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Making Financial Services More Inclusive: 4 Ways to Build Trust and Authenticity

Making Financial Services More Inclusive: 4 Ways to Build Trust and Authenticity
Posted By: Reginald Culpepper on December 09, 2022

BY: Jamal Stockton, SVP, Head of Customer Inclusion
Originally Published Jul 12, 2022 at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/making-fina...

Recently, I had an Uber driver who was a young Black man. We initiated a friendly conversation and started talking about life. After about 20 minutes, I saw him peering at me in the rearview mirror.

“What do you do for a living?” he asked.

“I work in finance,” I replied.

As soon as he heard that, he asked, “How do I get started with investing?”

I wish I knew then, what I know now and what I was able to pass on to the driver of the Uber that day. Financial Education and Finances was not part of my regular family conversation but quickly became important to me as I noticed the disparities between communities in and around where I grew up and even within my own family. I was part of a biracial family in a well-to-do Connecticut town. The white side of my family, while not rich by any means, had the tools and safety nets that affluence offers: credit, bank accounts, investments, real estate ownership, health insurance. The Black side of my family, on the other hand, did not enjoy the same kind of ready access to tools that build wealth, and, as a result, their lives, at least on the surface appeared more difficult.

Those disparities still remain: According to the Federal Reserve, Black and Hispanic households in the United States earn about half as much as the average white household—and the disparity in the amount of wealth controlled is even greater. It’s a complex, systemic problem that the financial services industry has an obligation to address. And the way to do that is by making the effort to understand the lived experiences, culture and financial priorities of underserved communities and refashion products and services to make them more inclusive.

As Head of Customer Inclusion at Fidelity, I now have the privilege of working on this issue full-time. These problems can’t be solved overnight—there is so much to learn and so many practical approaches to refine—but, fortunately, we are not alone in our commitment to make financial services more accessible, and I’m proud to share our vision and some of the things we’re doing:

Being a part of the communities we want to serve. Building trust and authenticity requires being present in as many places as possible where people spend time and look for information, from community events to social media outlets. Building partnerships and sponsorships with trusted organizations enables us to learn about the life events and unique cultures that help define the communities we want to reach. In the Black community, for example, there is often a lack of trust in financial institutions. In Latin communities, some people might be more comfortable holding cash than putting it into an account or investing it. And people in the LGBTQ+ community may have trouble finding others who understand their lived experiences.

Changing how we communicate. For decades information created by financial service companies was aimed at an audience they perceived as homogenous. Fidelity is among the firms striving to better represent Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, LGBTQ+, Veterans and other underrepresented communities, both in its advertising and the venues for those messages—from the workplace to investor centers. We’re mindful of the people included and relationships depicted in our advertisements and published studies. And in investor centers, representatives can request an on-demand, live video remote American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter on a tablet to facilitate a conversation with a deaf and hard of hearing customer fluent in ASL. Everyone should feel welcome.

Eliminating gaps in products and services. Financial services companies provide products that anyone can use, but certain communities could benefit from additional tools that are relevant to their needs and concerns. One example would be a down-payment builder that helps those in previously underserved communities achieve the dream of home ownership. Another: remittance tools that help immigrants send funds to relatives back to their home countries.

Making financial education an outreach priority. For anyone to get ahead, knowing where to begin and feeling comfortable walking into or reaching out to a financial institution is crucial. Though the internet is full of available financial expertise, jargon needs to be demystified and concepts presented in more practical and inviting terms for them to be useful. Modifying language and terminology, providing multilingual services, addressing a broader range of lived experiences—even rethinking how all cultures and walks of life can be represented are all examples of making user experience more welcoming and, consequently, more effective.

All these initiatives have a common thread: Building real relationships with underserved communities so that we have the trust and insights needed to provide practical solutions and financial freedom for all.

That’s how we can make the financial services industry more inclusive: Being welcoming, getting to know people, showing them sincere interest. By earning the opportunity to help. It sounds simple, I know, but it might be the best way to solve a difficult and long-standing problem.

#FidelityAssociate

# # #

Views expressed are as of the date indicated and may change based on market and other conditions. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments or its affiliates.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

Fidelity Distributors Company LLC, 500 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

**** Services, LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 245 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110

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