AssetMark’s Michael Kim: Leaders Must Listen, Understand and Reduce Bias

Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Pathfinder Award Winner Advises Industry Leaders to Overcome Barriers and Persons of AAPI Heritage to Speak Up, Believe in Themselves

As we honor AAPI Heritage Month at WSR, we emphasize the achievements of industry leaders of AAPI heritage, while providing a platform for their voices. In matters of diversity and inclusion, our industry must raise awareness, celebrate the progress made and reflect thoughtfully on the road ahead.

One such industry leader is WSR’s Pathfinder Awards Winner for AAPI Asset Management Executive of the Year, Michael Kim, President and Chief Client Officer of the largest third-party TAMP in America, AssetMark.

As of the end of 2021, AssetMark served 8,600 advisors with over $93 billion in assets on its platform, having added 700 new advisors to the platform for each of the past five years.

After appointing Kim to his current role, AssetMark acquired financial planning software provider Voyant, expanded into the RIA channel and added to its platform alternative investments, values-driven investing tools and separately managed accounts.

We spent time with Kim to learn about his work to date with AssetMark, while listening to his advice on improving AAPI representation and inclusivity in the broader wealth management space.

Michael Kim, President & Chief Client Officer, AssetMark

WSR: What about AssetMark’s vision are you most passionate about?

Kim: As a modern TAMP, AssetMark is redefining the independent financial advisor experience through an ecosystem of solutions that offer choice, flexibility and autonomy. Our core mission of making a difference in the lives of financial advisors is reflected in our commitment to operate in alignment with our values of Excellence, Respect, Heart and Integrity. 

Without question, the past few years have presented significant complexities for investors seeking to reach their retirement and other financial goals, and financial advisors across the country have stepped up and worked tirelessly to meet the challenges and position their clients for success.

Financial advisors have steadily adapted to meet client needs in an ever-changing world, and I passionately believe they deserve an ally who understands.

WSR: How would you advise a person of AAPI heritage who is considering following in your footsteps?

Kim: Asian Americans make up 13% of working professionals in the U.S., but only occupy 6% of leadership roles. 

As a leader and a person of AAPI heritage, it’s important for Asian Americans to understand that having your own set of beliefs, values and traditions is okay. It is part of who we are and how we lead. 

Additionally, it’s important to believe in and challenge yourself in everything you do. Don’t be afraid of failure. 

Lastly, speak up. If you have an opinion about something, whether you agree or disagree, say something, respectfully.

WSR: How is the wealth management industry doing regarding inclusion of persons with AAPI heritage? How can the industry better drive AAPI representation?

Kim: The wealth management industry has made small but significant progress in inclusion of persons with AAPI heritage. As of 2019, 4.3% of all advisors are of Asian descent. As a comparison, the total U.S. population is 6.8% Asian (Cerulli U.S. Advisor Metrics 2020). 

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still room for improvement and greater diversity. 

To drive increased representation, we, as leaders, need to listen, understand and reduce implicit bias. This leads to overcoming language and cultural barriers and greater inclusion.

Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at jbuchanan@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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