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A Curriculum Reform on Nurturing Talent and Culture

The great resignation hasn’t spared the money management industry, and firms would be wise to heed one of my grandmother’s harsh sayings, “You don’t release your water until the well runs dry.”

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the waste of work, frustration with a resolute culture and a greater need for flexibility – factors that continue to “dry up the well” of available talent.

Yet many wealth management firms fail to prioritize internal engagement, even as they aggressively pursued external victories. Leaders succumbed to the excitement surrounding a historic, raging bull market, the rapid acceleration of assets under management and a flurry of firm acquisitions. The rapid development gave rise to the mantras “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Or if it’s broken, “figure it out” in relation to the costs borne by the firm’s talent and impact on the corporate culture.

How can an established wealth management firm be course-correct when facing a talent crisis?

I asked this question to my 16-year-old Gen Z daughter and 11th grade student government representative, Karis Braxton, who faced similar leadership challenges navigating the culture and connectedness at her academically rigorous high school. His words of wisdom are apt for wealth management executives whose lessons on leadership remain elusive.

  • Pay attention to the widespread discontent and dig deeper

As student representatives, Karis and her classmates noticed high levels of murmurs and complaints in hallways, social chats, and classrooms between students, staff, and administration. Instead of ignoring the energy, they surveyed their peers to determine the source of the anxiety and frustration, and collected suggestions for improving the quality of their community experience.

“We used open-ended survey questions focused on common concerns such as homework, social mobility, technical problems and teacher-student communication,” Karis said. “Students appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on the things that mattered to them and offer concrete solutions.”

Money Management Lessons: Don’t normalize burnout and dissatisfaction. Create deliberate opportunities to get feedback from your employees about their experiences without fear of repression, reprisal or retribution.

  • Invite key leaders to facilitate and enact change

With the pivotal survey data, both student leaders collaborated with the Dean to launch a “Circle Practice,” where students and teachers could have open and structured discussions at home on problems and solutions.

“The gatherings were designed in such a way that everyone could share their point of view without interruption, which leveled the field of communication,” she said. “Designing circles based on classrooms refines the opportunity for specific challenges and customized solutions such as dialing in work assignments and classroom time for feedback sessions.”

Money Management Lessons: Train and encourage managers to engage in formal and intrapreneurial activities that facilitate daring interaction and collaboration without relying solely on human resources for ideation and implementation.

  • Empower leaders to empower the next generation of talent

By delegating, engaging and empowering students, the school’s culture changed from a culture that voiced talent to one that recognized the value of their experiences and contributions.

“Administration’s willingness to create structured opportunities for community engagement, even as it ‘takes away from academic time’, goes a long way with enhancing student and teacher productivity and performance. With potential high school students It also boosts our confidence while sharing how we feel as students.”

Money Management Lessons: Recognize that your people are your biggest asset and referral source.

Wealth management leaders who remain regressive in advancing their firm’s culture and people stand to lose sight of profit from unprecedented growth by ignoring the effects of unprecedented times. Course-correcting opportunities can be as simple as paying attention to and empowering those who do, before the work is undone.

Lazzetta Renee Braxton is the co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, founder of Lazzetta & Associates, and chairman of the board of directors of the Association of African American Financial Advisors.

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