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November 09, 2023
The American College Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality® is committed to bridging the gap between Black Americans and the financial services industry. Packed with worksheets and exercises, this guide supports that goal by helping potential Black financial services professionals to better understand the financial services industry and the career paths available in it.
Career Pathways in Financial Services: An Introduction for Black Americans is a practical guide to career pathways in financial services. It explores the challenges and opportunities facing potential Black financial services professionals, outlines the career paths available to you, and helps you chart your personal path forward.
Challenges and Opportunities
Black Americans are underrepresented in the financial services industry. While Black Americans make up almost 13% of the US population, they make up only 5% of financial professionals.1 This underrepresentation is mirrored in the wealth gap between Black and White Americans —the median Black family’s wealth was just $24,100 in 2019, about one-eighth of the $188,200 median wealth of White families.2
These statistics point to a serious schism in the relationship between Black Americans and the financial service industry. Yet the industry offers significant opportunities for potential Black professionals. Many financial services firms have a strong sense of mission and a career in financial services can be rewarding for those who want to serve their communities. A career in finance can offer generous pay - financial services jobs pay a median wage of close to $40 an hour compared to less than $23 an hour for all jobs on average.3
For those with the right skills, there are a range of opportunities in the various sectors of the financial services industry:
- Financial Planning
- Wealth and Investment Management
Financial professionals need a range of skills, including:
- Skilled in leadership and able to demonstrate accountability.
- Comfortable with numbers.
- Good at communication.
- Proficient at problem-solving.
- Mature and have a high degree of emotional intelligence.
- Proficient at time management.
- Good at teamwork and at working and interacting with different types of people.
Your Career Path
A career in financial services can be professionally, financially, and emotionally fulfilling. Your career will generally move through three phases.
Phase 1: Learning
- Finding your first job.
- Developing industry knowledge and practical skills.
- Building relationships within your industry/firm.
- Learning industry norms.
- Building customer contacts.
- Obtaining any necessary licenses.
Phase 2: Building
- Developing specialized skills.
- Building your network inside and outside your firm.
- Pursuing new career opportunities/promotions.
- Becoming active in industry groups and professional associations.
Phase 3: Leading
- Understanding how to manage a business/department.
- Developing leadership skills.
- Staying current on industry trends and developments.
- Reach out to The American College of Financial Services’ Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality® to access cutting-edge research into the financial services industry, guidance on scholarships that can support your financial services education journey, and opportunities to connect with Black financial services professionals.
- Read financial media and watching financial news, as well as following financial professionals on social media.
- Reach out to any contacts you have who work in finance or connect with financial professionals through your LinkedIn network.
- Consider your current education and whether you may benefit from additional certifications or designations.
1 CFA Institute. Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Finance. n.d.
2 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. September 28, 2020.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. May 2022.