Print this Article
Facebook   Twitter   LinkedIn   YouTube

Strengthening Your Financial Planning Practice with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By Linda Leitz

Attempts to eliminate racism and other biases in hiring and culture have been ongoing for decades. The murder of George Floyd brought new energy to these efforts. Despite growing emphasis in society to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, “Certain identities continue to be underrepresented in knowledge work professions compared to society’s population, including women and non-binary people, people of color, queer people, and disabled people, among others,” shares Dr. John Meluso (he/they). Meluso is a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Vermont who will become an Ezra Postdoctoral Associate at Cornell later this year.

He also notes empirical support to the advantage of having diverse working groups, saying, “Diverse groups tend to outperform less-diverse groups—even groups of experts—across all kinds of tasks. But, this only happens if every person knows they belong in the group. We can help people from underrepresented populations feel like they belong through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices. Policies—at every level of an organization—make sure that every individual has what they need to participate fully (we call this equity). But we also need to normalize respectful practices that consistently integrate underrepresented perspectives. Together, policies and practices ensure that every person belongs and can contribute to the group.”

Danielle “Dani” Parris-Exline, CFP®, AFC® with Peace of Mind Financial Planning, Inc. points out that, “As the financial planning profession continues to grow and serve more families, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion both in the development of future planners and in the way we welcome individuals who come to us for help is crucial. This focus will ensure that the profession is prepared to meet the varied needs and understand the different perspectives of the growing and changing population of people we joined this profession to serve.”

CFP Board Initiatives

A report from the CFP Board and The Center for Financial Planning in 2018 reported that 3.5% of the 80,000 CFP® Professionals in 2017 were Black or Latinx. Progress in diversity is reflected in 2022 data, with 15% of new CFP® professionals being racially and ethnically diverse. The CFP Board has initiatives that include a DEI Summit, scholarship programs specifically for people of color, a Diversity Advisory Group, and support of ongoing research to assess needs and measure progress.

NAPFA’s DEI Committee

NAPFA’s DEI Committee members are Bill Hampton, AFSP of Hampton Tax & Financial Services, LLC; John Eing, CFP®, CPA at Quantum Financial Advisors, LLC; and Mindy Neira, CFP® at Modera Wealth Management, LLC. The goal of this committee is to provide resources and education for financial advisors and financial advisory firms around culture, hiring practices, people, and inclusion.

A major educational resource from the committee is a DEI training program. Bill provided information about the program on behalf of the committee, noting its objectives are: 

  • Equip NAPFA members and other financial advisors with education around DEI topics.
  • Provide resources to NAPFA members and other financial advisors who are dedicated to increasing the diversity in the financial planning profession.
  • Provide resources to NAPFA members and other financial advisors to better service minority clients and communities.
  • Educate NAPFA members and other financial advisors on ways to include a more welcoming environment in their firms.

This program, facilitated by NAPFA volunteers and DEI practitioners from academia, has been provided in person at NAPFA conferences, online, and at financial firms. Prior to attending the program, participants view several videos that give foundational information about DEI topics. During the training, facilitators provide a forum for discussion of the videos as well as group input on the DEI topics of culture, hiring practices, people, and inclusion. At the end of the program, participants are given a certificate. Continuing education on DEI as well as an annual statement on how the participant is applying DEI in their practice are required to maintain certification.

BLX Internship Program

If you’re looking for ways to support greater diversity in our profession, look into the BLX Internship Program. Leisha Barton, program coordinator for BLX, explains "The BLX program is a stepping stone for those looking to enter the financial services industry. BLX helps aspiring candidates land that elusive first job in our profession. They also help firms source, hire, and onboard new team members. Recruiting and hiring are the first steps, followed by creating a culture of belonging and an inclusive mentality in the workplace. Our program is designed to link innovative industry leaders with top-tier, diverse talent, effectively closing the diversity gap in financial planning firms."

These internships are for eight to 12 weeks and can be in person in a firm’s office or virtual, provide interns with 20 to 40 hours of work per week, and pay interns a minimum of $20/hour. Firms apply to have an intern and pay a nominal fee to support the program’s ongoing operations. Whether or not you anticipate hiring in the future, providing experience to an intern is a positive way to give back to the profession. And you might find a candidate for a permanent position in your firm.

The firm I co-own with Dani has participated in the BLX Internship Program for the past two years. Our intelligent and qualified interns provided excellent support in our client meetings and also worked on projects. Atiya “Tia” Smith, M.S., was a BLX intern at our firm in 2023. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1993 to 2017, she decided she was interested in a different line of service and began pursuing a career in financial services. She completed her master of science in financial planning from Golden Gate University in 2019, and is now planning to sit for the CFP® exam. After some experience in firms with business models that included commissions, she found BLX. She says, “As a career changer, I’ve found that the BLX Internship Program provided a way for me to get exposure to holistic financial planning with a Fee-Only firm. It also provides a way for firms to gain confidence that qualified professionals can bring value to their firms regardless of their ethnicity.”

We all know that hands-on experience—not just fetching coffee and making copies—can be integral to potential entrants to our profession. Every profession, even one as wonderful as financial planning, might look interesting to someone exploring careers, and direct experience can either confirm or deny a person’s decision to take the steps to fully enter the profession. As Tia shared, “I learned that although I lack experience in financial planning, firms can leverage the other critical skills I bring to the table from my former career, and greatly benefit areas of the firm that impact clients.” As a big fan of the BLX program, Tia is “grateful that this program exists because I don’t think I would have gotten the opportunity any sooner, despite my education and professional experience, to show the value I can bring to a firm.”


Opportunities abound to help our profession grow to one that reflects society. The first step is awareness of the need, which can lead to ideas of how to best make a difference.

Linda Leitz, CFP®, EA, is a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor in Colorado Springs, CO, with Peace of Mind Financial Planning Inc. and can be reached at

image credit: Bambina