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New HBCU scholarships to forge more paths into wealth management for Black professionals

George Nichols, American College of Financial Services
American College of Financial Services President George Nichols spoke to more than 1,200 virtual attendees at this year's Conference of African American Financial Professionals.
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One of the largest designation and training schools in wealth management aims to help improve the severe underrepresentation of Black professionals in the industry by lowering a costly barrier to entry.

The American College of Financial Services is offering 25 scholarships — including 15 new ones for students at historically Black colleges and universities — for its RICP and ChFC designations and CFP training. The school unveiled the scholarships on Aug. 5 following its annual Conference of African American Financial Professionals.

Calls to build industry connections with HBCUs have grown in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination. Wealth managers are responding. Carson Group, for instance, is donating $500,000 to the AAAA Foundation to aid CFP programs at four HBCUs.

Fewer than 2% of CFPs — or 1,355 of the industry’s more than 87,000 — are Black, compared to their 13% share of the U.S. population. The American College will provide the 25 scholarships to Black undergraduates who have completed their sophomore year, with an eye towards increasing the number receiving free tuition through additional donations.

At the virtual conference, American College President George Nichols discussed the school’s four-part plan for “promoting racial equality and financial well-being,” which lists recruiting more Black financial professionals into the industry as a major pillar.

“This request is bigger than a commitment to hiring a few more Black men and women, or setting up a diversity council, or cloaking systemic racism and the struggles Black people face with a program that means well, but stops a few steps short of feeling uncomfortable,” Nichols said. “We need a more aggressive approach led by a broader coalition, including all sectors of the financial services industry.”

The virtual event, which had more than 1,200 total attendees, was in part a display of a broader coalition. Two dozen corporate sponsors of the conference, such as Raymond James, Prudential and Northwestern Mutual, along with 270 attendees, made donations that will go to programs like the new HBCU scholarships and other resources for supporting Black financial professionals.

At least three Morehouse College alumni also spoke at the conference: Advisor Lee Bethel of Alexandria, Virginia-based Comprehensive Benefit Services and Breaux Capital co-founders Ras Asan and Derrius Quarles. In his remarks, Quarles cited research showing the much greater extent of lending in majority white neighborhoods above predominantly Black ones.

“I am personally enraged by this report and by these stark numbers, but does this enrage us as an industry?” said Quarles, whose firm is a savings automation and social investing platform for Black men. “How can we say out of our mouths that we will not tolerate racism while simultaneously tolerating the practices and policies that lead to these statistics.”

The new scholarships can at least open more paths into the industry.

Carson’s gift to the AAAA Foundation will pay for scholarships, grants and programming at Delaware State University, Clark Atlanta University, Prairie View A&M University, and North Carolina A&T University. The schools’ program directors serve on the foundation’s HBCU Council.

In a statement, AAAA President Lazetta Braxton praised Ron Carson’s hybrid RIA and coaching firm “for its intentional focus on collaborating with a trusted organization whose volunteer leaders and constituents actively demonstrate the change we all seek in the financial planning profession."

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