March 7, 2012

Advisors Serving Minorities Need to Network With 'Like-Minded' Advisors

Setting up your own financial advisory practice is not easy, and it’s even tougher if one of your goals is to serve underserved communities.

Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a financial planner who founded Chicago-based firm Financial Fountains in 2008, would like to grow her business efforts to help middle income African-Americans and other minorities properly plan their finances.

But, she says, figuring out how to go about doing this in the right way is not easy.

Having an innate sense of what minorities need, where they are coming from and what their goals are, can help a great deal. Yet Braxton feels she would benefit much more and be able to perform better as a financial advisor with assistance from a diverse network of colleagues that she could liaise with on a regular basis.

That’s why she is looking toward the larger industry organizations that are spearheading efforts to create a network for--and of--advisors serving minorities.

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) already has in place a diversity scholarship program, she says, which has done a great deal in attracting people from different minorities into the financial planning profession, as well as with supporting the inclusive efforts of its current membership. Braxton herself was a 2011 recipient and she currently serves on the FPA Diversity Committee.

Braxton recently joined the Association of African American Financial Advisors, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2011 and continues to make strong strides in bringing together financial advisors from across the country.

Although more and more advisors--many are minorities themselves--across the country are dedicating themselves to serving underserved communities (even if it’s just because they’re astute enough to see the direction that the advisory business is going in, since “today’s minorities are going to be tomorrow’s majority”), there is no well-known template for this, Braxton says.

While there no doubt are some successful templates out there, they are not well-shared, she says, and this is a shame for advisors like herself.

The financial advisory industry has matured enough to recognize the need to work with diverse communities, but those advisors who are doing this often must operate on their own. In many communities, there is no cohesive effort to bring these advisors together, Braxton says, although many of them would welcome a movement to unify their efforts and create a forum of reference.

“What we need is a more collaborative approach that would support the increase in minority advisors and in advisors who want to serve minorities,” Braxton says. “We need to know who each other is so we can become advocates of each other’s efforts. This in turn will translate into serving clients better and creating greater client confidence.”

Braxton’s desire to serve middle income minority communities comes from her own modest background. Unfortunately, middle income people are still not the most attractive business segment for most financial advisors, but although Braxton, like any other advisor, would want her business to be profitable, she also feels a strong need to give back to her community and to help people achieve their financial goals by giving them the advice they need.

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