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More Asian-Americans Likely to Become Advisors

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Every year, the number of undergraduate students from Asian countries, China in particular, entering U.S. universities has been on the rise.

Many of those who go through degree programs here will stay on in this country and some, advisors like George Dang, president of Acacia Financial Advisors, hope, may choose to become financial advisors, thereby increasing the ranks of a much-needed but underrepresented demographic within the advisor ranks.

Dang was one of a sprinkling of Asian advisors (he’s Chinese from Vietnam and came to the U.S. after the Vietnam war) in the profession when he started in the early 1980s, but he was instrumental to building up his former employer, the AXA-Equitable Group’s, Asian clientele. In fact, his efforts over a 15-year period — including employing and training other Asians to become financial advisors servicing that community — helped AXA-Equitable gain one of the largest Asian businesses in the Washington metro area.

In the 1980s, the world was a different place and many of the Asians emigrating to the U.S. came from a totally different culture, financially or otherwise, Dang says. Language was one of their greatest barriers, he says, and saving reigned paramount, so if people were going to invest for the future, they only wanted to do so with someone they could really trust and who could speak their language and understand their culture.

Today, things have changed dramatically in the world, and the Asian economies are among the fastest growing in the world. Many young Asians are financially savvy, but Dang still believes that when it comes to financial planning, they want an advisor who understands them culturally.

“Many young Asians understand the importance of investing for the future and that saving doesn’t mean putting money under the mattress like it did for the older generation, but they still would rather have someone who can understands them, since young Asians coming into this country do tend to stick together and are still very attached to their culture,” he says.

To that end, having more advisors of Asian background would be of great help. To date, there are not that many Asians in the profession, says Linda Yu,a financial advisor at Pacific Advisors, because becoming a financial advisor never really figured on the list of Asian career choices.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the financial planning career is as tough as it is, and it requires a lifetime of learning to keep updated on everything from tax laws to investment products,” Yu, who was instrumental in bringing the Asian market to Pacific Advisors, says. “We need more advisors from Asian backgrounds, people who understand the culture but also understand the financial system here, because in the old countries that people came from, they didn’t have the kind of financial system we have here in the U.S., and this makes people fearful, so having someone who understands them and makes them feel secure is very important.

Dang is optimistic, though, that more Asians will join the advisor ranks as the cultural outlook shifts in second and third-generation Asians. Today, Asians are working in a diverse array of professions, and it’s becoming more accepted to do something other than being a doctor or an engineer, he says, including entering more creative professions or even entering politics.

“More Asians are understanding that being a financial advisor is not being salesman, that it is a highly complex profession and you need to not only be highly educated, but also understand numbers, understand the global economy and understand people,” he says. “People are realizing it isn’t easy to be a good advisor and that will help to bring more Asians into the industry.”