Vikesh Nemani had wanted to immigrate to the United States since he was in the sixth grade.
Nemani, who grew up in Kolkata, India, achieved his dream when he attended Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
The chief administrative officer at RBC Wealth Management in Minneapolis is one of several subjects that RBC has begun to promote in video vignettes as part of new initiatives to diversify its workforce.
But the goal to make the RBC workplace more diverse and inclusive can be daunting in a financial services industry where only a quarter of employees are minorities — and even fewer people of color working in wealth management.
"We need to look like our clients and where the wealth is and is going to be," said Shareen Luze, senior director of human resources for RBC Wealth Management.
RBC Wealth Management, with its U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis, has $389 billion in total client assets with about 2,000 financial advisers operating in hundreds of locations across the country.
Only about 15% of financial advisers are women, and RBC's numbers align with that industry average.
However, women were estimated by this year to control $72 trillion, 32% of all global wealth and an even larger percentage of wealth in the United States. People of color make up an industry average of 12% of financial advisers. RBC's numbers are below the industry average but the firm is trying to close the gap.
"Financial services as a whole has not been the most diverse industry," said Andrea Fannemel, director of North America recruitment for wealth management at RBC. "Part of it is truly a learning process."
While diversity and inclusion have been goals for the company in the past, efforts have ramped up in the last two years as the firm makes changes in recruiting, training and other policies to attract and retain diverse talent.
In early November, RBC launched a video series on social media highlighting the success of people of color and other diverse employees who work at RBC, including Nemani.
"You have to be able to see yourself," said Wanda Brackins, head of wealth management diversity and inclusion at RBC.
The series is a follow-up to videos the firm produced in 2017 that portrayed female advisers. While simple in its execution, the campaign led to around 1,200 women contacting the company through the recruitment e-mail address in the videos. RBC leaders said they hope the new videos would be just as successful.
"Ultimately, by recognizing the variety and achievement in our employees' stories, we hope to inspire a new wave of talent from all walks of life to join us here at RBC," Tom Sagissor, president of RBC Wealth Management, said in a statement.
The video series is just one aspect of RBC's push to expand its recruitment efforts. In 2018, RBC hired a diversity recruitment consultant to reach out to diverse affinity groups and also participate in local career events like the People of Color Career Fair.
This month, RBC will begin to have a dedicated campus recruitment program manager lead its campus ambassador program at colleges across the region. The firm is also starting to send tips and goals to branch leaders on creating an inclusive workplace.
Last fall, RBC rolled out inclusive recruiting guidelines that encouraged hiring managers to have at least one demographically diverse candidate as they interview candidates for jobs.
During that time, the financial services firm also appointed as its new head of adviser recruiting and field marketing Kristen Kimmell, who serves as the co-executive sponsor of RBC Wealth Management's Women's Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA).
Last year, RBC did some outreach with young women as well through its local sponsorship of Rock the Street, Wall Street, a nonprofit that provides financial literacy education to high school girls.
Luze, who has been in her role for a year and a half, has revamped the firm's associate financial adviser and diversity mentoring programs and spearheaded respectful workplace training that gives managers in-person walk-throughs on how to interact with employees.
In the summer of 2018, Luze pushed for a dress code change from strict business attire to more casual wear.
"Financial services is historically conservative and stuffy. … If we want to say that we are this modern financial services company then get rid of the suits," she said.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @nicolenorfleet