The 7th Annual Conference for African-American Financial Professionals, organized by MetLife and the American College in Washington, D.C., was by far the most well attended meeting since the event’s inception.
But this doesn’t mean that the number of African-American financial advisors has increased. On the contrary, says Dwight Raiford, senior financial planner and financial services rep for Raiford, Roman & Associates, an office of Metlife, the number of advisors in general has been steadily declining, and the drop is even more pronounced in the African-American segment of the population.
“Naturally, the economic cycle has made it much tougher to make money in this business, and if you’re just starting out, the last few years have been very daunting,” Raiford says. “But I believe that there’s no greater time for opportunity in this business than now because the fact of the matter is that in tough times, people need advice more than ever.”
And even as the number of African-American advisors entering the profession may have fallen or stagnated, studies have also shown that African-Americans have become more confident about their financial futures, and they have a growing need for financial advisors, “so there is a supply/demand gap here that needs to be filled,” Raiford says. “The profession also needs young people to take on the clients of older peers who have already exited the profession or who will be exiting, and to service newer potential clients that need advice.”
Granted, those who are new to the profession and who have not yet gotten a strong foothold in it face far greater challenge today than they would have some years ago. Tapping into the affluent market and creating a client base that can then serve as a platform to both run a profitable business and reach out down the ranks to other clients is not easy, Raiford agrees.
Still, he urges young advisors–particularly African-American advisors–not to give up, but to give the profession a fair shot and the time it takes to get off the ground. He advises new and potential financial advisors to listen and learn all they can, and to draw inspiration from the stories and experiences of their older peers, many of whom are not only ready to hand over the baton, but also to nurture and cultivate future professionals, so that they can then concentrate their efforts on the broader community needs of the less affluent.