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May 11, 2023
InvestmentNews' DE&I Summit and Awards celebrates individuals, firms, and partners advancing DE&I in financial services. The College was invited to attend the 6th annual event as a finalist in the category of Diversity Champion, to provide valuable insight during a panel discussion focused on countering anti-DE&I sentiments, and to celebrate President and Chief Executive Officer George Nichols III, CAP®’s recognition as this year’s See It, Be It Role Model.
InvestmentNews' See It, Be It Role Model is awarded to those who have demonstrated leadership and achievements in financial services while actively seeking to inspire those from diverse backgrounds to pursue financial services careers.
As the first Black President and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, Nichols has recognized the opportunity for The College to further expand on its goals and efforts to address economic injustice in America. Nichols has been acclaimed for his efforts to drive transformative change in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the financial services industry and elsewhere. Under his leadership, The College has prioritized diversifying the profession.
Upon accepting the award, Nichols spoke about his experiences embarking on his career journey. "Many times throughout my career, I've been the first, the only, or one of the few,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be the lone wolf, assimilating and integrating myself into the existing culture."
He also spoke about the importance of having diverse role models to help others grow in confidence and belonging. "Two things happen when we can SEE IT AND BE IT. When we SEE IT, our confidence grows. What we aspire to achieve and the goals we've set for ourselves appear closer; we know our dreams are attainable,” he said.
Nichols added, "And as more of us BECOME IT, the space in which we are free to celebrate our individuality expands. We no longer feel pressured to assimilate, but are free to celebrate our shared history, challenges, and culture. With this celebration of self, biases begin to break down, perspectives widen, and true belonging is born in our corporate cultures."
InvestmentNews Names The College as a Finalist for Diversity Champion
Each year, InvestmentNews also recognizes firms and industry partners that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organization or across financial services. With a strategic focus on diversifying the profession and as a steadfast champion of advancing DE&I initiatives, The College was named as a finalist for this year's Diversity Champion award.
Multiple initiatives led by The College's Centers of Excellence, including the Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality, the Center for Women in Financial Services, the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Center for Special Needs advance DE&I in the financial services industry and beyond.
President Nichols, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jared Trexler, Vice President of Administration and Chief Human Resources Officer Deborah Eskridge Glenn, MA, MSM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and Executive Director of the Center for Women in Financial Services Hilary Fiorella attended the event to connect with others leading in DE&I and celebrate The College’s recognition.
The College Leads Panel Discussion on Countering Pushback and Addressing Anti-DE&I Sentiments
President Nichols was joined by Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Commonwealth Financial Network Scarlett Abraham Clarke for a discussion on how to counter DE&I pushback moderated by the Executive Director for the American College Center for Women in Financial Services, Hilary Fiorella.
The discussion focused on the benefits realized from DE&I initiatives, why some employees are resistant, and proven strategies to counter anti-DE&I sentiment. Nichols pointed to political pressures and economic uncertainty over the past year as why some executives have started "falling back to what's 'worked' in the past." Nichols cautioned leaders to continue with DE&I strategic plans and initiatives "even if the business is stressed."
"Executives need to be realistic in setting expectations and solving the bigger issues. Coming out and saying you're going to increase diverse hires by five percent in a tight environment sets up a false dichotomy where someone feels threatened by personal loss," he said. "We must re-frame so everyone wins with the focus on diversity as a growth engine for everyone."