For the insurance industry, the shifting demographics of wealth have sparked a deeper conversation around diversity and inclusion. With digital innovation, higher customer expectations, and disruptive newcomers impacting the marketplace, many insurers are rethinking how to best compete in an increasingly dynamic industry.
Diversity and inclusion—creating a collaborative environment where people grow and thrive—are key factors in the success of any organization. Rather than trying to solve new challenges with traditional approaches, diversity enables companies to bring a broader array of opinions and insights to their solutions.
We asked Wes Thompson, President and CEO at M Financial Group, about his goals for his organization and the work being done at M to attract and nurture diverse talent through its Magnet training program.
One of the goals of the Magnet Program is to develop the next generation of leaders. How does it address some of the issues that make other leadership programs a revolving door for diverse talent?
Diversity’s value to business is significant and understood. The “why” is pretty clear. Most organizations get stuck on “how.” There has to be an intentional effort to tap new talent pools and keep employees engaged.
Women and minorities often struggle to find workable pathways to leadership or advocates to champion their career advancement. Magnet provides participants with a clear path to success if they perform and chart the outcomes they should expect.
We pair participants with mentors who can provide valuable advocacy and insight, which is important to a professional’s career progression. Historically, insight would be shared informally or subtly, say, over a round of golf. That’s not an intentional mentorship, and it puts women and minorities at a distinct disadvantage.
It is also important to identify members of different affinity groups to act as symbols of success to the participants, and that’s hard when you’re starting at ground zero. Magnet is a brand-new program, and we’ll be making an intentional effort to build on our diversity recruitment, year after year. We also know we need to have patience; it is not going to happen overnight.
Industry reports reveal a shortage of women in advisory and other leadership roles. What makes Magnet ideal for women?
As we developed the program, we conducted extensive research to uncover our employee value proposition and understand what career attributes are most important to employee satisfaction among different demographics. It revealed that women valued independence, flexibility, career acceleration, and the opportunity to build relationships and advocate for their clients. Men, on the other hand, trended heavily toward income potential.
As a Magnet Financial Advisor, you can define what success looks like to you and attain it. We have removed many of the barriers to success. In traditional roles, a new Financial Advisor might be on commission within the first two months. Magnet gives advisors two years on a salary while they learn, so they have a better chance to succeed.
What has M done to ensure Financial Advisors thrive at their new Member Firm?
The key to engagement and inclusion is the Member Firm Principal. We work closely with the Principal to create an environment that’s welcoming and help the new advisor adapt as quickly as possible. We’ve also required our Principals to identify two key roles within their organization—a mentor and a sales manager—and provide them with training so that they can act as competent guides to the new advisor.
We think the intentional effort we put into engagement at the Member Firm will both increase the likelihood that all Magnet participants thrive in their role and help us reach our diversity goals.