February 14, 2011

To Pull in African-American Clients, Pinpoint Local Black Churches

Lee Hyder, Akron, Ohio-based financial advisor and founder of Lee Hyder & Associates, is the first to agree that most financial advisors have not made as much of an effort with the African-American community as they should have. That’s partly because of perception (“the average advisor feels that there is not enough money per household in the Black community, and that there isn’t enough motivation or desire on the part of individuals to pursue things with them,” he says), but it’s also due to the difficulty in making a connection with the community. And connections are what it’s all about when approaching the African-American community.

Hyder himself only got connected incidentally, he says, through a retired pastor who attended one of his seminars. That encounter connected Hyder to what he believes is the epicenter of the Black community: The Church.

“It’s a theme through the whole community,” Hyder says. “The Church is their Wednesday night activity, it’s their Saturday night activity, it’s where they have Bingo Night – it’s where everything happens.”

Since that meeting with the one pastor, Hyder has made an effort to meet other African-American pastors and through these connections, he has presented the case for proper financial planning to congregations at 20 African-American churches.

He believes other advisors would also succeed in getting African-American clients if they make an effort to pinpoint local Black churches and get to know their pastors.

Advertising in community newspapers can also help a great deal, he says, but it’s more “important to establish a connection with a pastor, then maintain a continued correspondence with them, even start a monthly publication that you send out to them. The church has to be a part of this, and because of that connection and communication, I’ve had people filter into my seminars and say ‘the pastor told me about you.’”

But while a pastor’s stamp of approval can go a long way in endorsing a financial advisor, Hyder warns that the advisor must live up to that. It’s important for an advisor to present himself or herself in a down-to-earth manner (“I don’t wear a tie and jacket when I go to a church because these are simple, down-home and hardworking people,” Hyder says), but more importantly, an advisor must make sure that he or she shows that they are committed and genuine, he says, because trust is extremely important for African-Americans. Because of this, it may take a long time to get a client and the strike rate may not even be that high. “But when you develop relationships, they are probably the most appreciative people and they are no trouble in an ongoing service relationship,” Hyder says. “So many advisors have problems with clients who expect so much, but these people are extremely appreciative and they are very giving. They make for wonderful clients.”

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