Raymond James Black Financial Advisors Network has aggressive short-term goals and a bold long-term plan.
“We would love to double our participation next year, which we could do. It will be tough,” said group co-founder Tony Barrett, in an interview.
The group, which held its second-annual symposium earlier this month in St. Petersburg, Florida, is pleased with its recent growth.
The Feb. 8-10 meeting included more than 60 people, double the number at the network’s first gathering last year. According to Raymond James, 48 advisors attended, one-third of whom are female and nearly two-thirds of whom are independent reps affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. (Group co-founder Joel Burstein, the branch manager of Raymond James’ employee-advisor operations in the Miami area, also helped organize and lead the event.)
“The situation in the industry is that less than 1% of advisors are African-American,” explained Barrett, Delaware Valley complex manager for the firm’s employee channel. “It can be frustrating, when — at a large [event with a] crowd — there are a maximum of five of us in a room.”
Barrett, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, says both Raymond James and the industry have work to do — and that includes African-American advisors.
“We want to do a better job communicating within the Raymond James universe and beyond and networking about the opportunities available to African-Americans,” he said. “We also want to position ourselves as a resource within Raymond James, so we can give feedback and have a say when it comes to examining different paths and approaches to diversity.”
Barrett is upbeat that within Raymond James, its different channels and its affiliated institutions (for advisory, clearing and other services) the group can boost its numbers.
“The nature of the firm, though in general it is very profitable, is that it is not short-term focused. It wants to invest in training for five or six years down the road vs. 18 months. That makes [the task of improving diversity] easier,” he said.
Having worked for two wirehouse firms, Barrett is more pessimistic about what larger organizations are likely to do in support of diversity.
“I’ve watched it happen at other [bigger] firms. They take token steps to show they care, but nothing really is done and put in place to make groups feel very included,” he explained. “And this happens like clockwork. Every few years, there’s a wave of lawsuits because they haven’t been giving equal opportunity. The hiring and promotion practices are biased in some ways.”