Lee Baker, founder of Tucker, Georgia-based Apex Financial Services, is one of the few minority advisors in the business. Baker, former president of the Georgia chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) who now serves on its board of directors, says of his many experiences at industry conferences: “It’s not that anyone does anything or says anything – it’s just a strange feeling to walk into a conference of 3,000 people and see only 30 people who look different from the masses.”
It is this lack of diversity in the advisory profession itself, Baker believes, that inhibits many potential minority clients from signing on with a financial advisor. “In most cases, people prefer to go to a planner who looks like them,” he says. “Beyond this, people also feel that they want an advisor who understands where they are coming from and what their social and cultural context is. Someone coming from the same place would understand these issues better.”
Diversity has always been one of those catchphrases, a term that is bandied about often, but serious efforts to do something about increasing diversity in the advisory profession have really just ebbed and flowed, Baker feels, without there being a sustained effort to really try and effect what he strongly believes is a much-needed change. That’s why he undertook the effort to work with the FPA to set up a Diversity Task Force aimed at encouraging people from different ethnic minorities in the financial advisory business through a series of programs and incentives.