LeCount R. Davis
Founder Association of African American Financial Advisors
Maybe it was his religious upbringing, or maybe it was the example set by a tax preparer in Mr. Davis' boyhood neighborhood in Washington, D.C., who provided the community with free, impartial money-related advice. Whatever or whoever it was that shaped his thinking, LeCount R. Davis has always approached financial planning as more of a calling than an academic pursuit, a job or even a profession.
During his more than 40 years as a financial planner — he is the first African American to hold the Certified Financial Planner designation — Mr. Davis, now 81, has accomplished that and more. He has helped hundreds of clients and their family members, influenced students as a teacher at Howard University, reached a broad audience through his television show, and has served as a mentor and inspiration to younger generations of financial planners who help carry out his mission through the Association of African American Financial Advisors, which he founded in 2001.
Giving back is core to Mr. Davis' value system, perhaps because the financial planning pioneer so appreciates the efforts of those who throughout his life have mentored and helped him. "My mission in life has been to help my people handle money well so as to be able to create and transfer wealth," he said.
Mr. Davis has left in indelible mark on the financial advice profession.
Godfather of financial planning
"To know LeCount is to know that he is the godfather of financial planning for our community and the broader community," said Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a board director of the Association of African American Financial Advisors, known as Quad-A, and founder and CEO of Financial Fountains. "He is a model of business and professional success, spending time nurturing those currently in the profession and those who aspire to be financial planners."
Alexandra Armstrong, the founder and chairman of Armstrong Fleming & Moore Inc., described Mr. Davis as "a warm, compassionate human being who genuinely cares about others around him and helping them attain success."
"From the first time I met him, back in 1979, I have been impressed with his sincerity, his integrity and his self-deprecation," added Ms. Armstrong, who was the recipient of InvestmentNews inaugural Women to Watch Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. "He is a model that all financial planners should aspire to."
During high school, Mr. Davis worked as an office assistant for Mr. Payne, the neighborhood tax preparer. "Since we always called our elders 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.' out of respect, I don't remember his first name because we never used it," Mr. Davis said. It was after working with Mr. Payne that Mr. Davis decided to pursue accounting in college. He earned a basketball scholarship to attend Ohio's Wilberforce University, the first historically black university in the nation, but returned to Washington after an injury and received his bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting from Southeastern University in 1960.
Mr. Davis began working as a junior accountant for King Reynolds, the first black CPA firm in Maryland. Mr. Davis credits everything he later accomplished to his two years at that firm.
"We were doing tax preparation, not auditing or tax planning, because corporations were not retaining black accounting firms then," he said. As a result, income possibilities were limited, and when one of the two partners decided to go to law school to become a tax attorney and the other left to become a teacher, he inherited their clients — almost exclusively black professionals and high-level federal employees — for the nascent financial planning and advice business he wanted to build.
To earn additional money, Mr. Davis taught accounting as an adjunct lecturer at Howard University, where he also hosted a financial education television show produced by the school. One of his students worked for a contractor retained by the United States Agency for International Development (AID) and was looking for an accountant to help unions in Latin America handle their financial affairs. Mr. Davis accepted the job and became his student's employee, continuing to serve his clients remotely from his first assignment in Rio de Janeiro. He stayed with the contractor for several years, and still retains as a client a hotel in the Bahamas whose employees he assisted.
Despite international experience and the attention gained from his television program, Mr. Davis continued to look for ways to build his business after his AID job had ended, he said.
That's when he met the late financial planner Gen. Robert Ginsburgh, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who had a Ph.D. from Harvard and had taught economics and financial planning at West Point. "He became a mentor to me about the business of financial planning, suggesting that I continue to press to build fee-only retainer business so that my income would be reliable, and work to attract more African-American clients because people want to deal with those like them, and because everyone else was ignoring them."
— Evan Cooper