We are committed to change.
It’s been two months since our email standing in solidarity with the Black community, expressing our heartbreak about events transpiring across the country, and sharing our dedication to change.
As a company and as individuals, we are works in progress. However, it is important to use our voices. Our firm and the financial services industry as a whole needs to earnestly make progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Below is a sampling of our early actions to create a thoughtful, ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy that is being integrated into our company practices.
Enhanced Commitment and Focus
While Abacus has had a DEI committee for several years, our leadership recognizes the need for work in this area to delve deeper. Our team is speaking to experts and DEI consultants, reading multiple papers and articles, and listening to financial advisors who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color). We have learned that, too often, DEI committees are staffed by mid-level managers (mostly of color) who don’t get the resources they need to succeed; they are seen as just one department among many, instead of being central to an organization’s mission. In organizations with white dominant cultures, the absence of widespread white involvement generally minimizes real change.
Because of these lessons, we have embraced the need for this work to be supported at the highest organizational level, so our CEO Brent Kessel has taken leadership of Abacus’ DEI strategy. Like any other key business initiative, we are committed to funding a dedicated budget, along with targets and milestones for this strategy.
We will be intentional in our actions and activities. We recognize we are not experts and therefore should not “lead,” but be led by those who are already doing this work. Our first step is to invest in a DEI consultant who will help us define our strategy. We have narrowed our list to three potential consultants, all of whom are experiencing their highest level of demand in history. Due to this demand, we have committed to beginning our work internally with implicit bias assessments and training for our team members.
The current dialogue is one of the most challenging we’re having as a country and will arguably be one of the toughest we’ll have internally as a company. So we are starting with education and understanding. We have committed ourselves to having an open dialogue. An internal document compiling resources, articles, books, videos, and more is being circulated among our staff and built upon weekly by our team. We are working to learn about American history and understand our own relationships to biases and racism, and how we do or do not benefit from or contribute to these systems.
As a company, we invest in a variety of technologies and services to support our infrastructure. We are reviewing our supply chain diversity and identifying potential changes that can be made to better represent Black-owned businesses.
Since our founding, we have focused on how our advice and investments impact the community at large. We are pleased to share our portfolios have been divested from private prisons for the past few years and remain divested.
We are at the early stages of our work and understand we’ll make mistakes on this journey. But we will keep trying, listening, and trying again, until we are expanding what’s possible with money for the many our industry has left behind and for whom markets have historically failed. To do this, we will extend our gifts of empathy, expertise, and entrepreneurship to support our clients, employees, and communities —to harness all of their resources and fulfill their unique potential.
Incorporating DEI across all Abacus departments, activities, and services will require a long-term, methodical integration, not a one or two month sprint. We are ready for it.
We will continue to update you on our efforts.