Even as a youngster, James R. Veal liked math and science. So when he went to college, he majored in engineering. But as with so many young people finding their way in the world, a chance encounter changed his career plans. While in college, a friend introduced him to a stockbroker. Soon after, he realized how a career in finance could give him the chance to help people and build a profitable business, and so he promptly switched his major to business and finance.
“I liked it because it dealt with people,” he says. “I’m people oriented. And the idea of helping people financially as well as looking at this business as an entrepreneur, it felt better than being an engineer in a laboratory.”
So, 15 years ago, Veal started as a “rookie broker” at a small investment banking firm on Wall Street. He then went on to work as a financial consultant with a major bank as well as a number of independent broker-dealers.
Three years ago, he decided to strike out on his own and opened his own independent financial planning and investment firm in his native Philadelphia, JRV Wealth Management Group, LLC.
Today, he manages roughly $10 million in assets for his clients, 85 percent of whom are African-Americans. Predominately, his clients are boomers, seniors and senior African-American women.
Outside the business, Veal volunteers his time to teach courses on financial literacy at Temple University and at a local church.
In the second part of LifeHealthPro’s conversation with Veal, he outlines how carriers can recruit more African-Americans into the financial services industry and what other advisors can do to tap into this growing market.
SMA: What can the carriers and the industry in general do to reach this community?
Veal: They do a good job but I think they’re barking up the wrong tree. What they need to do is track down people like me, African-American advisors in the community, and partner with us to provide these classes, workshops, lectures, courses, etc. I think that kind of collaboration would be more effective than trying to go at the mass market.
SMA: What can the carriers and the industry do to recruit more African-Americans into the advisory ranks?
Veal: It’s a challenge. There are very few African-American role models in the industry who can mentor these rookies. However, the best way to find prospective advisors is by contacting African-American advisors. We are in the trenches every day and we come in contact with these intelligent people all the time. Some of these individuals are in our networks, they’re our contacts, our prospects, some are even our clients. So we’re in an ideal position to recommend and steer prospects to these major carriers.
SMA: How can other financial advisors tap into this market?
Veal: They have to come into the community. They have to come in and some do. They provide free workshops, financial seminars; some advisors even sponsor sports teams and community events. People have to see them. The more times they see them the more trust that they have in them. There are a lot of people in this community that don’t have much trust but I think if they have a presence on a consistent basis in the community, they will earn their trust.