On May 26, 2020, protests erupted across our country and abroad as a collective cry of outrage at the killing of George Floyd. The protests brought into sharp focus issues that our society has long struggled to address: racial inequality, police brutality, and social injustice. Unlike many previous blooms of civil protest, these events caused a deeper level of reaction across our society than we have previously experienced. 2020 was to become a reckoning. It led many of us to examine behaviors and beliefs, forcing us to discern our roles in upholding the truth and enacting change. This reckoning hit institutions and businesses as much as individuals. The status quo and good intentions were no longer acceptable.
In response, our team at North Berkeley Wealth is examining the issues of justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in our community, our industry, and our workplace. We asked ourselves, how do we do more to engage productively to support racial justice and work to dismantle systemic racism?
Recruiting & Hiring
The financial industry faces multiple challenges when it comes to racial equity. At professional and management levels, white employees dominate. Racial and gender diversity is correlated with better business outcomes, and we want to build the strongest possible team for our clients and community. We have long been interested in recruiting a diverse team, but in 2020 we expanded our efforts to proactively ensure that the hiring pool for any new position be deliberately diverse. We examined where we post open positions and what job requirements filter the candidate pool in order to put in action our commitment to a process that provides opportunity to all potential candidates.
Capital is not equally distributed in our society for a variety of reasons, and our ongoing clientele is disproportionately wealthy and white. Efforts to support community organizations and provide targeted pro bono services is a priority for us for this reason, whether we are helping a pre-school teacher decide if they can afford to buy a condo, or support investment policy development for a social justice nonprofit. Economic justice begins with access to capital, and financial education and analysis can support closing the gap.
In addition to financial education and pro bono services for individuals, we also provide similar services for nonprofit organizations. In 2020, we witnessed a significant increase in local nonprofits seeking mission alignment of their financial resources by working with our investment team to incorporate social and environmental justice considerations into the management of their reserve and endowment assets.
We have long been committed to providing ESG and impact investment options to all our clients that allow them to live their values through their investments, including options that engage corporate management to consider more progressive policies and to make their deeds match their words. Some help funnel loan capital for housing and entrepreneurship to the underserved communities of people of color and women, some focus on environmental innovation and transparency in governance. Our investment models and portfolios provide access to the areas our clients hold most dear, and where they want to have the greatest impact.
JEDI Giving Initiative
Enacting systemic change needs to occur on many levels, including personal engagement. This past fall, North Berkeley Wealth established a JEDI giving initiative, intended to use the firm’s local philanthropy to engage our entire team on systemic racism.
The idea is simple. Provide funds for each team member and ask them to consider a list of local organizations working toward racial equity and the elimination of systemic racism. We encouraged team members to expand that list to include organizations they were aware of, and each person could decide where the firm should donate their allotted funds. Then, as a team, we discussed the organizations, their essential role in our community, and how we engage with them as a firm. It was a small initial step with a significant effect, providing an opportunity for engagement that is both personal and collective.
As we move into 2021, we are excited to iterate and expand on all our areas of focus that can make a positive difference in the effort to create true racial justice.
About Kate Campbell King, CFP®
Kate Campbell King is the Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer at North Berkeley Wealth Management. Kate provides clients with a unique approach to their financial decision-making.
This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the North Berkeley Wealth Management (“North Berkeley”) employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by North Berkeley or performance returns of any North Berkeley client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. North Berkeley manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.