By Stephen Chapek Contributing Reporter Merrill Lynch is a financial services company that believes diversity doesn’t have to come at the expense of excellence. The recognition by the company’s management that the country’s demographics have diversified has driven its efforts to reflect that diversity in its workforce. According to Stan O’ Neal, the company’s African-American Chairman and CEO, Merrill Lynch emphasizes merit and has striven to create a culture in which every individual can excel. The San Fernando Valley’s great ethnic and cultural diversity has provided an excellent platform for achieving its diversity goals through hiring and promotion. No better example of these policies can be found than in the Encino office of financial advisor and First Vice President, Investments, Judith Chipps. As a long-time employee of Merrill Lynch, she recounted how much the corporate environment has changed in her 30-year career, particularly with regard to the role of women. “The landscape looked very different when I started in the financial field. I have seen quite an evolution, for one in the assumption that women even belong in the workforce,” she said. “Merrill has been a leader in recognizing the needs of women in the workforce.” She should know. Chipps leads a team of five female financial advisors at her branch who collectively manage over $300 million worth of client assets. While her all-female team may be somewhat unusual, even by Merrill Lynch standards, she claims she is not unique in wanting to simply be the best financial advisor to her clients that she can be, regardless of gender. It is an ethos that resonates throughout the company’s organization. “Promoting equality and diversity has become an integral part of our business,” she said. Echoing her chairman, Chipps said, “Here at Merrill Lynch, it is a real meritocracy. If your clients are doing well, then you do well.” She also noted that the financial services field was one where men and women of similar rank are paid equally, based on their performance. The firm also has a very active external program to pursue diversified business development and leadership initiatives in underserved communities. Demetrio Kerrison, vice president and diversity manager of the Western division for Merrill recently spoke to SFVBJ about the company’s efforts to advance underprivileged communities through its partnerships with USC and LAUSD. Kerrison said the Merrill has been very active in its new partnership with USC’s minority alumni associations to recruit talented African-American, Hispanic, Asian as well as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender alumni into the company’s fold. Merrill has also been working to expand several innovative financial literacy and business development programs into Los Angeles public schools.
Merrill Lynch Partners With LAUSD, USC on Diversity