One of the most visible young African American influencers in financial services predicts that in 10 to 15 years this business will be “the most beloved industry in the world.”
That would be some huge change. But in an interview with ThinkAdvisor, Tyrone Ross Jr. argues it will happen as soon as advisors transform from “takers” into “givers.”
Within the last year, he has popped up on industry hot lists as a mover pegged to help change the wealth management industry. The frequent speaker has recently addressed Etsy, Spotify and Uber, among other companies.
Ross is passionate about what he believes is the need for FAs to change focus from asset-gathering to serving the underserved and helping that demographic become financially literate.
Indeed, he wants to break the “traditional” advisor “mold,” which he contends is “selfish,” “racist” and “bigoted.” That view is at least partly based on his own years as a wirehouse FA. In the interview, he says he experienced “racism” and “bigotry” at Merrill.
After leaving there in 2017 for NobleBridge Wealth & Asset Management Services, where he was managing partner, he opted, two years ago, to give up his Series 7 license.
On April 1, he launched a business consulting company called 401. Targeting young professionals and startup founders, the focus is on technology, with cryptocurrency his specialty. He considers it “perfect” for those who are unbanked.
Ross grew up poor in Edison, New Jersey, and environs. His father worked for the sanitation department; his mother drove a bus and was a home health aide. He attended college on an athletics scholarship, graduating with a B.A. from Seton Hall University in 2006. To pay for grad school, he took a job as a probation officer.
Today, one of several hats he wears is director of financial education at Exponential ETFs, leading the Detroit-based firm’s “Detroit Invests in You” program for financial literacy, which is in fundraising mode. Detroit’s median income is less than half that of the national average, according to Exponential.
ThinkAdvisor interviewed Ross in early March, on the phone from his office in Edison. He bemoaned COVID-19’s crushing impact on his calendar of speaking engagements, at the same time predicting that more industry conferences will be held online as a result of coronavirus.
The new normal for doing business, he forecasts, will be doing it virtually.
Here are highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: What do you believe the impact of coronavirus will be on the job of financial advisor?
TYRONE ROSS: I’m not certain about long-term, but I believe a few things will change: Financial services will become more virtual — no more in-person meetings with clients, wholesalers and the like; and lots of conferences will go that way, too. Also, advisor [contact info] needs to be in their clients’ phones. And because we’ll be working remotely [more than in past], industry compliance and regulations will have to change and catch up.
You’ve said your aim is “to break the traditional mold of the advisor.” What is that mold, and why do you want to break it?
The traditional mold is selfish. The traditional mold is racist. The traditional mold is bigoted. The traditional mold is expensive. The traditional mold is exclusive. But this is changing, and I’d like to be part of that change. What’s forced down advisors’ throats is that success is how much money we manage — not how many lives we touch. That’s disgusting.
Will COVID-19 change industry attitudes about advisors’ race and gender?
No. I don’t think it will have any impact on that at all.
You called the traditional advisor mold “selfish.” Do you mean that advisors are in the profession just for the money?
Yes, the money they can make. That’s why some advisors don’t offer their services to people who can’t pay. We’re taught [by the industry] to be selfish: We never put anything back into the community. That’s a shame because there are hungry children, and poor and homeless people all over. Meanwhile, we’re patting each other on the back, giving congratulations for making the Barron’s 100. That’s unacceptable.
So what needs to be done?
We have to move from a business that’s taught to take to a business that’s taught to give.
In what way are you personally giving?
It’s very important for me to use my experience of growing up in an unbanked home, someone who didn’t know what the stock market was until the age of 26 and someone who has worked with young black and brown kids that have been raped, been gang members, abused, neglected and unsheltered.
But what does financial services have to do with that?
As an industry, we touch what everybody in the world needs: money. We’re complicit in the income inequality in this country. And as an industry, we don’t do enough to combat it.
What are you doing along those lines?
I don’t agree to speak or take part in conferences [whose sponsors] don’t give back to the community. Those of us who are black and brown — especially those of us who are black men — have to start using the leverage and platform we have to let [the industry] know we’re no longer your “diversity-and-inclusion hires.” I’m OK with you checking [that] box — but if you use me, I will use you.
What’s your hope for financial services regarding the issues you’ve mentioned?
This is going to explode. We’ll see it all change. It seems like there’s been a shift. I think that in 10 to 15 years, financial services will be the most beloved industry in the world.