Groups Use Networking, Skills to Encourage Diversity

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Diversity is going to be a pressing issue on Wall Street for some time. Two leading organizations in the area are helping securities professionals develop their careers by encouraging them to meet the right people and develop the right skills.

Groups such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow, or "MLT," and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) spend much of their time encouraging people to develop the relationships necessary for successful careers on Wall Street. And while MLT, ALPFA and other organizations are known for their work among college, graduate and even high school students, many of their leaders believe even experienced professionals should take advantage of networking events, industry summits and other programs these groups offer. "Our goal is in getting those in vice president or manager roles up to partner," says Ann Marquez, executive director of ALPFA's New York chapter. "That takes time and commitment on everyone's part."

Despite an industry-wide emphasis on recruiting and retaining talent with diverse backgrounds, securities firms are making slow progress in their efforts to include more women and minorities in the ranks of their senior managers. While many observers say recruitment of minority talent out of college was succeeding in diversifying staffs at the junior level, a lack of diverse talent in the middle-management ranks has slowed efforts to diversify Wall Street's executive tier.

Meanwhile, minority candidates have an exceptional opportunity: Because fewer women, blacks and Hispanics are applying to business schools, financial companies are engaged in a fierce war for their talent. After recruitment, investment banks are going to increasing lengths to retain these workers and help them develop their careers. Citigroup, for example, has programs covering such topics as corporate politics, communications and presentation skills.

Encouraging Relationships

Having a role model in the finance field can be a powerful motivating tool, notes Marquez. "One of the things that makes ALPFA unique is that we have finance and accounting pros involved who are primarily Latino," she says. "There's always an opportunity to network at our events. It's all about building relationships." The group also partners with many of the major investment and finance firms for job summits, in addition to a variety of other events. This fall, for example, the chapter will host a summit to focus on investment-banking careers.

To create a more diverse workforce requires mentoring and "door-opening relationships," believes John Rice, president of MLT. His group is devoted to increasing the presence of minorities in business school and leadership positions. "What's distinctive about our program is that we aren't necessarily focused on scholarships or internships, though some of our partner companies do provide internships or jobs," Rice says. "We're really interested in developing the needed hard and soft skills that get you ahead in the finance realm."

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