Pathfinder Winner Fava: Diversity And Equity Aren’t Just Buzzwords

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Hispanic Product Development Executive Of The Year From Envestnet Brings Perspective Of Hispanic Woman From LGBTQ+ Community

The Pathfinder Awards both recognize excellence in wealth management from underrepresented communities and lift up the voices of professionals from those communities to address our industry on matters of importance. As this group of Pathfinder Awards celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, Dani Fava, Group Head, Product Innovation at Envestnet, brings her unique perspective to us. WSR honored Fava as the Hispanic Product Development Executive of the Year as part of this month’s Pathfinder Awards.

Fava speaks from the viewpoint of multiple underrepresented communities as a Hispanic woman, single mother and member of the LGBTQ+ community. She mentors upcoming generations, provides career coaching to diverse interns and serves on the boards of organizations promoting DEI at conferences and success across cultures.

We asked Fava how she entered her career, how her experience shaped her career and the state of DEI in the industry.

WSR: How has your experience as a Hispanic woman in the LGBTQ+ community shaped your career?

Dani Fava, Group Head, Product Innovation, Envestnet

Fava: As a Hispanic woman and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have navigated the intersectionality of my identity in an industry that traditionally promotes homogeneous executives to leadership positions. As of the latest available data, there are only three openly gay CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and only 20 Hispanic CEOs. My dual heritage of being Hispanic and a member of the LGBTQ+ community has instilled in me a profound sense of resilience and individuality, a quality that has been instrumental in shaping my career.

I have embraced the value of authenticity and the power of visibility. Embracing my true self has allowed me to be unafraid to have a dissenting view, and to be the person in the room who sees something from a different perspective. Having diverse opinions always leads to better collective outcomes.

Facing the unique challenges that come with belonging to two marginalized communities, I have learned the importance of advocacy, representation and creating inclusive spaces. These experiences have fueled my passion for fostering diversity and equity, not just as buzzwords, but as actionable principles within the professional environment.

WSR: Where is the wealth management industry currently at with regards to DEI, and what steps can we take to improve?

Fava: From my perspective, the journey has begun, but the road ahead is long and hard. I often hear stats that show measured progress, and it makes me optimistic. For example, according to a report by CNBC, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards observed a significant uptick in female, Black and Hispanic practitioners in 2021.

The number of Black financial planners grew by more than 10%, and the growth rate for Hispanic CFPs was 15%. This growth exceeded the overall growth rate of CFPs, which was 3.8%, reaching a total of 92,055 CFPs, an all-time high.

Despite these improvements, the industry still predominantly consists of white males, with about 83% of financial planners being white. The representation of Black or African American CFPs is nearly 2%, and Hispanic or Latino CFPs make up about 3% of the total. The picture is even more dire when we look at advisory firm ownership and company executives.

Every one of us needs to take accountability. If there’s no diverse person at your table or in your meeting – invite them to be there. If you haven’t considered a diverse person for a job or considered a diverse-owned vendor hire, challenge yourself to do that.

WSR: What inspired your decision to enter a career in technology and wealth management?

Fava: I don’t think my background had much to do with my decision to pursue wealth management. I focused on finance and got a job on Wall Street because I was good at math. My transition into financial technology was born out of necessity.

I entered the space as a young, single mom starting out at an investment manager on Wall Street. I was struggling to find time in the morning to drop my daughter off at daycare, make it to Midtown Manhattan, and prepare and distribute daily morning reports before the stock market opened and the traders showed up at the desk.

I was using a technology platform while at this firm that was a little bit open so I could type in commands to get it to respond. I quickly figured out how to code to automate my job and give me 20 extra minutes in the morning.

One day, the software provider called me when they noticed my coding during a diagnostic check. I thought I was in big trouble. Instead, they offered me a job, and I’ve been innovating and solving problems ever since.

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

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