What it's like being an African-American financial adviser

The challenges of being among the nation's 8% of financial advisers who are black

Dec 14, 2015 @ 6:00 am

By Liz Skinner

It's lonely and really tough work, according to six financial advisers who are working to build the Association of African American Financial Advisors, known as Quad A. They sat down with InvestmentNews editor Fred Gabriel and reporter Liz Skinner to discuss the challenges of being among the nation's 8% of financial advisers who are black. During a 90-minute roundtable, the group discussed having to work harder than white advisers, as well as special difficulties they face trying to serve a natural market, other African Americans. The group gathered Sept. 24 in Boston immediately preceding the first national Quad A conference, which was held before the Financial Planning Association's annual conference.

"I came into the industry in 2000, and it has been quite lonely. … I would see the guys [at my previous wirehouse] sharing insight about what they were doing with their clients, and they wouldn't share it with me."

Zanelia Harris
president of Harris and Harris Wealth Management Group.

“It is not just that you have to work harder; you have to be over-credentialed and over-qualified just to be at a good starting point. There's almost a 'be glad you're here' mentality with some counterparts because there are so few us. … We live in a constant state of being uncomfortable.”

Lazetta Braxton
founder of Financial Fountains

“Because of the wealth disparity problem, you have to get more clients if they are going to be all African American or minority, in order to get to the same numbers [in AUM]. You will have to get double or triple the number of people, which ends up making you work harder and more.”

James Brewer
founder of Envision Wealth Planning

“After 27 years in the business, I'm still going to places where I'm the minority.”

Crystal Alford-Cooper
financial adviser

“Good mentoring is extremely important and it certainly wasn't there when I started in the industry 20 years ago. … As a senior adviser, being able to mentor with a junior adviser is instrumental not only for them, but for me, too.”

Gerald Loftin
principal, Proficient Wealth Advisors

“I have worked harder [at previous firms] than my counterparts not only because I worked 10 hours a day, but I was also working three to four hours after work helping other people who I know really needed the help; they didn't fit into the firm structure. But in my heart I have to help them.”

Rianka Dorsainvil
founder, Your Greatest Contribution

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