Gerald Loftin hasn't faced unique challenges in the financial advice profession because he's African-American — his successes have come in the same way they do for advisers of any color.
As the principal at Proficient Wealth Counselors in Norwood, Mass., he's built strong relationships with a wide range of clients across many ethnicities.
"They enjoy working with me not because I am an adviser of color but because I'm actually a good adviser," Mr. Loftin said. "My clients say, 'Gerald, if you were polka dot, we would still work with you because your style works for us.' They're ultimately looking for me to deliver on the goal that we set out to achieve."
Like most in the industry, Mr. Loftin said the obstacles he's had to overcome relate to marketing, back-office systems and other business operations.
"It's not an easy profession, I don't care what color you may be," Mr. Loftin said. "You've got to put the work in. It's not going to happen overnight."
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In 2000 he founded the firm that was renamed Proficient Wealth Counselors in 2006. It provides financial planning and asset management to 141 clients and has about $60 million in AUM, according to its latest Form ADV.
‘Gift of gab'
Part of Mr. Loftin's success reflects his facility with numbers and his ability to talk finances.
"When I marry my math skills with my gift of gab … it makes it a little easier for me to have a dialog with a stranger about financial matters," he said.
He also cites his being wired to work through potential setbacks. "If I sense that failure may be in the course, it motivates me," Mr. Loftin said.
He has tried to pass that mindset along to others who run their own advisory firms.
"Gerald is very dedicated to helping other advisers move forward in the industry," said Chloe Moore, founder and principal at Financial Staples and fellow board member for the Association of African American Financial Advisors. "He's very passionate about providing resources and support to those of us who are business owners."
He also tries to instill the benefits of intensity and eliminating distractions, she said.
"There are some times when you have to be selfish a little bit, and focus on doing what's right for your business," Ms. Moore said.
There will be more advisers of color as minority populations become bigger and wealthier, Mr. Loftin said.
"In time, these numbers will certainly get larger as these communities have more influence, and the need for financial planning services increases," he said.
Mr. Loftin's career has also been shaped by the economic circumstances of his childhood. He was raised in a "below-middle-class" neighborhood in Boston.
"Having that experience of growing up in a working-class community, it can be a driver along the career path," Mr. Loftin said.
He supports his community with pro bono work, such as teaching financial literacy. "I recognize there is a need and try to give back when I can," he said.
This story is part of an ongoing initiative by InvestmentNews to cultivate a financial advice profession in which diverse perspectives are welcomed and respected, and industry best practices can be shared across organizations.