Renée Baker leads Raymond James Private Client Group’s Advisor Inclusion Networks, which includes its Women Financial Advisors Network, Pride Financial Advisors Network and Black Financial Advisors Network. She joined Raymond James in 2017 and led marketing for Carillon Tower Advisers, after working for Aberdeen Standard Investments.
Baker also is active in the Tampa, Florida, chapter of the CMO Club, for chief marketing officers, is a board member for Community Action Stops Abuse and serves as a trustee for American Stage Theatre Company and a co-chair of its equity, diversity and inclusion committee. She recently became a board member of Susan G. Komen.
Active on social media, Baker is one of the most persistent voices pushing the financial services industry to embrace the power of diversity and the importance of inclusion. “There is power in stepping out of your comfort zone. I’d rather be uncomfortable and grow than feel safe and be stagnant,” she recently said on Twitter.
Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, is chairwoman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, which was created by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. In late March, Waters and Beatty requested that asset managers — those with $400 billion or more in assets under management — complete a questionnaire on their diversity and inclusion data and policies from 2016 through 2020.
“We are making progress to ensure a comprehensive understanding of diversity and inclusion performance in the financial services industry,” the two politicians said in a letter to firms like Charles Schwab and Fidelity. “However, this cannot be achieved until organizations, especially the largest investment managers, disclose their diversity data and policies with the [Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion] OMWIs, Congress and the public.”
David Blanchett, CFA, CFP, is head of retirement research for Morningstar’s Investment Management Group and frequently shares his informative and in-depth insights through commentary pieces, social media posts and online events.
Advisors who limit client wealth planning to their portfolios are missing a big part of doing their job correctly, he said during a webinar earlier this year. Instead, they should be looking at a client’s total economic worth, including assets and liabilities, to determine the best “holistic” portfolio.
In addition to his work for Morningstar, Blanchett is an adjunct professor of wealth management at The American College of Financial Services. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in personal financial planning from Texas Tech University.
Lazetta Rainey Braxton, CFP, is a co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners. Braxton also serves as chair of the Association of African American Financial Advisors’ (AAAA) board of directors. The firm she co-leads strives to provide access to financial planning beyond the top 1% of investors and focuses “on creating a safe place for clients to realize their goals and dreams through the wise use of financial resources in a no-shame zone,” according to Braxton.
In a recent op-ed piece she wrote for CNBC, Braxton urged Black women to “build your financial squad” and talk more about money. “When was the last time you discussed finances with your partner, your children, your parents or even yourself?,” she wrote.
Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP, is a co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners.
As part of the industry’s efforts “to move the next generation of wealth-builders forward, we must focus on helping our African American clients better understand how finances work and be supportive in their goals to blend their old world with a new one,” Dorsainvil said in a recent commentary for Morningstar. “Financial advisors have a great opportunity to make real progress with African American clients and future generations. Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure this critical mission is a success.”
Thasunda Brown Duckett is the new CEO of financial services giant TIAA, succeeding Roger Ferguson Jr. As the firm’s first female CEO, Duckett has broken a glass ceiling at the organization — just as Jane Fraser did at Citigroup in March.
TIAA, a 103-year-old life insurer and annuity provider, has a large non-insurance asset management operation with $1.3 trillion assets under management. It merged with Nuveen Investments in October 2014 and then moved its asset management business under the Nuveen brand.
As for Duckett, she led consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase since 2016, directing banking operations with about $600 billion in deposits, 4,900 branches and 40,000 employees. She also was in charge of the branch and market expansion, as well as digital account engagement.
Duckett’s family rose from the ashes, literally. Their Louisiana home was lost after the Ku Klux Klan set it on fire. The family ended up in Texas, where Duckett got her bachelor’s in finance and marketing from the University of Houston and a master’s degree from Baylor University.
Ric Edelman — author and founder of RIA Edelman Financial Engines — leads the RIA Digital Assets Council, which just formed a strategic partnership with the Financial Planning Association to provide educational programming and content to help FPA members understand the complexities of cryptocurrencies and how these issues can affect their clients’ financial plans.
“Gaining vital knowledge about this new asset class will help financial planners attract more clients and serve them better,” Edelman said of the partnership and its goals. The RIA Digital Assets Council also offers a certificate program for financial planners to obtain proficiency in blockchain and digital assets to help manage their clients’ investment management strategy.
Michael Finke is one of the industry’s most sought-after experts on financial planning and retirement income. He’s always willing to engage in needed research, analysis and due diligence to improve the industry’s understanding of critical topics — for instance, Social Security, including both the short- and long-term issues that plague the program, as well as how advisors should be directing their clients’ around retirement planning.
Speaking recently about required minimum distributions, Finke explained that they’re “actually a very good method for pulling money out of your IRA, because [they] take two pieces of information into account — your remaining expected longevity and ... your IRA balance. That’s actually a more efficient way to create a drawdown from your retirement savings than the 4% rule.”
Finke, CFP, is a professor of wealth management and Frank M. Engle Distinguished Chair in Economic Security at The American College of Financial Services and an associate professor at Texas Tech University. He holds a doctorate in finance from the University of Missouri, as well as one in consumer science from Ohio State University.
Larry Fink founded the company he now heads as CEO — BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $8.7 trillion in assets— in 1988. Fink has distinguished himself by encouraging other asset managers and corporations to address climate risk, which he sees as a key risk for the global economy and for investments.
“Climate risk is investment risk,” wrote Fink in his annual letter to CEOs last year, which he repeated in 2021, adding that “climate transition presents a historic investment opportunity.”
Fink sees a “tectonic shift” in passive investing when more public companies disclose their carbon footprints, allowing BlackRock and other asset managers to customize sustainability indexes for investors. The recently launched BlackRock U.S. Carbon Transition Readiness ETF attracted $1.25 billion on its first day of trading, more than any other ETF to date.
(Image: Stefan Wermuth-Bloomberg)
10. What will
Gary Gensler tackle first as he assumes the role of chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission? At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee — in which he was peppered with questions from lawmakers about the GameStop trading frenzy — Gensler laid out the steps he’d consider to address recent market volatility related to the GameStop Reddit squeeze, as well as his approach to regulating cryptocurrencies.
Potential regulatory measures tied to the burst in the trading of some stocks could come first for Gensler, but he’s also signaled to senators that he’s in favor of cryptocurrency innovation. A professor of blockchain, digital currency, financial technology and public policy at MIT, Gensler has said he’d work with “fellow commissioners to both promote the new innovation but also at the core, ensure for investor protection.”
Mellody Hobson is president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments — the first Black-owned mutual fund company, which has about $15 billion in assets. She also chairs the board of Starbucks, making her the only current Black chairwoman of an S&P 500 company.
In February, she announced the formation of Ariel Alternatives, an affiliate of Ariel Investments whose first initiative, Project Black, will invest in middle-market companies with the aim of transforming them into certified minority-owned business enterprises of scale and developing a new class of Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. JPMorgan Chase has committed up to $200 million for Project Black.
“The time is right for the formation of an investment firm that scales sustainable, minority-owned businesses by simultaneously solving for two critical factors: capital and customers,” Hobson wrote recently.
Meanwhile, Ariel Investments’ three actively managed U.S.-focused mutual funds outperformed their peers last year and year-to-date, as value investing in small- and mid-cap stocks has staged a comeback.
12. An enthusiastic supporter of advisors’ retirement planning work,
Jamie Hopkins is director of retirement research at Carson Group. Hopkins, a CFP with both law and business degrees, also is active on social media with informative posts and videos about retirement planning, behavioral finance and more.
In addition, he’s the managing director of Carson Coaching, a Creighton University finance professor and author of the book “Rewirement: Rewiring the Way You Think About Retirement.” Hopkins, who uses the Twitter handle @RetirementRisks, characterizes retirement planning as “trying to hit a moving target in the wind.”
Abigail Johnson, Fidelity Investments’ president, CEO and chairwoman, stands out as the leader of a financial powerhouse. Since Johnson became CEO in late 2014, total assets at Fidelity have doubled to $10.2 trillion. The discretionary portion of these assets grew 86% over this time period to $3.9 trillion by year-end 2020.
Under Johnson’s leadership, Fidelity launched fractional share trading well before other traditional financial firms did so. Fidelity also has embraced digital assets, creating a digital assets platform for custody and trade execution and introducing a Bitcoin fund for wealthy investors.
(Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
14. Along with sharing a constraint stream of financial news and views to his 61,300 Twitter followers,
Michael Kitces leads Kitces.com, writes the Nerd’s Eye View blog and is head of planning strategy at Buckingham Wealth Partners. In addition, he’s a co-founder of AdvicePay, a payment tool for advisors that he launched with Alan Moore; the two also founded XY Planning Network, a group of fee-only advisors specializing in Gen X and Gen Y clients.
With the shutdown of live events due to COVID-19, Kitces and other industry VIPs have played a critical role in advisor education on a variety of topics, from tax matters to retirement planning. “The disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, and the concomitant shift to online education, has led to a rapid increase in demand” for content on Kitces.com, he said recently. Fortunately, the CFP provides financial professionals with 24/7 updates and insights on the financial advice industry and how its members can best serve the investing public.
Laurence Kotlikoff is a William Fairfield Warren Professor at Boston University and a nationally recognized Social Security and retirement expert.
In 2016, Kotlikoff ran for U.S. president as an independent, largely to raise an alarm on the ballooning U.S. debt. Today, he continues to speak out on U.S. fiscal policy and has said he would advise President Biden to scrap Social Security and start anew.
Kotlikoff also shares his views on how investors can improve their retirement savings or get more out of their retirement benefits. This includes describing how cash-strapped seniors can get the most out of Social Security and tap into their home equity via reverse mortgages. He’s a prolific writer on retirement and sells web-based software such as Maximize my Social Security, often used by advisors.
Jeffrey Levine, CPA/CFP, is Kitces.com’s lead financial planning nerd and recently was tapped for the role of chief planning officer at Buckingham Wealth Partners, where earlier he was director of advanced planning. He recently signed on to advise Holistiplan on ways it can further tweak how its software reviews clients’ tax returns for potential financial planning issues.
A constant presence on Twitter via the handle @CPAPlanner, Levine shares highly detailed summaries of IRS updates and tax-related legislation affecting advisors and investors during the pandemic — regardless of how many hundreds of pages these measures entail — making him the “go to” source on such matters.
Marcia Mantell is an “advisor’s advisor” when it comes to retirement consulting. Her firm, Mantell Retirement Consulting, has been busy offering insights on strategic retirement business development and marketing communications services since 2005.
She writes frequent blog posts, has written books on women and retirement, and trains advisors on how to best work with clients, especially when it comes to Social Security, Medicare and benefits for divorced spouses. She also hosts workshops for women on the topic.
In addition, Mantell provides straight talk about what divorced women can and can’t do in claiming an ex’s Social Security benefits. (No, they can’t get half of his and all of hers, she points out.)
18. Financial advisors know
Alicia Munnell as the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, where she leads a prolific research effort. But Munnell also is the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.
Munnell and her team produce some of the most in-depth research in the United States on retirement. Their focus includes everything from the value of annuities to financial security at different ages, complex Social Security issues, the state of pension plans and health care challenges.
Her background is steeped in government policy. She was a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (1995-1997), served as the U.S. Department of Treasury’s assistant secretary for economic policy (1993-1995) and worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (1973-1993), where she was tapped as its senior vice president and director of research in 1984.
In a recent interview, Munnell shared her insights on President Biden’s Social Security plan, which she likes but sees as “incomplete” because it doesn’t raise payroll taxes “broadly enough to pay folks full retirement benefits for the next 75 years.”
She also says there’s “very little evidence” that many employees have been raiding their 401(k) accounts in the pandemic. One fact supporting this argument is that many of those who lost their jobs over the past year or so largely didn’t have 401(k) plans.
Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, former Facebook executive and venture capitalist, is the individual most associated with the surge of special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, which raise capital through initial public offerings to buy existing companies. Close to 250 SPACs went public last year, raising over $83 billion — a number that has already been exceeded this year by almost $5 billion, according to SPAC Research.
Interest in SPACs and their performance, though, weakened dramatically after recent accounting guidance from the SEC that aims to classify SPAC warrants as liabilities, not as equity instruments. If enacted, this change would require SPACs to recalculate some financial measures in quarterly 10-K and 10-Q reports for the value of warrants.
Palihapitiya’s SPACs have taken Virgin Galactic, Opendoor Technologies and Clover Health public, but their stock performance has disappointed — as have the returns of many SPACs.
(Image: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg)
Rachel Robasciotti is the founder of the socially conscious investment advisory firm Adasina Social Capital and also the director of advocacy and engagement for the RIA Abacus Wealth partners; she took on the latter role after Robasciotti & Philipson merged with Abacus in March.
Earlier this year, Robasciotti — who recently testified before a U.S. Senate Banking Committee on the GameStop trading frenzy — worked with Abacus CEO Brent Kessel and others on the Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment. This effort asks asset managers to reform traditional due-diligence and risk-assessment frameworks to increase the flow of capital to Black, Indigenous and other people of color.
Tyrone Ross Jr. is the CEO of Onramp Invest, an investment platform focused on digital assets, and he serves on the board of advisors for ETF maker Reality Shares. The former Merrill advisor also is the founder of 401STC, a storytelling consultancy, and a 2004 Olympic Trials qualifier in track and field.
Ross keeps active in other ways, too. He speaks out often on Twitter (with the handle @TR401) regarding financial literacy and other issues he’s passionate about. “It’s #FinancialLiteracyMonth so I’m banging this drum all month! Lack of financial literacy is a crisis in this country. Here’s my 3E’s on we all can help change it,” he tweeted in early April, referring to exposure, education and empowerment of youth, young adults and others.
Ed Slott, a nationally recognized expert on financial planning and individual retirement accounts, just launched a self-study program on retirement distribution and tax planning with The American College of Financial Services. Slott, who leads Ed Slott and Co., also recently authored the popular book “The New Retirement Savings Time Bomb.” His insights are considered must-reads by financial advisors, CPAs and attorneys.
Advisors have an opportunity to “better educate clients who are leaving lots of money on the table that could otherwise be growing tax-favored for retirement,” he told ThinkAdvisor earlier this year. “Many people think that if they participate in a 401(k) or other company plan, then they cannot contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA. Not true.”
23. Advisors got a shock in mid-February when the Labor Department allowed the Trump-era fiduciary prohibited advice exemption to align with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest to go into effect. All eyes now will be on whether new Labor Secretary
Marty Walsh expands the fiduciary definition under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and modifies other prohibited transaction exemptions later this year.
“With regard to the fiduciary definition, I believe that the DOL would like to bring it more in line with the SEC’s best interest rules for broker-dealers and investment advisors, where a single recommendation is subject to the best-interest standard,” said ERISA attorney Fred Reish of Faegre Drinker. Under Walsh, who will be a “fiduciary proponent,” Reish said, “we can expect other existing exemptions, for example, PTE 84-24 for insurance and annuity sales, to be modified to include conditions similar” to some of those in the fiduciary PTE. “In other words, the exemptions will be more demanding.”
Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., now chairs two Senate subcommittees — the Senate Banking Committee Subcommittee on Economic Policy and the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.
After taking the helm in early March, Warren vowed to “use these committees to hold big corporations and their executives accountable and to strengthen our banking, securities, and tax laws — and make sure they are enforced.”
In early April, Warren — along with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey — called on President Biden to use his authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for each federal student loan borrower.
25. House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman
Maxine Waters, D-Calif., didn’t waste time this year, holding hearings on market volatility tied to GameStop and other stocks, which she said threw a “national spotlight on institutional practices by Wall Street firms, and prompted discussion about the evolving role of technology and social media in our markets.”
In late March, Waters and Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, requested that asset managers with $400 billion or more under management — complete a questionnaire on their diversity and inclusion data and policies from 2016 through 2020.
Cathie Wood, the founder and CEO of Ark Investment Management, has singlehandedly revitalized the idea of the rock star portfolio manager, which pretty much disappeared with the explosion of index investing.
Wood, an old-fashioned stock picker, not only presides over one of the fastest growing asset managers but also serves as its chief investment officer. Plus, she successfully battled minority owner Resolute Investment Managers to keep control of Ark.
The firm’s recent launch of the Ark Space Exploration ETF attracted nearly $200 million on its first trading day in late March. In April, Ark was named ETF issuer of the year by ETF.com, and the Ark Innovation ETF won the website’s ETF of the Year prize.
*There are 26 winners this year in order to recognize the impact of two honorees who co-head an advisory team. (Image: Courtesy of ARK Invest)