consumers are worrying more about having enough money to care for loved ones, while on the whole, ethnic Asian consumers said their biggest worry is about saving for their kids’ college expenses.1
Act on insight: While it’s comforting to find and focus on shared thoughts and feelings, it’s important to do the more emotionally demanding work of empathizing with clients’ concerns, whether or not you share them. It’s fundamental to the idea of meeting every client where they are and building on a foundation of respect. When you can connect on a personal level, you’re more likely to connect that client with the resources, services and products they need most.
Evaluate Offerings with Multiple Perspectives
In the context of an industry that hasn’t always made room for diverse needs, it’s not hard to believe that consumers across ethnic groups often work with multiple financial institutions to get their needs met. But here are a few findings you might not have expected:1
- Hispanic consumers reported being more likely to have debit cards
- Black consumers are more likely to leverage loans, life insurance, and payment protection (with a stronger preference for protecting auto loan payments)
- Asian consumers are more likely to access checking, credit cards and investments
- Native American consumers generally use fewer financial products overall
Along with these differences in product and service preferences, it’s important to recognize a wider range of ways of working and getting paid beyond the stereotypical nine-to-five or 40-hour workweek. Today, many people across demographic groups work more than one job, and Multiracial and Black consumers were among the most likely groups to own their own businesses.1
Recognizing the dedication and willingness to shoulder risk in their work lives should spur financial professionals to help find ways to optimize clients’ outcomes, as well as their experience using products and/or services. Consider the ways you can deliver convenience and ease to time-strapped entrepreneurs, for example.
Be relevant: Multiple jobs, side hustles and entrepreneurship can spark specific needs that salary and/or wage workers may not have, whether that points to payment technology, loans, retirement savings accounts, investments or other products and services.
Digital access has long since gone from “nice to have” to an imperative for financial institutions. In fact, no matter their income level, a significant proportion of consumers (43%) say they check their accounts daily.1
And it’s not only their own finances consumers are checking online. Multiracial and Black consumers were more likely to review a financial institution’s online presence before deciding whether to work with them.1 Your online presence goes beyond your website and/or mobile apps. What consumers see in marketing messages, on social media and in the press — including the ways you engage with and support communities, and how you talk about your involvement — can have an impact on whether an individual sees a place for themselves as your client.
Looking inward is just as important. An institution’s ability to effectively recruit and retain employees from diverse backgrounds tells prospective members a great deal without saying a word, though it can also be truly meaningful when employees can speak the preferred languages of multicultural constituencies.
Across the board, non-White groups reported lower levels of satisfaction with their primary institutions’ practices around promoting culturally relevant products and services, fielding employees who represent members’ cultures and developing culturally relevant marketing messages.1
Be the change: Elevate your institution’s diversity, equity and inclusion planning to the strategic level. Ensure that your DEI efforts go beyond words, and encourage team members to authentically express inclusion across every communication channel and member touchpoint. That includes seeking out and supporting community-focused groups, and refining recruiting and retention strategies to increase representation.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the 2022 What Matters Now Report is the importance of authenticity. Clients can easily spot the difference between financial professionals who “talk the talk” and those who “walk the walk.” Connecting authentically with clients starts when you reach out with a sincere desire to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences as individuals. Tap into more ideas and ways to think about a more comprehensive client service approach and better meet diverse client needs with our whitepaper. Click below to download your copy today.
Written by: Marshall Heitzman, CFP®, ChFC, FLMI, CPCU, BFA™
Marshall is CUNA Mutual Group's Advanced Planning Expert and has more than 25 years experience in the insurance and financial services industry. He consults Financial Advisors on advanced retirement planning concepts for retirement and wealth management clients.
1TruStage / CUNA Mutual Group, 2022 Research Report: What Matters Now.