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Executive advocates increasing diversity in financial services industry

Glenn Townes | 5/7/2017, 8:23 a.m.
As one of the top performers at one of the nation’s Big 4 accounting firms, Kevin Basden undoubtedly has a ...
Kevin Basden

As one of the top performers at one of the nation’s Big 4 accounting firms, Kevin Basden undoubtedly has a penchant for business and, more importantly, a knack for bringing other people of color into a socially conscious and globally numeric world.

Basden is the director of Risk Assurance at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in Philadelphia, Pa. The firm is a professional business powerhouse—with locations and operatives around the world. As an executive, Basden spends most of his time traveling domestically and internationally and consulting with a huge PWC client base.

A native of the Bahamas, Basden was readily exposed to wealthy, powerful and well connected people of color and the notion of becoming a success at whatever he chose to do was ingrained at an early age. “That idea is largely absent by many young African Americans and it's something that I want to change,” he said in a recent interview with SJJ.com. He said the financial services industry must adjust to the exponential growth of IT. “Accountants are shifting gears and specializing in emerging subject matters,” he said. “Firms like PwC are adapting to remain relevant to the needs and interests of the current generation--{millennials}—this, of course, includes the widespread use of social media and IT.”

Besides just talking about it, Basden has also become an active contributor to diversifying financial services—an industry long known for being mostly devoid of an eclectic workforce and monochromatic—especially in the senior executive and administrative ranks. He frequently mentors young people in and around Philadelphia about the benefits of a career in accounting and other industry related fields. He is also active in recruitment efforts at his alma mater, Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ.

During a recent business trip to China, the intelligent and savvy executive was welcomed and cajoled by an international audience. “Being black was a benefit in that I was able to play the role of ambassador,” he said. Many of the people in attendance had somewhat limited exposure to black professionals given they came from a number of countries outside of the U.S.” Basden said he used his exposure at the event to share some personal stories and change misconceptions and stereotypes and advocate upbeat and positive images. “One of my project team members went out of her way to tell me that she 'can see the burden {I} carry,” he said.

Finally, Basden offers simple, yet cogent advice to young people of color hoping to break into the world of financial services---form positive business relationships. However, he adds, that changing the industries' colorless corporate hierarchy is also the responsibility of the employers. “At our firm, there are leaders who have the ability and inclination to push the diversity firm's strategy forward, most of who are white men,” he said. Concluding, “People of color do themselves a disservice if they shy away from those relationships and multicultural networks.”