The finance jobs that I didn’t have
“Oh no,” the recruiter exclaimed over the phone during my job interview.
Up to this point, the conversation had progressed extremely well. I was about to be put in touch with the hiring manager for a tech and financial data company. The tone changed in an instant, as if I had mentioned Bernie Madoff’s internship or requested access to the business jet. But I said something worse: I have a disability, and I asked what accommodations might be available, such as telecommuting. “We … we can’t offer any accommodation,” stammered the recruiter. Before I could answer, she gave me a quick goodbye and hung up.
I have spinal atrophy. Due to my neurological condition, I need certain assistive technology tools and accommodations to work. If you’re like most recruiters and CFOs who interviewed me in 2013-2014, you’ve just stopped reading this article and hit the back button on your browser.
If you are still reading, thank you. These are my experiences as a disabled investment professional.
Since I completed my Masters in Finance over six years ago, I have been interviewing for many jobs in the investment industry and related niches. Only one of these interviews, which concerned an unpaid internship, resulted in a real job in finance. That particular internship turned into an associate’s position in equity research – a job that was cut within a year when the company downsized.
You might think I identified an HR issue instead of a loophole in the culture of finance. My experience, however, indicates that the reluctance to hire people with disabilities is primarily a financial issue. While I was sometimes rejected as a candidate by recruiters and HR workers, as in my opening story, I often passed the initial interview only to be told that a company’s associates or a head of department had vetoed me.
I remember a very positive interview with a real estate investment company looking for someone to manage their financial models, one of my strengths. The HR manager said she would recommend me for the telecommuter position. I just needed A) to match my working hours with theirs (I’m in Virginia and the firm was in California) and B) visit the main office on the coast for meetings and team building one week a week. year. I accepted these conditions with joy, as visions of surf and sand danced in my head. “It’s important that you and the rest of the team feel connected,” explained the HR manager. She then described the typical weekend reunion party, which must have been quite an experience… and a big bar bill.
A few days later, I learned that the firm’s partners had decided that I would not be hired. “I tried,” the human resources manager said, adding that management wanted someone they could look after. This line of reasoning had become familiar, although I sincerely doubted executives spend much time staring at spreadsheet jockeys in the office.
Maybe I sound unhappy, but it’s not me. I’m not just a moaner, and this situation isn’t just mine. It’s also soluble – and profitable for those who do.
First, a few facts. According to Access4Employment figures, people with disabilities:
- Have performance scores equal to or better than those of their non-disabled colleagues
- Have higher retention rates and less absenteeism
- Are a significant part (1 in 5) of the United States’ pool of talented job seekers
There are also more reasons to hire people with disabilities.
Employees with disabilities can better identify with customers with disabilities, who account for $ 1 trillion in aggregate annual consumer spending. During a job search, I contacted several financial advisers specializing in serving families with disabled children. No chance.
In addition, employers who hire people with disabilities benefit from a number of fiscal and financial incentives.
Now that I’ve given you some data, I have a trio of recommendations for opening up more investment jobs for people classified as “disabled”:
- Integrate efforts to hire more people with disabilities into existing diversity programs. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Don’t create new offices that will likely end up on the chopping block the next time costs need to be cut.
- Increase teleworking opportunities. Workers with disabilities likely have assistive technology and accessible spaces at home. Why not let them use their own tools in their comfortable surroundings? Additionally, Owl Labs noted, “Companies that offer user-friendly remote options see 25% lower revenue than those that do not.”
- Network with assistive technology consultants and with people who can provide qualified candidates with disabilities to your business. You want to be able to support your current / new disabled employees and then attract more new talent to your business. Entry-level opportunities are especially important for the disabled community, as we often struggle to put a wheelchair foot or tire in the door.
Now is the time to implement these suggestions. Finance moves fast anyway, and I’ve noticed an increased interest in my experiences over the past year. The Twitter financial community – aka FinTwit – has been particularly encouraging and inclusive.
In closing, let me assure you that handicap fragility. A bad day in the market is not going to break me or any other disabled person in finance. I have a needle pushed through my cervical spine 3 times a year, without anesthesia, to receive genetic therapy for my muscular dystrophy. Don’t think that you will have to pamper your disabled employees.
Additionally, if you want differentiated investment ideas and portfolio allocations, you need to have a differentiated team. The best way to achieve this goal is to build a team that includes people with disabilities and other under-represented people. Diversification should be more than an investment strategy; it should also be a crucial part of your company’s hiring (and promotion) plan.
Nathan Yates is the owner of ForwardView Consulting and a former professor of finance. He holds a Masters of Finance degree from Southern New Hampshire University and tweets from @FVNate.