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Career Pathways in Financial Services: An Introduction for Black Americans
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.
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VetCTAP Aims to Increase Veteran Employment Rate
The VetCTAP program concept grew out of the personal experience of Sandra Fichter (former US Army Officer), who is a Human Resources (HR) professional. In her HR role, Sandra reviewed resumes from transitioning veterans that did not accurately reflect all of their skills. Sandra could predict that they would not be selected for jobs they qualified for because they did not effectively communicate their strengths and skills. This realization led to the birth of the VetCTAP workshop series.
Sandra recruited senior learning and development expert, Janis Whitaker and other HR professionals to create a job search workshop series. The program was built around three key elements: one-on-one coaching, utilizing HR professionals as facilitators and coaches, and reaching military members before they leave the service, allowing for a smooth and successful career change.
The VetCTAP workshop series (formerly CTAP) began in 2012 successfully assisting military, veterans, and spouses through their career transition. The program has sustained a 90% success rate of graduates obtaining the career of their choice. VetCTAP’s success is not possible without HR and business professionals who volunteer to teach and coach, and donors who share in the passion of supporting veterans and spouses in transition, and helping those veterans find employment in the career of their choice, where they can comfortably provide for themselves and their families.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered as financial, legal, investment or other professional advice. Readers should consult with the relevant professionals for specific advice related to their situation.
We are not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, compensated or in any way officially connected with any other company, agency, or government agency in this article. All product, service and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.
Before making any decisions based on the information contained in this article, you are strongly advised to refer to alternative, independent sources of information to substantiate the basis for your decision. It is your sole responsibility to satisfy yourself prior to using the information in any way and to seek appropriate advice before taking or refraining from taking any action in reliance on any information contained in this article.
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Military Spouse Grateful for Center Scholarship
To The American College of Financial Services Center for Military and Veterans Affairs
I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude for your generous support through the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs scholarship program. I am honored to be a recipient of this scholarship, which will enable me to pursue new training in wealth management as a military spouse.
Your invaluable contribution has provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills in the field of wealth management. I have always been passionate about financial literacy and enabling individuals to achieve financial stability and independence. This scholarship will allow me to transform this passion into a reality, and I am committed to making the most of this opportunity … using my newfound knowledge to empower military families.
I want to express my sincere appreciation for your recognition of the unique challenges faced by military spouses and your commitment to their personal and professional growth. By investing in my education and training, you are not only supporting me as an individual but also making a positive impact on the entire military community.
Thank you once again for your invaluable support which has not only lightened the financial burden but also reaffirmed my commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of military families. I will always be grateful for the opportunity you have given me and will strive to pay it forward by helping others in the future.
With heartfelt appreciation,
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CAAFP 2023 Focuses on Reclaiming Black Wealth
The three-day event entered its 17th year during a time of great changes. Since the nation’s renewed racial awakening in 2020, progress has been made on many fronts in the mission to bring greater equality and opportunity for African Americans to public and business spheres. However, the recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action has sparked new conversations about the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Given this state of affairs, speakers at CAAFP 2023 focused on renewing attendees’ passion for pursuing change in their organizations and other environments and increasing the power of Black communities through cooperation and commitment. Through inspiring workshops, coaching sessions, networking opportunities, keynote addresses, and more, the conference once again served as a vehicle to bring people of all personal and professional backgrounds together for an exciting and empowering experience.
Finding Balance in Trying Times
The CAAFP’s general session opened with words of welcome from College figures including Dr. Pamela Jolly and President and CEO George Nichols III, CAP®. Dr. Jolly, a leader affiliated with the American College Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality, told attendees that while protests and demonstrations can raise awareness about issues of diversity and inclusion, what’s really needed is actionable plans to back up the desire for change.
“There was a moment. Now, what we need is a movement,”
Dr. Pamela Jolly
“I want us to be bold, but I don’t want us to be spontaneous. I want us to be strategic. Reclaiming Black wealth involves reclaiming our memories, our history, our sweat equity, our communities, and our models of wealth.”
Dr. Jolly was followed by Eszylfie Taylor, President of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services, who discussed the interconnectedness of mind, body, and money. A financial and personal wellness guru, Taylor emphasized the need for balance in all elements of life, as well as for ongoing transformative action.
“Your diet isn’t only what you eat; it’s what you watch, what you listen to, and who you surround yourself with,” he said. “I don’t believe in winning and losing: I believe in winning and learning. And you can’t get upset about results from work you didn’t do.”
Planning for Success
Day 2 of the conference opened with an address from Lauren Simmons, who at 23 years old became the youngest woman to be a full-time trader in the New York Stock Exchange. Simmons is now a personal finance expert for women and youth, and she detailed how her own relationship with money influenced her career journey.
“Black wealth is a power beyond imagination, but we’re running a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “Being wealthy is about having a long-term plan. If we continue to think in a short-term mentality, we will continue to repeat history over and over again.”
Simmons also spoke about many pioneers of Black wealth, including Jeremiah Hamilton, who was the first Black man on Wall Street. Having invested in the construction of the country’s modern railroad system, Hamilton died with the equivalent of $65 million in assets – and yet very few people know his story, much like the success and destruction of the “Black Wall Street” community in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“There is power in entrepreneurship. Education alone is not going to close the wealth gap,” Simmons said. “We need to stop people from erasing the power we’ve historically had in this country – and that can be ours again.”
In between keynote sessions and workshops on subjects from crypto assets and financial psychology to professional development and other topics, attendees also had the chance to network to form new connections of fellowship and to shop various Black-owned businesses in the Chicago area. The evening was capped off by the annual CAAFP White Party, where speakers, attendees, and other professional guests and staff came together to celebrate the transformative nature of the conference and its legacy of bringing people of all different backgrounds together in solidarity.
A Powerful Call to Continued Action
After more workshops and networking time, the final day of the conference concluded with a panel discussion of Black business leaders, including President Nichols, on how they could combine their efforts to create lasting change.
As leader of The College, President Nichols continued to drive home the message that Black communities, and all communities, are “Stronger Together.”
“You can’t advance what we are aiming to unless you perform and do the work,” he said. “You need to reclaim your own wealth so you can help others reclaim theirs.”
With the need for concerted and connected action at the forefront, attendees of CAAFP 2023 left energized and inspired to bring the lessons they learned back to their places of business and communities. The College looks forward to CAAFP 2024, coming August 12-14, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia!
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How To Be A Trustworthy Leader For Your Clients
I like to ask class members, “What makes a leader?” The answers are usually the same. The number one answer is that a leader must be trustworthy. Trustworthy usually expands to: they are worthy of following, they have integrity, their values are clear, they respect transparency, their decisions are predictable and they lead with a clear vision.
Developing a “trust mindset” is crucial to developing a “change mindset.” Advisors help clients get from where they are now to where they need to go. To accomplish that, advisors invariably ask clients to change their behavior. Asking clients to make changes requires clients to trust the advisor. Trustworthy client leadership is critical to keeping an advisor-client relationship strong.
Before asking a client to make a change or to implement something new, the advisor needs to make sure that it’s within the client’s scope of ability. The foundation of a change mindset comes from understanding what a person can do, not what they can’t do, and building from their personal baseline. Ensuring that they can succeed and accomplish the goals that are set for them is critical to maintaining client engagement. Clients will not trust an advisor if the advisor has not accurately assessed the client’s scope of ability and has unintentionally sent them up to fail.
There are three conditions necessary for people to change: they must be willing, ready and able.
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Women Shattering The Glass Ceiling And Barbie's Parallel Influence
She has etched her name in history as the inaugural female director to independently helm the hit film, Barbie, which achieved an unprecedented feat by amassing a remarkable $1 billion at the box office. This achievement is a testament to the relentless progress of professional women marking a momentous stride toward equality and recognition.
In a world where the narrative of female empowerment is evolving, Barbie, the iconic doll with impossible proportions and perpetual optimism, stands as a paradox in the minds of many career-driven women. The juxtaposition between Barbie's idealized aesthetic and the real-life aspirations of modern women creates a thought-provoking dichotomy that challenges societal norms and prompts us to delve deeper into the layers of perception, aspiration and empowerment.
Moreover, Barbie's paradox can be seen as a metaphor for the challenges career women face in a world that often pits femininity against professional aspirations. The pressure to project an image that adheres to society's expectations of beauty while simultaneously striving for professional excellence can lead to an unsettling and poignant cognitive dissonance. As career women grapple with these complexities, the Barbie doll becomes a mirror reflecting the intricate layers of their identities and societal perceptions.
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6 Expert Strategies For Advanced Special Needs Planning
Advanced special needs planning requires a comprehensive and tailored approach to ensure long-term stability, quality of life and maximize benefits. At The American College of Financial Services’ recent Advanced Special Needs Planning Symposium, experts in this space delivered complex solutions—but what if you are a financial professional who is just starting your educational journey when it comes to special needs planning?
Typically, financial professionals assume they have no clients in the special needs community or may underestimate the amount. At the symposium, attendees learned from an industry expert, Pat Bergmaier, CFP, ChSNC that “Disabilities do not discriminate.” Bergmaier shared that a little more than one in four people living in the United States will experience disability in their lifetime. Statistically speaking, a financial professional is likely going to have some sort of special needs planning in their book of business. Thus, having foundational knowledge is paramount for financial professionals to ensure the best experience for all clients.
The symposium experts provided six initial steps to empower financial professionals to navigate the complexities of advanced special needs planning with confidence and expertise.
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Aging: Everyone Is Doing It, But Women Tend To Do It Longer
However, they often face financial disparities throughout their employment, lower lifetime earnings, reduced retirement savings and higher healthcare costs than their male counterparts. While retirement is a phase many people look forward to, it can also bring unforeseen challenges, especially when someone faces significant medical needs for themselves or their partners. When it comes to retired women, who often have unique financial circumstances, it is crucial for financial advisors to be proactive and prepared—engaging these women in proactive discussions about strategies that can protect them from financial ruin and ensure their peace of mind about healthcare spending. These conversations should encompass health conditions and family health histories and address the realities of aging and declining health.
According to a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), women spend more on healthcare in retirement than men. To ensure they have sufficient money to cover healthcare expenses in retirement, women planning to retire in 2021 should have saved $193,000. Compared with men of the same age, women need nearly $21,000 more when entering retirement. This discrepancy is primarily due to women’s longer life expectancy and their higher likelihood of experiencing chronic health conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and dementia. Furthermore, women are more prone to need long-term care, which can be financially devastating without proper planning.
Unfortunately, many consumers lack sufficient knowledge about the challenges of health deterioration and the expenses associated with healthcare, particularly end-of-life care. A 2020 study by the American College of Financial Services surveyed 1,500 individuals aged 50 to 75 to assess their knowledge about finances in retirement. The study found that fewer than one in five female respondents realized that 70% of the population will need long-term care at some point in their lives. The majority underestimated this reality, with approximately one in three female respondents believing that the percentage at risk is 25% or lower. This lack of knowledge likely contributes to the fact that only 8% of female consumers believe it is very likely they will require long-term care in their lifetime.
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How To Meet The Needs Of Women Clients
And when looking at the rising generation of earners, 75% of women under 45 manage their own finances (Source: Merrill Lynch, Seeing the unseen: The role gender plays in wealth management, 2022). Considering women outlive men by an average of five years, these trends translate to significant and lasting gains in economic power, both in decision-making and investable assets.
So, what does this mean for wealth managers and advisory firms? While the core services that women need may not differ from their male counterparts, the approach must be nuanced in order to effectively support this important market segment.
The American College of Financial Services is excited to partner with Financial Advisor magazine to launch “Women In Planning,” a monthly column dedicated to the contemporary planning needs of modern women. The column is expected to launch late March 2023.
“Over the decades, women have steadily increased their financial power. Women are earning more, learning more and making more financial decisions than ever before,” says Hilary Fiorella, executive director of the Center for Women in Financial Services at The American College of Financial Services. “This initiative aims to arm the industry with the tools needed to better serve the significant market opportunity that women represent.”
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Women Working in Wealth℠ Workbook
The Women Working in Wealth℠ Workbook is one of those tools. It's divided into four main sections: Promote, Advance, Advocate, and Resources. Each part includes information, research, and practical ways to make a difference. See below for a summary of what’s included in the four sections of the workbook.
Section 1: Promote
Your Personal Brand
Women are often good at promoting their firms, services, teams, and others, but what about ourselves? When women gain confidence in elevating their voices and advocating for themselves, we acquire potent skills that we can use to mentor other women to do the same.
How to craft your "elevator pitch"
- How to talk about yourself with confidence
- Words to use and words to avoid
Role Clarity: Understanding what's expected
The terminology you need to know to help amplify gender equality.
Section 2: Advance
By connecting women with experienced leaders who can offer advice and advocacy, mentorship programs can help them overcome the barriers and biases that can impede their progress.
How to Facilitate a Mentoring Relationship
- Best Practices
Understanding the role of the Mentee
- Best Practices
The Business Case for More Women in the C-Suite
- Research has shown that growing the number of women in executive leadership positions leads to companies that are more profitable, more socially responsible, and that deliver better customer service experiences.
Section 3: Advocate
As an advocate you can help bring attention to the issue of gender equity in the financial services industry, and can help generate support and advocacy for change.
Becoming a Financial Education Advocate
Starting financial literacy education at early ages and with competent educators will raise a generation with enhanced skill sets to brave adulthood. Our ultimate goal is to start in middle school, when financial knowledge becomes more relevant. Educating students at this early point can change the whole trajectory of their futures.
- Junior high and high schools
- Colleges and universities
- How to Make an Effective Career Presentation
Advocating for Gender Parity
- Who to connect with
- Sample advocacy letter
How to be a proponent for financial education legislation
- Resources for building knowledge
- How to offer your help
- Sample letter to your representative
Section 4: Resources
Reimagine the Female Future in Financial Services
To truly reach equity, reimagining the female professional in financial services is needed to increase executive, C-suite, and board member positions held by women.
The Confidence that Comes From Knowledge
The American College of Financial Services offers you industry-recognized professional designations that enhance your prestige, knowledge, and skill set for the benefit of your clients, the financial services industry, and society as a whole.
Advisors Are Retiring: More Women Are Needed to Replace Them
- Statistics on the rapidly changing demographics of the next generation of financial professionals and the clients they will represent
Women Working in Wealth℠ Pledge
- Creating accountability for promoting, advancing, and advocating for women
History of Wall Street
- A brief overview of more than 300 years, of Including women's contributions
Next Steps: Reimagine the Female Future in Financial Services
- Only 5% of CEOs, 19% of the C-suite positions, and 21% of board seats are held by women
- But the pandemic reshaped the dialogue around work-life balance and created the opportunity for women to voice their expectations
Download the Women Working in Wealth℠ Workbook
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