African-American financial advisors just need to look at The Washington Group, headed by managing partner Leo Tucker, to appreciate the realities and the upside potential of their chosen careers.

“There is nothing homogeneous about the D.C. market,” Tucker said in a recent telephone conversation, describing his practice. “These are highly educated business professionals and business owners. We have clients of every shape and size.”

Indeed, The Washington Group runs on about 85 advisors out of six offices helping about 40,000 active clients manage their lives, according to Tucker. You can bet that all those well-educated, ambitious professionals from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds expect one thing from their financial advisors: high-level financial guidance.

Black men and women advisors -- members of a racial minority in the U.S. -- will most likely build practices infused with some level of diversity. Not all clients can be African American, at least not at a dynamic practice that continues to respond to a changing world.

So Tucker and a couple other advisors will attend the Sixth Annual Conference for African American Financial Professionals looking to sharpen their business development, client relationship and practice management skills.

The conference, one of the largest to specifically attract African-American professionals, will bring professionals to Atlanta Tuesday and Wednesday. MetLife, the original sponsor, and The American College, are also supporting the event.

“It is usually very encouraging just to see the larger community of African Americans who are out in the marketplace doing this effectively,” Tucker said. “Connected to that is the opportunity to develop relationships with people who are doing this at a very high level.”

Whether it is informally or through formal presentations, Black advisors end up with role models who can be of assistance to them in their careers, he said.

“Our industry recognizes that we need to make strides in the recruiting and developing of African American advisors,” Kamilah Williams-Kemp, director of field vertical growth at Northwestern Mutual said in a recent telephone interview.  “Historically the entire industry has some degree of challenges on recruiting and developing people of color in those roles.”

Diversity is as much about sharing a variety of financial planning and advisory perspectives as it is about race, tongue, creed and any other background represented in this industry. So, an African American advisor at the conference will glean a wealth of ideas, depending on the needs of his or her practice. Black advisors end up serving a variety of markets, including small businesses, families with estate planning and risk protection needs, Williams-Kemp said.

For his part, Tucker has been in the industry for more than 20 years, and has some insights of his own to share. He admonishes advisors who work with him to bring Washington Group’s ideal clients to the practice -- people who are passionate about their work, and their family and community lives.

Advisors should be equally passionate about the process of prospecting for those clients. He encourages them to connect with each other, and potentially with clients, through social media.

“We want our reps to build practices based exclusively on favorable introductions,” Tucker said. He added that advisors prospect for leads using a variety of software and technology. “They do not engage in anything like ‘gimmick marketing’.”

The Washington Group also puts a high premium on continuing education, so it is not uncommon to encounter advisors with CFAs, CFPs and other relevant designations. 

Even if African-American advisors do not end up working primarily with African-American clients, there are plenty of macroeconomic and client-specific changes to keep advisors on their toes. Executives Northwestern Mutual noted in a recent study that more Americans across the industry are seeking guidance from strong companies. They also want more risk-protection products, like disability- and long-term care insurance.

“The demand for financial security is colorblind,” Williams-Kemp said. “Our approach as an organization is to work with risk-protection products for all clients. Once those basic needs are met, let’s talk about the accumulation of assets and saving for some of those goals.”

As Williams-Kemp puts it, African-American clients -- and those from other ethnic minorities -- are experiencing significant and increasing levels of buying power. And that is morphing into saving power.

That is the sort of mentality that harmonizes with Tucker’s approach. Long-term, goal-based financial advice is what The Washington Group focuses on delivering. Advisors are encouraged to go out and meet clients whose values line up with their own. The same applies to industry peers.



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