Employing a diverse workforce, with opportunities for women, Blacks and other minorities, requires plenty of hard work by the broader financial services industry and the narrower financial advice industry, which has roughly 320,000 individuals registered as brokers or investment advisers.
The numbers over the past 20 years have been bad but they appear to be slowly, haltingly improving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the portion of personal financial advisers who are women has increased to 34% in 2020 from 31.6% in 2016. Industry executives and recruiters peg the number of women advisers to have increased by a few percentage points in the past decade to about 25% of the total working right now.
Flitter based her article on an on-the-record interview with a former Wells Fargo Advisor recruiter Joe Bruno, and nearly a dozen other Wells Fargo employees who buttressed Bruno’s claims. [Full disclosure: I spoke with Bruno a few times over the winter about this issue and found him credible, but I was unsuccessful at tracking down other current or former Wells Fargo employees to support his claim.]
“Mr. Bruno is one of seven current and former Wells Fargo employees who said that they were instructed by their direct bosses or human resources managers in the banks wealth management unit to interview ‘diverse’ candidates even though the decision had already been made to give the job to another candidate,” according to the Times’ article. “Five others said they were aware of the practice, or helped to arrange it.”
“The interviews, they said, seemed to be more about helping Wells Fargo record its diversity efforts on paper partly in anticipation of possible regulatory audits rather than hiring more women or people of color,” according to the article.
Bruno, who had been registered with Wells Fargo Advisors and its predecessor firms since 2003, complained to his bosses but his claims were dismissed, according to the article. “Last August, Mr. Bruno, 58, was fired. In an interview, he said Wells Fargo retaliated against him for telling his superiors that the ‘fake interviews’ were ‘inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.'”
In a response to the Times’ article, Wells Fargo said the recruiter was dismissed for retaliating against a fellow employee.
Other institutions, including the NFL, have faced claims of a fake or phony hiring process that targets and takes advantage of Black candidates.
And the brokerage industry for years has grappled with claims of racial bias and discrimination, throwing money at financial advisers who are women or minorities and make such allegations; Wells Fargo settled one such claim in 2017, paying close to $36 million to more than 300 financial advisers who alleged they were stationed in poor neighborhoods and kept away from opportunities to win new clients and partner with white financial advisers, according to The New York Times.
For its part, Wells Fargo is sticking by its record when it comes to hiring. A spokesperson for Wells Fargo Advisors noted that in 2021, the bank hired right around 30,000 employees, of whom more than 60% were racially or ethnically diverse and 58% were women. And of the almost 26,000 people the bank hired in 2020, 77% were not white men.
So that’s headway, apparently. But the report by The New York Times this week illustrates how deeply embedded the fear of hiring diverse candidates for jobs can be at institutions such as Wells Fargo. It’s easier to make a show of progress than it is to make progress.