MASTERCLASS: Women in Financial Services - October 2019

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  • 01 hr 06 mins 22 secs
This panel discussion addresses gender equality within the financial services sector, the progress that has been achieved thus far, and the role of diversity and inclusion when it comes to attaining top talent. Three experts in the financial services industry share personal stories and weigh in on the importance of this topic.  
  • Annamaria Testani, Vice-President, National Sales at National Bank Investments
  • Duane Green, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton Canada
  • Jackie Porter, Partner at Carte Financial Services



Clare O’Hara: When it comes to gender equality, where does the financial services sector stand? In North America, women account for over half of the entry level positions in financial services. But now, they're beginning to reach more senior positions in executive levels. But it's happening at a slower pace than necessary.

Women still only represent fewer than 20% of the positions in the financial services C-suite. So, despite this progress, there's still much to be done to achieve gender parity in the financial services sector. As a result, companies that are not focused on gender diversity are going to be at risk of attaining top talent.

Here today to delve into the subject of women in financial services, we have three guests who are deeply committed to the forward momentum of this growth. Joining us today, we have Annamaria Testani, Vice-President, National Sales at National Bank Investments, Duane Green, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton Canada, and Jackie Porter, Partner at Carte Financial Services.

I'm Clare O'Hara with The Globe and Mail, and this is Asset TV's Women in Financial Services Masterclass.

Welcome, everyone. Thank you for joining me today. So, this is a topic that there is a lot to cover. So, I do just want to jump in. But when we're thinking about, in recent years, gender diversity and gender equality, they've really become buzzwords in the industry, that's been, you know, really dominated by males, typically, in our community. For decades, women have been underrepresented in the banking community, as well in the asset management industry.

But thankfully, things are beginning to change. Duane, I want to start off with you, not to pick on you, as the single male on our panel today.

Duane Green: Yeah. Okay.

Clare O’Hara: But I do want to hear a little bit from you first on how your team is promoting diversity and inclusion in your company.

Duane Green: I would say that it's an ongoing process. So, I wouldn't even try to say that we've figured it out, or we're at the finish line. I'd say we're still at the early stages. You know, we are a global organization. So, I represent the Canadian part of our business. So, you know, in my role it's certainly something that we're trying to promote and promote a culture of inclusion and of diversity.

So, you know, it's really trying just to create an awareness, create education within the organization, so that we, you know, have that ability to, you know, look at how we're doing our business, how we're running it, but also how we're providing the tools and, I guess, the resources for our employees to develop their careers within our organization, and just really giving them that opportunity to flourish.

I mean, selfishly, I don't want people to have to leave our organization to go to an organization where they feel they are welcomed, or they have that opportunity that they didn't feel they had with us. But I think it's something that we have to continuously work toward and try to figure out new ways to just get our arms around just diversity and inclusion in general.

Clare O’Hara: And Annamaria, coming from National Bank Investments, is that a similar approach, is ...

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely, and I think for us, we take more of the inclusion approach versus diversity, because diversity's a consequence of inclusion. For us, we focus a lot on what we call conscious and unconscious bias.

So, we're spending a lot of time on educating people that are you aware that you're having an internal dialogue when you're meeting someone that's different from you, and that how you're interpreting the facts in your mindset could inadvertently change a decision that you're making. That's where most of the problems that we're realizing is different doesn't mean bad. Different just means different. But educating yourself that we all have unconscious bias, it's not a bad thing, being aware of them though, and working on the mechanics, the triggers, the coping mechanisms that allow you to say, "Okay, you know what? I have two curriculums. One comes from an Ivy League school, one doesn't. Is that just enough to remove a candidate?"

I didn't even put religion or race into this, right? I just put school. But we do these unconscious biases constantly. So, we're really focusing on the coaching. I don't think anyone wakes up wanting to discriminate in any way, shape or form, but we end up doing it by our internal dialogue.

So, again, our focus is inclusion versus diversity, and how do you make that, really, something part of the DNA of your managers? Because it's got to live. It can't be a movement. It can't be a fashion statement. It has to live through the fabric of the business. Because ironically, we have very diverse clients. So, if you're catering to a diverse group of clients, why can't you hire a wide, diverse group of individuals? Doesn't make any sense.

Clare O’Hara: And Jackie, so, you're coming from a little different perspective, as a financial advisor. You know, what's your approach to this, or your experience in the community?

Jackie Porter: I think I'm diverse. Look at me. No surprise there. I think, actually though, one of the great things ... Like, I work with Carte Wealth Management, and they were rated the number one mutual dealer to work with, and I think just having an open door policy, as a company, being willing to listen.

I think, you know, the temptation with saying we've got diversity in a firm, or have, you know, people of color in a firm, is we seem to think that it makes it look like we have it in the bag, and it doesn't mean that we do. I think it's an ongoing conversation that needs to be had. So, if we have a culture, and cultivating a culture where voices are heard, so, I'm fairly vocal about being a woman, a person of color, and why those things matter, both as an advisor, for other advisors looking to come into the industry, but also for clients that we're attracting.

I think you brought up a really great point before, saying our clients are diverse. These perspectives, actually, if we understand them, we understand it brings value to a company. I think that's one of the reasons that, you know, Carte was rated one of the number one firms to work with, and also, you know, why I think it's really important, why diversity matters is because, you know, if we're willing to listen, being willing to listen as well, to someone else's point of view, and really being prepared to give people the floor for that is really important, if we're going to further that conversation.

Clare O’Hara: So, Annamaria, when we talk about gender diversity, as you, sitting in a vice president role, you know, how does gender diversity impact the culture of an entire organization?

Annamaria Testani: Well, I think, fundamentally, it impacts how you listen and how you talk. We ... You can have two diverse individuals say the same thing, but each will understand it differently. Because the adjectives and the connotations that we put behind language is different.

I tend to run a diverse group of individuals, but they are still very heavily male, and I'll tend to often stop in the conversation and ask them, "What do you mean by that?" They'll use a vocabulary that I'm already starting on a tangent. "Oh, this is what they mean. Here's my rebuttal," only to realize I'm completely in left field. They meant something else.

I think part of that, to your point, I think, is we need to slow down and not assume. We need to slow down and clarify communication. "What do you mean by that? Why is that causing you to have concern? Why do you see that as risky, versus I don't see it. Can you help me understand?" When you open that kind of, sort of two-way communication, you're going to get the culture differences, above culturally, this is what it means to me. It's no longer defensive.

I think that's what we have to start understanding. It is okay to talk about these things and say, "Well, culturally, this is what it means in my culture, but I'm open to having that dialogue with you." So, I find the difficulties, if you're not aware of this, is to understand the person that's talking to you is different, but you need to understand, if you're not sure, speak up.

Clare O’Hara: Ask the questions.

Annamaria Testani: Ask the questions. I'd like to think I have no shame. I don't think I know everything. In fact, God knows I know I don't know everything. It doesn't make me weaker.

I find the fact that I constantly am asking for clarity slows me down, slows my assumptions, slows down my biases, and it actually allows the other person to be more engaged. I do get deeper relationships, at the end of the day.

Jackie Porter: Yeah, and I think, to your point, just creating that culture where people don't feel like if they tell you how they're feeling, and they explain the lens that they see the world through, that they're not going to be judged, or it's going to be a career limiting move for them to talk about, you know, some of the differences.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Jackie Porter: In terms of their point of view.

Duane Green: You use the term culture. I think it's so important, obviously, in any organization, that that culture really has to come from the top. That's what sets the tone within an organization.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Duane Green: So, from our perspective, you know, Jenny Johnson, our President and Chief Operating Officer, and as well as Greg Johnson, our Chairman and CEO, really set that tone and that whole culture of inclusion and diversity, that really translates across all of our operations, globally, but I think that's, you know ... People use that term, culture, and you want to say and rally around culture, and say, "I feel I'm a part of it," but if people don't feel that it's even bought into from the senior leadership, and that's where it's important to make sure that, you know, that conversation is happening, and it's widespread, and it's not just a memo or something like that, that's ...

Annamaria Testani: It's not just a number.

Duane Green: Exactly. That's ... You know, your point on numbers. You don't want ... Things can't just be about numbers, or quotas, or checking a box. It really is about how do you build a good, robust employee base and business, you know, that takes advantage of all of the diversity and, you know, and including all of those different viewpoints and perspectives.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, Duane, you're kind of talking about it, and so, we're talking about having gender diversity at the senior level in the boardroom. Just looking at it from another angle, like, how does gender diversity at the senior levels impact the bottom line of the organization?

You were just kind of touching upon it, but when we're looking at results and numbers.

Duane Green: I look at it from the standpoint of you want to have very good people in all the roles that you've got within your organization. I agree with you about the unconscious bias. You know, we've been doing a lot of work in all of our recruiting now, around trying to work toward eliminating the unconscious bias, although I don't think you can fully eliminate it, but you can make steps to, you know, better, you know, adapt your recruiting process.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Duane Green: In terms of, you know, yes, there's ... You've probably written about it, you know, a number of times, Clare, in terms of, you know, board level diversity, senior executive level diversity, or gender diversity, that is. Then you look at the employee base.

So, you know, I'd say we've probably got about 50% of our employee base are female, but then, obviously, I look and translate that to how many are in the senior roles. How do you then try to get that environment where you can show that there can be career development, and you can mentor and encourage, you know, females to, you know, advance their careers so that they ... the numbers can come about.

But it goes back to you can't mandate it. It has to be homegrown within an organization. It's where I go back to my earlier comment. I want Franklin Templeton to be viewed as an employer by choice, you know, for good talent on the street, you know, across the board. But the representation of females in our industry is so low that how do we encourage, you know, more women to come into our industry, whether in an advisory capacity, in a sales capacity, portfolio management. I think it's an education of what these roles are.

I mean, I think I, you know, go back to, you know, when we were all in school. Did we really even understand how our industry worked? Now that we're in it, looking back, I had no idea what financial services was, you know, and the different roles or career paths you could take. So, I think we need to do more of a better job of educating people in the university ages about a career in finance, a career in wealth management, and what that actually can mean. It's a fascinating industry, and it's probably the best industry out there, outside of journalism.

Clare O’Hara: Of course. So, Annamaria, just to follow up on that, when you were talking about the bottom line of the organization, you know, what are some thoughts coming from National Bank?

Annamaria Testani: If you look at economics, economics is about taking a great idea, maximizing it, making it a business around it. Now, today we ... If you look at all the great kind of, sort of surprises that have affected the businesses, they've never been standard profiles that you find.

All we're saying in inclusion is that it shouldn't always just look like it should be a white man. There is that same, unique person in women, in every other race. It does have an impact on your bottom line because that creativity that you're tapping in, if everyone thinks the same, you're painting with one color. At the end of the day, it's great the first day. By the second day, you're starting to not like that color. You're not opening yourself up to what's out there.

Why does it affect the bottom line? Because we're in, now, a business where let's be honest. Technology is making things a lot more harder.

Jackie Porter: 100%.

Annamaria Testani: So, if everyone has the same technology going forward, the number one factor that is going to differentiate us from anyone is people. So, if you don't have a wide, diverse group of individuals providing you that feedback, that dialogue, the challenge, "No, I don't think that's right. I don't think this is appropriate," that gives you different perspectives ... I'm not saying you don't get that by just having only, you get more of it when you have inclusive mentalities.

At the end of the day, you become more competitive. If you are more competitive, it does have an impact on market share. It does have an impact on your bottom line. I think companies where you see the natural inclusions across the levels, to your point, I do think at the beginning, sometimes, you have to mandate it. The status quo is a very difficult beast to change. So, if you're not mandated, it's like that heart attack, right? You know you have to lose weight, but some people need the heart attack to start ... to change their life.

Jackie Porter: To take it seriously.

Annamaria Testani: I think our industry needs a little bit of a push to get it going. Do I think we need to be severe? Probably not. But it's hard to choose.

So, if we're thinking economics, because we are ... I'm a publicly traded company. We have responsibilities to our shareholders. We have responsibilities to our clients. We have a responsibility to our employees. Those are the three things that guide a publicly traded company. At the end of the day, if you're not inclusive, one of those three is not going to be happy, and that means you're not going to economically grow.

There's a lot of studies on that.

Clare O’Hara: So, Jackie, I just want to throw it over to you for a second. So, as someone who is working inside an organization, as an employee, so, what are you seeing with women in senior roles in your organization? How does it impact it as a whole?

Jackie Porter: I just think, really, the ... When diversity is seen as a strength, it's that different perspective that adds value. Just kind of what you were saying before, where if everybody's seeing the same thing, you don't necessarily ... There's not necessarily the opportunity to look at the situation differently, see, sometimes, the risks, see, sometimes, the issues.

One of the great examples of that are when we're looking at companies that actually have more senior management, we're seeing women bringing that perspective of risk management. We're actually better ... We're actually really good risk managers. We'll see that concern, that potentially other types of managers won't see. That's likely why we're seeing the development of some of these investments that are coming out, that are women-centric, that are being led by women, because it's looking at, "Well, what are we missing? What are we missing in the industry that isn't already here? How are we potentially adding value?"

It could be looking at staying away from companies that pollute. It could be just looking at other factors that might affect a company's bottom line. Women are actually seen as doing that a little bit better than men. So, I think those are definitely ways that, you know, as an example, that we add to the bottom line.

The other thing that I think is really important, that you mentioned as well, is this whole thing about empathy and connection. You can't, at this point, use technology to create empathy. As our industry becomes willfully more commoditized, and it's all about just rates of return, and potentially using AI to do that, one of the things, I think, women, from a diverse standpoint, what we bring to the table is that ability to connect, ability to create that people side, and build on the connection side, help people with their problems, and not focus just on rates of return.

Clare O’Hara: I think that's a good point, the emotional side of clients.

Jackie Porter: You can't manufacture empathy. You just can't. At this point.

Clare O’Hara: Right. Let's hope it never gets to that point, where robots can be giving empathetic ...

Jackie Porter: I think that's a secret weapon that, you know, women have, and women advisors bring to the table. We're changing the conversations that are happening with people about their investments.

Clare O’Hara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Porter: About their finances.

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, Duane, I want to just shift gears here and talk about recruiting. So, at your company, how have you altered recruiting over the years to change things a little?

Duane Green: Yeah. I mean, at a high level, I would say it goes along the lines of trying to eliminate the unconscious bias, and to really take a fresh look at how you want to bring people into the organization, but it's also how you want your organization to be portrayed by, you know, potential candidates.

Again, if it's viewed as an organization that is inclusive, accepts diversity, accepts different ways of thinking, ability to challenge the status quo, then I think, from a recruiting standpoint, you can weave that into the conversation, the narrative about who you are as an organization, to, you know, allow for these candidates to see, "Is this going to be a good opportunity for us," or for them, to join an organization that's seen as more progressive, and is open to different ways of thinking.

So, you know, it's ... It's a constant evolution, as far as I'm concerned. I don't come, obviously, from an HR background, but what I look for, you want the best candidate, but you want a diverse range of candidates. I think when you can approach it, and almost to the point of saying, "I don't just want three male candidates as the final candidates. I want to include at least, you know ..." And you put some parameters or metrics around it, without trying to make it, you know, it's not about quotas or having to hire, you know, a certain number just to check a box. It's really about making sure we have truly looked at all the good candidates we possibly could.

Clare O’Hara: All right. So, Annamaria, would you agree with sort of those measures? Is that something that National Bank is doing? Are there any additional things you're doing?

We see a lot of numbers around even just like, regulators trying to promote women on boards, and have certain numbers. Is that something you're seeing? Is there any like, metrics?

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely. We've done ... I'm actually on quite a few of those committees, and a few of those projects where we fundamentally have started saying to ourselves, "Okay, at every different level ..." Big institutions, we have levels. We call them different names. We are consciously aware of, again, visible minority and women. We try to look ... We have many other variables. If we take the two biggest ones, we'll break it down per company.

We've now instituted that women that have high potentials, that could become executives, should be put in a pool and should be encouraged by other managers to be interviewed. So, HR, we call them employee experience in our firm. They actually strongly encourage managers to widen the scope, even though that person doesn't fit the traditional profiles, interview them. Deal with your unconscious bias.

So, we're doing many of those things. I would say to you ... It's also understanding that it is a numbers game. If you put more people into the pot, eventually, you know, the cream does kind of, sort of go up.

I did an exercise myself where I was referred someone, internally ... Sorry, someone, internally, strongly referred me this individual. I was replacing one of my execs. I had two great candidates. I just said, "I don't want to make this about gender. I really don't want to make it about gender." Because I abhor being chose as a woman. I want to be chosen as a leader. I'm an exec.

So, what I did is I went to the psychology ... You know, you have those psychometrics exams. Got the results. Hid the names. I showed the results on a piece of paper. I just went to everyone, and I said, "Based on these two, who'd you pick?" So, everyone put an X on it. Then I just peeled off the name. It was her. Why'd I do that? Well, I wanted her to be able to say she didn't get chosen because she was a woman, but you were put in the pot because I wanted to have diversity.

So, it's a bit of both, right? It's one of those you have to make the effort to put people into the pool. You have to train people to not apply biases to that process. Then you let the system work, because there are an amazing amount of great talent.

You know, one of the things I don't like hearing, and it bothers me a lot, is I often hear, "There's not enough women." I disagree. There are. It's because they just don't fit ... They don't look or think or act in the way that you are accustomed into wanting to see a leader. We're just different. We'll use different jokes. We'll dress differently. We might act a little differently. The end result though is can we have an impact to the team that we're leading? Can we have an impact to the bottom line? Can we make the system better?

Those are the questions we should be asking.

Jackie Porter: It's also, too, if it's there's not enough women, then the question really becomes are we grooming enough women, so we have a bigger pool? Are we doing that? Because then the responsibility's still on us. Right?

Clare O’Hara: An interesting data point that I recently read when I was doing another panel was that men, if they see a job posting, you know, if they have 60% of the qualifications, they'll apply, and women need 100% when they check it off.

So, I think it's interesting how you point out that, maybe, put people forward that might not think that they are qualified as well.

Annamaria Testani: But it's internal dialogue, right? Part of that is ... I often say back, it's nurturing. If you go back in time, we would put little boys into sports, and we'd say, "Go get it. Go do it." Women, or little girls, we kind of, sort of kept to tasks that required a lot of details. Right?

So, clean. Well, these are perfection, details kind of, sort of hobbies. So, eventually, you're only going to feel comfortable in doing something when you've controlled it. Whereas, in sports, it's nothing but trial and error.

We've seen now, through the last 10, 20, 30 years, you see an amalgamation, where it's no longer just boys that do sports. So, you're seeing now the conditioning, but this takes time. So, we have to be aware that sometimes our own internal dialogue of confidence is not there. So, I tend to reframe, and I tend to often say to people, "What's your downside?" "Well, I don't have all the qualification." "Fantastic. What's your downside?" They don't take you. They weren't going to take you anyways because you weren't applying. 

So, when you start telling people, "Your internal dialogue is inhibiting your ability to illustrate the greatness that you are. Deal with that. Because that, you control. You don't control who chooses, because that, at the end of the day, fit, it could be a variety of elements."

So, to your point, is it as easy as we don't apply, or is it just because the conditioning over time has led us to believe that we have to be of a certain level to do it? So, it's a bit of both, right? But if you have good leadership that spots those little pushes, and you apply them, right, it could be training, it could be coaching, it could be mentorship, it could be programs, it could be a variety of things, then you are changing status quo. Because then people, not just women, people will apply.

Jackie Porter: Yeah, and you're creating a pipeline that encourages diversity, and helps to build that confidence, because sometimes 

Annamaria Testani: It's done by default, as opposed to being done for a number. 

Duane Green: Sorry, Clare. I think it's getting candidates into the system, but it's also once they're in the organization, showing them that there are opportunities, and it is very much an education of different roles and identifying that talent, because you may think you're on one stream, but you could be tapped or identified as, you know, "You've got some great skills. Have you thought of this?"

So, we've actually created within our organization, globally, business resource groups across all DNI type areas, and one of them is Women at Franklin Templeton and Women at FT. One of the purposes are ... And they're employee led groups. But it's to really allow for men and women to be a part of these groups to, you know, foster that, you know, mentorship, just the conversation, the dialogue, but to create opportunities of other career opportunities within the organization.

It's that awareness, because again, you don't want someone to get in and then not be able to grow and develop the way they want to. Oftentimes, they don't ... People may not know how to grow and develop. They don't know what the other opportunities are. So, the more support we can provide internally, the better.

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, Jackie, coming from your standpoint as an advisor, and your own team, how do you approach recruiting for yourself?

Jackie Porter: It's really looking for people with shared values. It doesn't matter what their background is. It doesn't matter if they're men or women. It's really looking ... Because if you're building a culture, it has to be that we all share the same values, and that doesn't mean we have the same perspective, it just means that we have the same values, that we're really trying to build on that idea, build on the culture that we want.

The culture I'm building is really looking at ways ... Because I think what's great about women coming into the industry is this whole thing about empathy. I think that because the industry was mostly male dominated for so many years, we have a very masculine way of looking at finance. You know, really the culture I support is how do we feminize the industry, and why that's good for all clients, not just women?

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, jumping over a little bit of ... Maybe we could talk a bit about early on in our careers, and Annamaria, I want to start with you because you're a VP now, but when you first came in, you know, whether it was straight from university, or midway through your career, this conversation probably wasn't happening as much as today, if at all.

I'm just wanting if you could give a bit of discussion around what challenges you faced back then?

Annamaria Testani: It's ironic. I tend to often say I was a unicorn then, I'm a unicorn now. But the reality is I think when I was younger is, I didn't know any better. That did save me a lot. Because I look back, and I go, "Oh my God. I must have been intolerable to deal with." Because I just tried everything.

I also didn't limit myself. So, to the point that like, I knew there were biases, but I just plowed ahead. To your point though, I am blessed to have had a career where I lucked out. I can tell you that I've had about ... There are two great leaders that I worked for two other companies prior. Again, National Bank's fantastic. They've nurtured me. But when you talk about my youth, I did spend it elsewhere.

They, fundamentally, never saw me anything other than Annamaria. If you had to ask them how to define me, they would never had said, "She's Italian background. She's a young women." No, they would always say, "It's Annamaria." So, I never kind of, sort of grew up ... I actually thought I was weird because I was Annamaria, not because I didn't look and feel like anybody else.

So, the fact that I didn't know any better allowed me to just try. Looking back now, I'm like, "Wow, I lucked out," because I did have great leaders, but I lucked out because I also stuck with the values. See, none of these leaders had a different value system than ours, than mine. So, to do good, to do the right thing, those were very important things. They listened. If I would raise my hand in a meeting, the meeting would get stopped and say, "Annamaria has something to say. What do you have to bring to the table?"

But what that meant though is then I had a responsibility. So, if I'm going to raise my hand, and I want to bring something to the table, think. Bring value. Don't just talk to bring attention to yourself, but can you bring something to the table? Even though I was always disrupting, it was always, "There's a blind spot. Are you aware?" If someone says, "We are aware," perfect. I've done my job. I've brought something to the table.

So, many people would say, "Annamaria challenges status quo, but it's always for the greater good of the system." Looking back today, I can say it was difficult but when you're in it, it's normal. I think ... I wish I would have had more opportunities.

Clare O’Hara: Did you jump on opportunities that you knew you, maybe, weren't qualified for?

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Clare O’Hara: Did you take those chances?

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely, but it has to do with my nurturing, for the simple reason that I've been in sports, I've trained some sports serious enough that, you know, I was looking to do the Olympics. I have parents that were immigrants to Canada. Highly educated parents. Their education wasn't recognized.

So, failure was not an option. But nor was status quo. So, if it doesn't come to you, I was brought to you go to it. So, I remember applying ... This is the old days, guys. I applied to 50 institutions, and I brought 50 ... I literally went to everyone, and I just remember I got one job out of that. Today, when you mention that to many people, they'll be like, "Really, you didn't give up?" I'm like, "Well, I didn't have a choice. I didn't have a job."

Same thing with education. You know, I look back, I lucked out because the education ... I had a CFA, and I'm an executive MBA. But many of these educations weren't things I mapped out. I hung out with people that were similar in nature and profiles. Go getters, wanted to succeed. I didn't see them as different. I, by default, kind of, sort of tacked onto them. So, what they were doing, I did, not because I wanted to be different as a woman. I just wanted to be perceived ... Like, I did my CFA for only reason is just so people figured out I was smart.

So, you sit there going, many of these things, when you add them, right, it's like a layer every time to your persona. To the point is, where inclusion's difficult is if you've checked off all these things, like everybody else, I should have had three times more opportunities. That's the part that there's days when you're having a bad day, you're like ... I don't want women to have to go through that. If you've checked all these boxes, like everybody else has, you should have the exact and equal amount of opportunity. You deserve that.

Clare O’Hara: Right.

Annamaria Testani: That's what it ... That's the way the market should be.

Clare O’Hara: So, Duane, you've probably experienced seeing some of this happening around you, as well, when you first came into your career. What I'm interested to hear, you know, obviously, did you notice it happening, as well? Was there a time, or a pivotal moment, that made you become more vested into making the changes that you're doing today?

Duane Green: For a large part of my career, I was an independent contractor. So, I was within the business. I had my business to run, and it was me. So, it's always more been in that distribution sales side of it.

So, I would say I was probably blissfully ignorant to a lot of this conversation. I don't say that saying I'm proud that I was blissfully ignorant, but it didn't factor into my day-to-day. It was ... I was out client facing. I was out looking to gather assets and grow the business.

I would say though that as you grow, and you mature, and the more you're around strong female leaders, the more that that just becomes part of your own DNA within your organization. So, I would say that I've been fortunate enough to work with very strong females that it didn't ... It wasn't an issue. It never became a, "Okay, well, how did she get that role?" It was just these were the colleagues I was working with. I could learn from them, and grow, and develop.

So, you know, when I had this opportunity now to now lead the team, and to put my own stamp on it, it really was, you know, I do feel that, you know, women are underrepresented in our industry, but I think, we've spoken earlier about why some of those reasons are, because there are a lot of very strong women out there. But I also recognize we have a lot of strong women within our organization, and I want nothing more than to have an environment where we can promote from within, develop, you know, people to the point where they're not going to leave to go to another organization to develop their career because they see the opportunity with our firm to do that.

In addition, their colleagues, their friends, the street is going to say, "Okay, I've got a choice between two or three firms now. I like what they're saying over there. I like what I'm hearing from employees there, that are the best, obviously, the best advertisement you can get for the organization. I like what's happening at Franklin Templeton, in that case," so, to attract that and become that employer of choice.

So, you know, for me, it's an evolution, I would say, as well. I'm married, probably, to the strongest women I've ever met, and I feel that that's helped me grow and develop, as well. 

Clare O’Hara: Great. So, Jackie, I want to turn it over to you, and I like getting your perspective because, as an advisor, in the advisor community, and I've covered it for a really long time, it's still very skewed to being male dominated. The needle hasn't moved that much.

Jackie Porter: No.

Clare O’Hara: So, what are your experience when you first ... Like, what made you want to become an advisor, and stick it out when a lot of opportunity might have been handed over to other people?

Jackie Porter: Well, I think ... I was raised by a single mom, first of all, and I was really blessed that she had a lot of confidence in me, mostly because she didn't have a lot of choice. You know, realistically, growing up in the '70s, and I know I'm dating myself for the people who are not in the '70s in this room, grew up in the '70s in this room, I spent a lot of time on my own because we had a lot of responsibility. She was an immigrant. So, we had a lot of responsibility. So, I was doing a lot of adult things at a really young age.

I've been on my own since I was 16. Unfortunately, my mother passed away. As a result of that, I've been, you know ... I had a chance to become really confident about things, even money management, really early, because of her ... that gift. Truthfully, that was a really good training ground for getting into this industry because, you know, a lot of times, I'd forget that I'm a person of color and woman, and people would remind me. Thanks a lot, for all of you guys reminding me.

But truthfully, because of doing things so early, it gave me a lot of confidence just to forge on. It also gave me an opportunity to develop a voice, because ultimately, you have to communicate to people what you need. Truthfully, if you're going to be a really good advisor, helping clients, you have to listen. So, you have to be able to advocate for yourself. Women aren't necessarily the best advocators for themselves. So, that's something I learned, and I speak passionately about why women need to be better advocators. That's a word I make up. I make up words a lot.

But truthfully, I think that's one of the things in the advisory channel, is just really becoming a real advocator for myself. So, I often would find myself, in the industry, being in rooms I wasn't welcome, but my mother always said to me, "As a rule, just play dumb, if something comes up that you're ... If you want to be at a table, take a seat, even if you're not welcome. Give people a chance to get to know you. Show them that you're adding value. Don't come into the room like, if you're going to say something," very similar to what you said, "Don't embarrass us." That was my mother, as an immigrant, saying, "Don't embarrass us."

So, know your stuff. So, one of the reasons I got my CFP was because I wanted to be taken seriously in this industry and really be able to bring value, and that's something I speak to other advisors in the industry about, is getting the confidence, and getting the confidence means getting the credentials.

Then really speaking up for yourself. I think those are the key things, you know, in both my advisory role and, you know, talking to clients, and encouraging them to speak up, as well, about what they need. Because women are often, even in the client role, really good at, you know, saying what they need. As advisors, being in a male dominated industry, we haven't also been good at listening to what our clients need. We might just speak to the man in the relationship. The woman's there, and as soon as that guy goes, that money is going too.

Annamaria Testani: Statistically, it's actually ... We were talking about bottom line. Statistically, in a relationship, right, if an advisor's kind of, sort of developed and deepened the relationship with, let's say, the husband ...

Jackie Porter: That's right.

Annamaria Testani: 80% of them, when the husband is no longer in the picture, lose the widow.

Jackie Porter: That's right.

Annamaria Testani: So, you sit there going, mathematically, it is a numbers game. So, you are paid very well to listen.

Jackie Porter: That's exactly it.

Annamaria Testani: We need to start ... To your point though, we just need to be aware that we're listening to what we want to hear. I love doing that too. But at the end of the day, we're roles where we're playing a part. That part is to fully understand the full household, not just the person that likes to, or is making the decisions, or is giving the impression of making the decisions.

If there are two parties involved, ask the other party, "Have you understood what I said? If you can, can you explain it to me back in layman terms?" See, that's the interesting part where today the numbers are going to get changed from the bottom, because clients are making different decisions.

Now, what I say to people is, "We shouldn't do reverse racism. You don't choose someone just because they look like you." Do they have that skillset that makes them not to ruin this empathy, but it makes them emphatic to understanding your situation. Because remember, we're in a financial community. So, we provide services to better service our clients. If we're not listening to our clients, how can we provide that service? But if the clients also are not communicating, or doing wise choices, that's where it fails.

So, I think the more people come in, and I think today, the more inclusive that pool of talent is, that's when we're going to see the healthy competition happen.

Jackie Porter: I think it goes back to what you were saying before. We need to cultivate that pipeline, invite women into the industry. I mean, honestly, we're still a long way from inviting women in the industry, but having representation, people that look like me, like you, in the industry, really allows women to feel like, "Okay, they're at the table. I want to take a seat at the table, as well." 

Duane Green: On the advisory side, I mean, you've just hit on a huge, huge point there and, you know, the economics of it, and the transfer of wealth is going to be massive. Women are going to control the bulk of investible assets in the very near future. I mean, we know that women will live longer, statistically, than men, and we've launched a couple of programs internally. We only distribute through financial advisors and from an intermediary standpoint. So, you know, we want to really work with advisors to, you know, make them aware of how they're interacting with their clients because, to your point, you know the death of a spouse, and generally, if it's the male that predeceases the wide, you know, there is going to be a shift from that spouse going to another advisor.

Statistically ... I don't have it off the top of my head, but statistically ...

Jackie Porter: It's going to be them. It's going to move.

Duane Green: It's also going to move to another advisor. They're going to ... especially if that advisor has not engaged them in the process. Now, I agree. I get it that over time, you know, the husband's, maybe, taken on that but the advisor needs to recognize that there are two people and that they have to be a part of their conversation, and to engage them.

So, we've launched our, you know, two programs. Women in Wealth, that's really geared towards women financial advisors, as well as our Own Your Future, which is to educate male advisors on female clients and how to integrate and work with them, so that they can ... it's a business. They've got to control ...

Jackie Porter: That's a business case for diversity right there, right? So, it's going back to, you know, what are women good at? You know, studies have shown our being connectors, so recruiting women who are empathic, who can talk to women and not talk down to women, which is one of the issues we've seen in, you know, the industry right now, is being male dominated, talking to the husband not talking to the wife, not taking the time to explain what they're saying or making sure it's understood. All of those things are really good reason to recruit more women in the industry.

That's what I was talking about when I was talking about how can feminizing the industry, making it so that, you know, we're more empathic, more connecting. How is that good for all of the industry? It's good for all of the industry because it means we have a bigger market to talk to.

Clare O’Hara: Right. I want to jump back for a second, when you were mentioning about getting your CFP, and decisions, and advice from your mother, who seems like she was a big mentor in your life.

Jackie Porter: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clare O’Hara: Beyond her, how big a role has mentorship been for you?

Jackie Porter: Oh, huge. If there's a lot of women out there who could probably say that I, you know ... I tell people all the time I'm an orphan and that, you know, I'm still available to be adopted. So, I have lots of women mentors in my life who have, you know, after the passing of my mom, I've just kind of found people to mentor me, who I thought I could learn something from.

I've been very, very lucky and blessed that I've had lots of really successful mentors come into my life, not necessarily in the financial industry, but in other successful business owners, successful authors, who I've been able to collaborate with, and I'm super grateful. I think, for any woman who is looking to, you know, build her confidence, you know, get into the financial industry, you know, finding a mentor is key. Because it's just someone who can help develop you.

Clare O’Hara: Right.

Jackie Porter: The only way you can get better is you need a coach. So, mentors have a really amazing role in someone who wants to take on more leadership qualities, is they can help give them feedback to become better.

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, Duane, at Franklin Templeton, how important is mentorship? Is that a program that's running, and how often have you been a mentor to any females in the organization?

Duane Green: It's something I think we can do a better job at, to be honest, and I think we could formalize it more. I think there's a lot of informal mentorship, along with formal mentorship. I would say that, you know, I've worked with a lot of very strong females, and I have had a lot of opportunity to ... Whether it's mentorship, I grew up, within my career, of being fortunate to work with a lot of great people. Not on the formal mentorship standpoint, but people I knew I could go and talk to about career advice, and talk to and get, you know, a very honest stream of feedback, without it being, "Would you be my mentor," per se, and, "Can we check in on a regular basis?"

Now, I've had people approach me that want to have the check-in, which is great, and then I've had other people that are just like, "Can I just talk to you?" But it's creating an environment where people are comfortable to have those conversations and wanting to encourage the conversations within it.

So, you know, our business resource group, Women at FTI, is really about creating that forum and mentorship opportunities for people to connect with other people in the organization and could be even globally. I mean, as global organizations, connecting on Skype now, and doesn't have to be the, you know, old school "Let's go for lunch, and we'll have this," you know, yeah, face to face. It can be a phone call, a Skype meeting. Checking in like that, which I think, even adds an extra dimension and layer because now you're getting people, you know, from the other side of the world that have a completely different perspective, perhaps, than even your circle, immediate circle.

So, it allows for more of that. But, to my comment, probably already at the onset of this discussion, was there's always more we can do.

Clare O’Hara: Right. Annamaria, what's your experience with mentorship throughout your career?

Annamaria Testani: My personal career, I think it's been more coaching than mentorship.

Duane Green: That's a good way of putting it.

Annamaria Testani: I kind of, sort of ... There's not one person that I would say I would want to emulate that person. Like I said, I have my own profile. I have my own personality. I was lucky to know what that was at a young age. What I wanted to learn was different facets.

So, as much as the good and the bad. Just to be clear, I've actually learned probably more from managers that I didn't want to emulate than I did from those that I did. I think it's fostering an environment that's educative, regardless of diversity.

Duane Green: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Annamaria Testani: I think part of what we're doing as well within our firm is the firm's invested heavily in different levels of coaching. There's individual, personalized coaching, if you so want it yourself, because you want to change your leadership, or you want to be more kind of, sort of different. We have that investment in our people.

We've also developed communities. I know, informally, I coach about 13 individuals. I actually don't say women. I actually say there's 13 individuals that I coach on my own time, try to get ... I'm there more for when they need me. "I have this situation. What do you think?" I'm always playing the devil's advocate role.

We've also fostered environments where we are now pairing certain leaders with certain, you know, young, aspiring women. We're actually commingling them in the mentorship program. We've started ... At National Bank Financial, we started a mentorship program with universities. This has been one of our banner years where we've had a few hundred people apply to be mentors, and actually, I got a student that's in finance and wants to be mentored. So, this is something that I'll carve out time on a monthly basis to help.

It's really about education. It really is about building confidence, asking the right questions. We're even entertaining, in the new year, we're going to be launching a big conference dedicated to educating women. Not for a sales pitch, not for anything other than, "These are the things you need to learn about investments." Because at the end of the day, when you think about it, when do any of us learn anything about finance in school? 

Clare O’Hara: And you brought up the point where women tend not to want to ask the questions.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Clare O’Hara: To your point, when they're sitting there in front of, whether it's a male or female advisor, they might not feel comfortable.

Annamaria Testani: And it's okay, like, I often say to people, you know, "If you're in a relationship, you're going to split topics." I don't want to know anything about cars. I like driving them. I don't want to know how a car is made. I don't care what the horsepower is. I just want to know how fast it gets me to where I want to go. I love cars, just not the details that my husband does.

So, if someone wants to regale me with stories, I'll say, "Wait, let me just go get him." Because he makes a really great audience. When it comes for finance, he will inadvertently say, "Go talk to her. She does this all the time." So, it is not wrong to say that, inadvertently, over time, you develop sort of like, "I'm the expert on this topic, and you're not." The problem though is when we're talking about retirement, financial healthiness in a relationship, of yourself, you can't 100% delegate that away.

Jackie Porter: No. You have to keep the other person in the loop.

Annamaria Testani: That's, I think, where we went wrong over time. We went in as a relationship, but then one person owned all the information, felt comfortable, built that ease of asking questions.

A lot of times, you're right, we don't ask the questions for fear of disrupting, not looking intelligent. These are things that we're imposing on ourselves.

Jackie Porter: That, and we also have to create that culture where if you're asking a question, you don't look dumb, or you're not made to feel like you're ...

Annamaria Testani: Well, if he ... Inadvertently, I ask you a question, and he doesn't make me feel well, you know I have the right to get up and leave. I have that power. As a client today.

Duane Green: I'm glad I haven't done that.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely, but that's what I'm trying to educate to people is you have the power ...

Jackie Porter: That's right.

Annamaria Testani: To stand up and leave. That is the economics of every ... Every business should be worried about that, because if we don't do this well, the power resides there. So, we have to be listeners. We have to do all these things right.

Clare O’Hara: Right. So, Duane, I want to jump back, because you brought up two programs that are educating advisors, mostly probably male advisors, on the female client. Maybe you can just touch upon like, what is that process like? Is it an online program? Are they modules? Like, how ... What are you doing to tackle that?

Duane Green: We're trying to cover it through as many meetings as possible, but the most, I guess, conventional way we've been doing it is either through branch presentations or one-on-one advisor meetings. You know, even the evolution of the program, when we brought it out, you know, obviously, we've got female wholesalers, and we've got male wholesalers. Even, you know, when we launched this, you know, a number of years ago, the conversations at first were, "Well, I'm a male wholesaler. I can't talk about that." Well, absolutely. It's not a female issue. It's a business issue that we need to do our jobs and talk about.

So, now it's just something that our wholesalers are doing on a regular basis, and it's probably one of our more popular programs, called Own Your Future. It's really to, yes, because the numbers are four males for every one female in the advisory practice out there, to educate them on their female clients. Then the other program is our Women in Wealth events, is to really ... those are done more in a seminar format, and to bring female advisors together, you know, to ... It's not the Franklin Templeton commercial.

It's really to talk about, you know, practice management, you know, business building ideas, you know, market outlook, and probably a third party speaker, just to round it out, but really putting the female advisors in the room and giving them the opportunity to share stories, tell about their experiences, in an environment where they're going to feel comfortable doing that. But a lot of it, it comes down to just creating an awareness that, you know, there's a business implication to all of this at which advisors, ourselves, our wholesalers, we need to be very aware of. More we can, you know, I guess, endear ourselves from a business standpoint, it's a relationship business, at the end of the day, no matter what we say. It's still going to be a relationship business into the future.

You know, we might have to use technology in different manners to access information, but anything important, somebody still wants to talk to a person.

Clare O’Hara: So, Jackie, as an advisor does that resonate with you?

Jackie Porter: Yeah.

Clare O’Hara: Are you going to these courses and hearing about them?

Jackie Porter: Because one of the things I was thinking as you were saying that was it's about not just being a mentor, because mentorship's important because it helps to develop, but the other part of it is being a sponsor. Being a sponsor means investing in females, whether it's clients, helping to educate them about finance and saying, "Listen, we're hearing you. We're taking you seriously," but also investing in female clients.

You know, having events like that are really important because it, first of all, as you started off saying, there's still not enough women in the industry. Just having an opportunity to gather together is powerful, and not feel alone because, you know, sometimes this business can be quite lonely, and just being able to share ideas, all those things are really important sponsorship pieces that just say as companies out there, you know, where we're marketing your brand, that you're investing in us.

Clare O’Hara: All right. So, Annamaria, Duane brought up wholesalers and, you know, I've written on wholesalers and some of the past, let's just say, culture that's been around that male dominant environment. A lot of the things we've heard is even the functions that they've had, it's really been catered, golf trips, and parties, and after hour events that happen.

So, for you, you know, leading a group of wholesalers, you know, how has that changed? Like, how do you manage that group?

Annamaria Testani: I used to be a wholesaler, as well. The ironic thing, I think, the key to my success is I wasn't going to out drink anyone. I don't drink, so right off the bat that took me out of the game. I play a decent golf game, but it's not my forte.

What's happening in the industry now is even what we used to do to attract attention to you is coming under scrutiny, either from a regulatory perspective, but it's also people, right? Like, we used to have an industry where it was okay for a lot of advisors to take time after work to do all these things. Now you're starting to see family come into the picture.

I can tell you the diversity of activity that a lot of our wholesalers do is really ironic. Like, now we're doing a lot more family functions. We're doing shows. Things that you never would have seen in the expenses, right? You would have seen predominantly hockey, basketball. You guys have basketball here, so it's great. Montreal, we don't have basketball.

What you're starting to see is, inadvertently, the sales people are the quickest to adapt to being attuned to what the audience wants. As diversity kind of, sort of, you know, percales all its way up, you're starting to see, "Well, maybe would do different things." For sure, we're still doing the occasional ... You'll still have events where it's predominantly, we tend to call them very male activities, even though some of them I actually like doing. But you'll see a fishing trip, right? You'll see some of these activities, but it's diminishing, not because they're bad, it's just that because you're attracting a whole other group of people.

By default, that's good. That is actually good. Our point is to garner attention. You do these activities because you want to endear yourself. You want to learn more about these people. You want to get to know them. I was known as the girl that would invest heavily in all the smallest shows in Montreal. I worked for a different firm at the time. I had a very, very, very, very small budget. I like shows. So, I would invite the spouses. Inadvertently, I would always try to take my top 10 every quarter. I would have advisors call me and go, "My wife wants to know where we're going next quarter," and I'm like, "Okay. That wasn't the intent of it," but all of a sudden, I became the person that was immersed in their kind of, sort of relationship.

I wasn't viewed just as a fun supplier. I was viewed as, "Oh, Annamaria's really nice. You've got to give her business because we like hanging out. She introduces us to amazing things in Montreal that we never would have seen had she not done it." That was me 20 years ago. So, now others are doing that. You're seeing more of that.

So, again, I think change is coming, to your point. I'd like it to go just a little bit faster. That's just my ... You know, again, to be fair, I'm an equalitarian, I have a son and two daughters, so I have to be always in the middle, but my point is I just want the equal opportunity. I think as wholesales adapt to the inclusion of different advisors, so will the activities.

Clare O’Hara: Duane, is that reflective of what you're seeing at Franklin Templeton, when we're talking about the wholesaler environment?

Duane Green: 100%. It's a different business nowadays. It's not about credit card wholesaling, or anything like that, or buying beer after work. It's about providing value and value add to a practice.

These advisors are busy. They have limited capacity and time to see, you know, fun company representatives. So, you have to differentiate yourself, but first and foremost ...

Annamaria Testani: Bring value.

Duane Green: Sure, there will be a lunch. There will be a breakfast. But everyone's getting older now. At the end of the day, everyone wants to go home now and spend time with family. You know, go back 20 years ago, we all didn't mind going out for a drink after work. It was just a different stage of our lives. But advisors are aging. We're all aging. So, you know, it really is though coming down to providing that value to the advisor.

Clare O’Hara: So, Jackie, from the advisor standpoint, are you seeing that reflected when you're talking to wholesalers, or your interaction with them? Do you see a change?

Jackie Porter: Well, the good news is at least we're seeing more female wholesalers. So, that's a good thing. I think because of the influx of female advisors, female, women in more senior roles over the last, you know, decade in particular, maybe more so within the last five years, I think the conversations about how to, you know, build relationships with advisors is changing.

That's a good thing because, you know, you have to take into consideration who your clients are and how to best serve them. You know, ultimately, it's going to come down to, for advisors ... Again, in this environment are the investments doing what they need to, from a risk perspective and a return perspective? Am I talking to someone who actually, again, sees me and wants to understand my perspective? Those things are still key.

Then, you know, the fact that they offer incentives that are actually appealing to me, based on who I am and what they understand of me, is important, as well. But it's third, truthfully, in the whole process.

Clare O’Hara: So, Annamaria, I'm going to jump back over to you and get, you know, for women entering the industry, young women entering the industry right now, you know, what would you say to them? You know, what's some advice that you could give them?

Annamaria Testani: You know, I feel for them because they're hearing a lot of the negativity of what was. So, my first recommendation I often say to women is, "Don't assume. Don't assume that everything you're hearing is negative. Don't assume it's bad." Because it's not. There is a change occurring today, and I do sympathize with my male counterparts. Sometimes they don't know which way to go.

So, I often say to women, "Don't assume. If you're not sure, ask for clarity. But arm yourself with being the clear choice." Anything I applied to; I went in knowing I was going to get it. Doesn't mean I got it. But I went in going, "Everything that needs to be delivered on that table, I control." Did I network? Do I have my references? Do I have the education? Do I have the academia checked out? Do I have the work experiences? Did I do what needs to get done?

I often, I say, "Life is not just easy about saying, 'Oh, I'm being discriminated because.'" There are other things that you have to deliver. So, don't assume, ask for clarity, and work on yourself. There’re so many things today ... There's so much investment being done there. Take advantage of it. I wish I had a tenth of some of the coaching and the mentorship that we had. Probably would have made way less mistakes than I did right now.

That's the beauty about hindsight. Because hindsight allows you to say, "Can I learn from someone else's experience?" You know, make my journey smoother, despite yours being bumpy. That's when we know society's moving forward, because you're taking sort of like, you look at the past. I don't think it was bad. I just don't think it was fantastically great, if you were different.

For women today, you have the ear. Be ready to deliver.

Clare O’Hara: Right. Duane, your advice?

Duane Green: Just to carry on to that exact point, I think there's a heightened awareness now. It's in every conversation. We're doing this session today on this. It's takes advantage of that opportunity but, you know, be confident. Just be fearless. Be confident in yourself and your abilities, but don't be afraid to ask for help.

I think that, with the drive ... It's got to come from within too. You know, nothing is just going to be handed. You want people to work hard. If you're willing to work hard, there will be opportunities.

Clare O’Hara: Apply for the job, even if you don't have 100% Jackie, a little bit of a different question for you. I want to know, what do you see as gaps that still exist in the industry that women might want to be aware of?

Jackie Porter: I just think the representation, right? There's still, you know ... We currently are in an industry where we actually need recruitment desperately, right? The average advisor's over 55. So, we actually need a lot of people coming into this industry, if it's going to survive, the way it looks right now.

So, I think that invitation, creating that opportunity for women to see. So, we talked about talking about talking to women in universities or talking to kids in university about the career. Because it's not a career you hear about, like, in high school, or even in college or university. It's not a career.

So, I think we just need to do a better job of marketing the financial industry as a great opportunity, because it really is. It's a great ... I love this work. It's amazing. There's a lot of opportunities to personally develop, you know, do amazing things with clients.

I think that, you know, we just have to give women the ... We have to just invite women to the table, because, I think, we haven't done a great job of letting them know, "This career is available to you." This is something that, you know ... One of the things, when I came into this career, someone had said to me, you know, "This is a great career. It gives you flexibility. You know, it's not necessarily a 9:00 to 5:00." That might appeal to a lot of women, but we need to sell this career to women and show them this is a viable career path.

Clare O’Hara: So, just before we end things, Duane, I want to get some final thoughts on sort of the other spectrum, is what type of advice would you give to men, or something you want to teach them about gender diversity in the industry? You know, if you could just give them a little bit of a tidbit of what they should know?

Duane Green: I think it's your ... It should come down to, you know, your capability and what you can do. It's ... Men should be aware that they aren't going to get any special advantage over the next candidate, and that could be, you know, racially diverse candidates, gender diverse candidates. It's you have to stand on your own merit and your own abilities, but it goes back to being confident about it.

So, don't think that ... and take anything for granted. Hard work, at the end of the day, is the platform to build on. So, you know, if I have that opportunity to tell a group of females that, I'd say the same message to the same ... to a group of males.

Clare O’Hara: Right. Annamaria, your final thoughts?

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely. I think ... I am actually very empathic towards men. It is not easy because they're hearing all this noise. I want them to feel that reverse racism is just as bad. So, to your point, build on yourself, but don't build the buddy system. That, I think, we've made it clear, the message is loud and clear. I think everyone's kind of, sort of said, "That should die." It really should be about, you know, capabilities, capacity, personality, fit. Like, all of the important soft skills, as well as the hard skills.

And save yourself, you know, just be aware of your surroundings. A lot of times, it's the little things that we sometimes take for granted, that we don't realize that we're rubbing, or creating, a friction point. Few can build on that awareness. Then you're on an equal footing with everybody else.

Duane GreenI think it's be you but be the best you can be.

Annamaria Testani: Absolutely.

Jackie Porter: I think just being constantly curious, right, because I think, you know, we never chide a child for being curious. So, they'll ask some really ... You know, kids can sometimes ask outrageous questions, but we don't want to like, discourage that.

I think if we're going to have, you know, more elevated conversations about diversity and inclusion, people need to be able to ask the question, that they can say, "You know what? I really don't know about this," and not feel they're going to be judged, because that doesn't harbor anything. It doesn't help ... It doesn't help build any empathy. It doesn't help build any education where people learn more about each other. It doesn't add value.

So, cultivating that environment where people feel that they can actually have real conversations about diversity, where those conversations can be furthered, and everybody win is the best environment we can all be working in.

Clare O’Hara: Perfect.

Jackie Porter: And working with our clients in.

Clare O’Hara: Great, and I think that's a perfect moment to end our conversation today. I want to thank all of you for joining me on today's panel, as well as your organization's commitment to such a crucial discussion that we need to continue to have on an ongoing basis.

I'm Clare O'Hara with The Globe and Mail, and this has been Asset TV's Masterclass of Women in Financial Services, filming here onsite at the NEO Exchange.