JOHANNESBURG - Transformation is a word that often sparks lively discussions in South Africa. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, many organisations have been grappling with implementing transformation policies to diversify their workplaces to reflect our country's population demographics.

The impact of these policies on our economy has been somewhat mixed, with some organisations successfully transforming their workplaces and boardrooms while others have come up short.

But transformation has evolved since its early days in the mid-1990s, where there was a disproportionate emphasis on bringing the previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs) into the mainstream economy through selling them equity stakes in established, white-owned companies.

Since this early foray into transformation or black economic empowerment (BEE), the policy has progressed beyond just selling equity stakes to previously disadvantaged investors. It has added more strings to its bow and now encompasses a whole range of elements that include skills development, socio-economic development, management control, and enterprise and supplier development (ESD).

Many experts agree that transformation in its current form is designed to deepen and accelerate economic participation by the PDIs.

Other industries like the financial services and mobile telecoms sectors have taken transformation even further by finding innovative ways of delivering their services and products to the working poor and low income-earners at affordable prices.

Transformation policies have dramatically improved access by the majority of South Africans to products and services that were previously consumed by high income-earners.

Taking into account all the lessons that have been learnt over the past 24 years, the Financial Planning Institute has developed the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Strategic Plan, which is aimed at fast-tracking transformation in the profession.

Inclusion

There is currently a big push, under the leadership of FPI, to “diversify” the racial and gender composition of the financial planning profession by bringing new players and PDIs into the fold, as well as ensuring “inclusion” - companies and practices develop and operationalise philosophies, policies, practices and procedures that ensure equitable access to opportunities and resources to support all individuals in contributing to an organisation’s success.

Currently, the average profile of an FPI member is a middle-aged, white male, with blacks making up 16percent of the membership and females 38percent. The aim of the D&I strategy is aggressively to recruit PDIs to join the profession, thereby helping to boost the number of black and female professional financial planners.

The strategy will go beyond just transforming the racial and gender make-up of the financial planning profession. It will also seek to broaden access to professional financial planning and advisory services by ordinary South Africans.

This could be achieved through offering financial planning advice to workers as an employee benefit alongside other perks like medical aids, car allowances and pension/provident funds. Not only will such a move help companies retain key employees, it will also contribute to improving the financial health of their workforces.

No strategy works without an institution or a dedicated promoter that drives it from the top. Mindful of this, the Institute is setting up a D&I advisory committee made up of financial services industry stakeholders who will oversee the implementation of the D&I strategy and drive diversity and inclusion in the financial planning profession.

The committee will also identify opportunities to incorporate the D&I initiatives into FPI’s learning programmes and support efforts to establish an FPI Education and Training Fund, which will finance the training of aspiring financial planners.

We will leave no stone unturned nor rest until we achieve meaningful transformation in our profession.

Godfrey Nti is chief executive of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

- BUSINESS REPORT