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OneDigital Chief Growth Officer on Diversity of Thought

There are moments in your career that are defining.

I don’t mean in terms of individual accomplishments or collective firm level achievement. I mean when you actually see not just the business world, but the world differently. Mine came while attending the Conference of African American Financial Professionals in DC last month.

I was there because an amazing talent named Kristen Hall Eskew, Vice President of DEI&B at OneDigital asked me months earlier,

Have I ever been the only in a room?

When I responded no, she smiled and said,

well we are going to change that.

My world view changed on this topic when I sat in a room filled with almost one thousand Black financial professionals and learned for the first time there was a Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” I’m really not looking to debate whether I should have known this fact. The point is that as a middle-aged white insurance and financial services guy barely still in his fifties, I was actually embarrassed that I didn’t. Being present for this rendition changed the aperture of the lens with which I see the challenges of DEI&B. Hearing George Nichols III, President and Chief Executive officer of The American College of Financial Services tell a room full of people the number one thing you can do to impact the future success of Black financial services professionals is to… produce… changed the aperture of my lens even more.

Let me take a step back and begin at the beginning. OneDigital is a company that believes in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. I say this in an almost rhetorical way. How can any firm not? What I am realizing is that talking about it and actually doing something about it in an intentional way are two very different things. To frame the issue simply, I now know that you “don’t know what you don’t know” on the topic. Probably the biggest fallback excuse that guys like me have given in the past is that at OneDigital we are always going to hire the best candidate for the job regardless of any further “qualifiers.”

What Elizabeth Chrane, Kristen Eskew and others are making clear is that it’s our approach… my approach… to either hiring or acquiring that needs to evolve if we are ever going to truly impact DEI&B at OneDigital. When almost your entire professional network is white men and women, your pathway to downstream interactions ends up looking very similar. The math of this reality speaks for itself in both the insurance and financial services industries.

And so, my journey of intentionality in this arena begins at the same time that we published our first report on DEI&B, “Many Voices, OneDigital” as a level set. Kristen Eskew is now an extension of our Mergers and Acquisitions organization, and we have committed in this report to acquire 10 minority owned firms by the end of 2023. To be clear, this is for no other reason than that we understand by doing so, we will become a better company with more diverse views, perspectives and minds sitting around the table making the best decisions possible for the future of the company.

Visit the Many Voices, OneDigital page to learn more about OneDigital's commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.