A reader I will identify only by her initials, JL, emailed me about my Editors Note in the Summer 2016 issue of TNJ, titled His Purple Majesty: Prince and Me and the Matter of Wills. She wanted help finding a Black financial adviser. As I prepared for this issues conversation on the impact of diversity and inclusion on the struggle for Black economic parity, her request sent me on a hunt that was nearly as frustrating as hers.
JL wrote: You commented on Princes estate and that he died intestate, which will make it all the more difficult and time consuming to get everything sorted. In closing, you noted that more than half of African-Americans are in a similar situation. In conjunction with my own fathers passing a few years ago (and whose affairs were reasonably well-organized) along with growing older, I realize the importance of taking these steps for myself. Therefore, I began the process of trying to identify financial service professionals appropriate to my needs. As an African-American woman, among other criteria, I also wanted to include persons of color in the pool of potential providers under consideration. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done as this demographic seems to be all but invisible in conventional directories.
I am located in the NYC area, so started my search within the FPA-NY [Financial Planning Association-New York]s online directory, before contacting the organization directly for assistance with identifying this segment. The FPA-NY chapter president just referred me to the national FPA website, which I had already checked. She then suggested that I contact them directly, explaining what I wanted, which I did, but never heard anything back. I also emailed the Association of African American Financial Advisors (they dont appear to have an online directory), but did not hear back from them either. However, their members seem to be primarily located in the Southeast and I would prefer to work with someone a little closer to home. Finally, I attempted to conduct a search on LinkedIn, but this strategy was not successful either, as somehow my search results kept predominately returning the same white providers already listed in the FPA/FPA-NY directories! Perhaps, I was not formulating my search terms in an effective manner.
In the course of my research I turned up a number of articles advising their white counterparts that wealth management and estate planning for African-Americans and other people of color are an untapped market that they should consider going after. If that is the case, then providers of color should also have the opportunity to go after that market as well.
I referred JL to the Council of Urban Real Estate (cureny.com), formerly African American Real Estate Professionals of New York Inc., where I was able to find the right attorney when I needed one. Typically, C.U.R.E.s member list is restricted to members only, but I found Marissa Harrison by clicking on Executive Officers in the drop-down menu under About Us. The Council of Urban Professionals (cupusa.org), to which I also referred JL, lists the names and affiliations of its founding members, many of them in the legal and financial professions. While CUP is not a Black organization, many of its members are Black. A third resource is the Black employee networks at major financial institutions. Hopefully, a phone call will provide the appropriate connection.
To all the silent JLs, and to Black professional organizations, I hope this column makes a difference.