Overcoming Bias As A Woman Of AAPI Heritage

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Fiduciary Trust’s Pai Gives Steps To Overcome Bias And Prejudice In Wealth Management, Shares The Inspiration That Led Her To Our Industry

In our WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top AAPI Industry Leaders of 2023, celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, we asked several winners to share their views on DEI issues with the industry so that we can progress together to a better future for all of us, as well as the industry’s investor clients.

The AAPI Portfolio Manager of the Year, Carin Pai, EVP and Head of Portfolio Management and Equities for Fiduciary Trust International, has a valuable perspective as both a person of AAPI heritage and a woman. She shares that perspective with us, explains how to change the industry and shares the influences and inspiration that led her to a career in wealth management.

WSR: How did you decide to enter a career in financial services? What inspired you?

Carin Pai, EVP & Head of Portfolio Management and Equities, Fiduciary Trust International

Pai: Growing up, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in architectural design, which I enjoyed for its mix of creativity, artistry and mathematical calculations. Then in college, I worked part-time as a bank teller and discovered an affinity for finance and investments. I came from a middle-class family, and the concept of compounding growth to build wealth was fascinating to me.

My first job in finance was with Prudential Securities, where I gained a foundation in investing and money management. It was an exciting time, with the stock market’s rise and the dot-com world booming. I joined Fiduciary Trust International at the end of 1996, and was inspired by the senior women in investments, whom I viewed as my role models. I thought their jobs were so glamorous, with the tailored suits and appearances on CNBC.

I also loved working with clients, getting to know their families, their goals and causes they supported. I enjoyed being part of the solution to clients’ challenges. I think that is the most rewarding, in terms of building long and trusted relationships with clients. I still have clients today whom I’ve known for over 20 years.

WSR: How can our industry improve with respect to persons of AAPI heritage?

Pai: I think the most important thing is to spread knowledge about the meaning of diversity and to foster allyship and inclusivity. We need to remove the intended and unintended biases and stereotypes of the AAPI community, and any other community of people. Asians are often thought of as being hard working, technically skilled people, but that perception also influences the stereotype that Asians are soft spoken and not leaders.

All industries need to recognize that there is a spectrum of personalities, educational backgrounds and skillsets among the AAPI community, to avoid prejudging an individual. The “bamboo ceiling” is a real challenge, and many effective, highly qualified individuals are passed up for promotions due to conscious or unconscious biases.

In the finance and wealth management world, it is even rarer to find Asians at the top of organizations, given that this is very much a people business, so having a network to build relationships is critical to success. Leaders need to advocate and be allies for the AAPI community in this regard.

WSR: Share your perspective as a woman of AAPI heritage who works in the wealth management industry.

Pai: I am proud of my Asian heritage and proud to be an American. For Asian women, it is especially challenging as we face both racial and gender biases from time to time. I have faced discrimination over the years and still at times today, and prejudice even from clients.

When I joined the wealth management industry in the late 1990s, women working in investments were rare, but I was fortunate enough to work with several who mentored me. They were leading investment strategy and asset management groups. I saw how they were able to stand up to the men in the room, made decisions in a collaborative and open manner, and led with authority yet showed compassion with their teams and clients. I thought this was such a great balance.

In my view, it is critical for leaders at the top of an organization to embrace diversity, recruit teams with a range of skills and backgrounds, and serve as role models for the next generation of potential leaders.

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at editor@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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