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5 Things about Family Dynamics and Money in the African American Community with Lazetta Rainey Braxton

Lazetta Rainey Braxton.jpgLazetta Rainey Braxton, CFP® professional, knows that, many times, sitting down with a financial adviser might be the first time a couple has had a conversation about money. In the African American community, money conversations don’t often happen organically. Money might be viewed as a stressor, and talking about money might be seen as rude or uncomfortable. 

I recently sat down with Braxton for a 2050 TrailBlazers podcast episode to explore family dynamics and money, what guilt African American professionals may carry with them if they feel they’ve “made it” while their community still has financial need and how the importance of serving your clients best interests. 

There are people who feel a sense of fear to talk about money. Where does this come from and how does it impact the African American community? 

Regardless of race, there is lack of money talk in various families. What we should anchor this in is the statistics that really highlight the racial wealth gap that try to figure out how to navigate the disparities. There’s a New York Times article that says for every $100 in white family wealth, black families just hold $5 and 4 cents. So yes, as African Americans, as blacks, we say money talk is even more important because we have to try to make up for lost time. Also, each generation is trying to figure out how to navigate what they’ve inherited or not inherited in terms of the wealth transfer.

African Americans who I like to call first-generation wealth builders might feel an obligation to help everybody else in their family. Tell me more about how we can help clients put on their own financial oxygen mask first before helping others.

There is this obligation that you feel to give back and lift others up. When I work with clients, I ask them, “Do you have people who will be financially dependent on you?” And oftentimes I hear parents or aunts and uncles helping a niece or nephew get through school or they’re also dealing with their own children as well, but the extended family is typically on the payroll—or are a line item for that budget.

When family members ask clients for money, use the line item as a reference saying, “You know, my family fund is depleted.” I go a step further if you’ve learned how to put your mask on first—it’s your responsibility as you’re giving to help others put their mask on. Ask some questions. Why do you need the money? What went wrong? How can we not let this happen again? Because if we don’t try to educate and elevate, then the wealth gap within our own family will continue to persist.

Educate and elevate—what does that look like?

I start first by helping them name the family members who may be draining their finances. I  couple that with asking, “What are you proud of that you’ve done well with their finances, and where do you need to improve upon so that we can get everything out on the table?” We can eliminate what I call that money fog—fear, obligation and guilt. Having the conversation lifts the fog so you can be clear about who’s responsible for what. 

When you start liberating people to take the deeper dive and own how they want to live, it gets contagious. Then when people are asking them for money, they can say, “Well, hey, I improved my situation, you can too.” 

Historically the African American community has navigated toward annuities and whole life insurance as a way to invest versus the stock market. Also, they tend to want to own rental property. Shed some light on that for us.

In terms of exposure as African Americans historically, we like things that we can see and feel and know that there is a contract. That goes in line with what we’ve experienced within this country of having property taken from us. So if we know we own it—with the deed and with the contract and paying the premiums—there’s a feeling of having guaranteed income, even if there are other opportunities to grow that income. African Americans historically have anchored their wealth in real estate. They are also very comfortable with insurance because insurance has been around for a long period of time. Also annuities have a component of insurance tied to them as well. 

Now I’m not disparaging any of those asset classes—they are important. What I’m also saying is, I see wealth transfer among the white populations—which have significantly more wealth—is happening through the stock market. There is the ability to grow your wealth exponentially with this concept called compounded growth, while your money is constantly working for you. There are also tax considerations that make stock ownership or exposure to the market more attractive as well. African Americans have to be more comfortable with the stock market because a lot of their assets are in retirement plans. And there has to be that basic understanding and comfort level with knowing that there is potential for growth, noting that  markets do go up and down. We’re not saying that there’s not that volatility, but over long periods of time it has worked out well for other populations.

[Wanting to own rental property] is still an extension of what you know—if you own a home, you know what you need to maintain it. How we in our community fall short is that we don’t have the capital. You need a capital fund for home ownership. That capital fund is going to cover you when your renters tear up your home. When you have to fix stuff, right? When you’ve got to keep landscaping or if you can’t rent it for four months and you’ve got to still cover the mortgage on it. 

I’m sure there are some [readers] saying this happens with my clients and they’re not people of color. What I want to emphasize over and over again is that the wealth gap and the economic conditions compounds these issues within our community.

Something that is important in both of our lives and especially in the African American community is our religious beliefs. Tell us how that plays into money. 

So what institution historically has the most longevity in terms of organizational strength? The black church. Now we’re looking at several generations later where there is still some strong residual commitment to supporting the church. So the black church has been kind of the center of economic distribution—good or bad. It has supported people when society couldn’t really be there for them—whether it was helping them with rent, making sure they were fed, proving a place of refuge when the world was still saying you’re not welcomed here. So as a part of the biblical understanding of stewardship, I grew up with this understanding of you give to God first of your fruits and that really equated to 10 percent. So if you’re giving to God first and then yourself, you have to help people understand how to live off the remaining 90 percent when that 90 percent reflects a terrible income gap and a wage gap as well. So that cultural understanding of giving to the family and also giving to the church is a sensitivity that advisers have to be aware of when serving black clients.

This is where the f word comes into play: fiduciary. That means keeping your client’s best interests first. Our clients are telling us what their interests and what their goals are, and if you don’t have the cultural competency to understand that and take the deeper dive, then you’re not being that fiduciary that they need and deserve.

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.


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5 Exclusive Tips To Maximize Customer Experience—The New Frontier

Beware the new reality: Marketing is no longer in control of your brand. Rather, customer experience (CX)—the actual experience your customers are having—is.

Because customer expectations are at their highest levels, CX has superseded customer service and branding to become a key driver of retention and acquisition. Consequently, a brand’s success hinges on creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner that resonates with customers and makes them feel valued and appreciated.

Astute and innovative companies are swiftly diverting significant budgeted dollars from branding and marketing initiatives toward CX. In this new paradigm, customers dictate all aspects of their relationship with your brand, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile, social and web technologies. In the words of customer service expert Jack Mackey, “You can say what you want about who you are, but people believe what they experience.”

Gartner defines CX Management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” CX is the emotional representation of how your audience perceives your brand. It is about listening to your customers and acting accordingly. Delivering a successful CX is crucial for an adviser for the achievement of three key strategic goals: (1) Drive customer loyalty; (2) create brand evangelists who will promote your brand; and (3) attract and retain new assets.

Make CX Your Best Product Offering

When it comes to competing on CX, engagement is of paramount importance. Consequently, begin by making CX the best product your firm provides. Make your message memorable, entertaining and valuable, and leverage any available client data to extract maximum value from the interaction at any touch point of the sales journey.

To create a powerful and effective CX, you must ensure that your clients’ offline experience matches the online one. For the latter, the use of video is of paramount importance. Consumers’ thirst for video seems unquenchable and marketers are responding in kind. Video, far better than words, appeals to the visual and emotional part of a consumer’s brain, thereby facilitating a better and faster understanding. Most important, video establishes an emotional bond that even the best-written material cannot achieve. (For more details, read my InvestmentNews article, “Use Video to Connect with Clients.”)

Five Ways to Improve CX

Any CX must be able to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages to your audience at the correct touch point. I suggest five basic steps that advisers can take to create a meaningful and rewarding strategy that will help them improve client satisfaction, expand their book of business and increase revenue:

1.) Establish your vision

The easiest way to define your vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles and that will drive the overall behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.

2.) Become customer-centric

Put your customer first, and at the core of your business. Becoming customer-centric means you use any client data available to better understand your clients, and align your business growth strategies and policies with their needs. This is not only a sound business strategy but, as a Deloitte and Touche research pointed out, it also empowers a company to become up to 60 percent more profitable.

3.) Listen to the voice of customer (VOC)

The secret to attract and retain clients and assets is not fees or products, rather it is the CX that an adviser offers. Consequently, taking into account the voice of customer (VOC) is of crucial importance. VOC—a term coined by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in an MIT Marketing Science paper—is the process of capturing client’s feedback to formulate a detailed understanding of their requirements. Customer feedback is an invaluable asset for an adviser. It provides crucial intelligence to gauge what works and what needs improvement. VOC allows you to leverage one of the skills clients value the most: your willingness to listen.

4.) Build an emotional connection

In the words of consultant Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Ergo, make emotional connections with your clients your competitive advantage! The best customer experiences are grounded in emotional connections. Scientific research confirms that emotions shape attitudes and drive decisions. Loyalty is directly correlated to a customer’s emotional attachment to a brand. According to an article titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” in Harvard Business Review, “When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.”

5.) Deliver omnichannel customer experiences

Clients are expecting from you the same level of multichannel engagement they receive from companies like Amazon and Zappos. To be effective, your omnichannel engagement must go beyond the mere distribution of information through different channels and match clients’ preferred means of communication. The line between online and offline engagement is blurring fast and consumers demand engagements that allow them to seamlessly switch channels or devices while interacting with your brand.

Consumers have developed high expectations as a result of interacting with brands that offer them a user-centric CX. Advisers should switch their focus from customer service to CX as a way to prove to their clients a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction. Allocating time and resources today to deliver an engaging and compelling CX will put advisers ahead of the curve and position them well to cash meaningful dividends for years to come.

Claudio Pannunzio

Claudio Pannunzio is the managing director of Cürex Group Holdings. He was formerly the president of i-Impact Group Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.


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10 Steps to a Great First Meeting

Engaged team members need to know how they influence the success of the business. (4).pngYou’ve finally gotten a meeting with that top prospective client you’ve been trying to meet for weeks, maybe even a couple of months. Congratulations!

Now what? If you’re like many planners, you’re excited to have finally landed the appointment, but perhaps a little apprehensive about making sure the meeting goes well.

Here are 10 steps you can take to pave the way for a successful introductory conversation.

  1. Do your homework. Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and other online resources can provide a wealth of information about your prospective client. However, keep in mind that you’re not compiling a dossier but simply looking for potential areas to explore—their employment, where they live, their family, organizations they’re part of and activities they enjoy.
  2. Determine the specific result you want to have from the meeting. What do you want your prospective client to think, or more importantly to do, as a result of having met with you? Is your goal that you mutually agree that you’re a good fit? Do you want them to schedule a discovery meeting or send you their statements? Be specific.
  3. Write out an outline or structure for the meeting that you believe will enable you to achieve your desired result. Think about creating the best flow. The better you plan for the meeting, the more likely it will be successful.
  4. Confirm the meeting with your prospective client. Send a calendar invitation, and then follow up to confirm the day before your meeting with an email, text message or phone call. Reiterate how much you are looking forward to your time together.
  5. Be intentional about what you take along to the meeting. A notepad is a must. A couple of simple one-pagers (your bio, your differentiators, your process) that support your story can be much more valuable than a slick marketing brochure or research piece.
  6. Focus on learning about them. Demonstrate a client-first mindset. Ask questions. Show genuine interest in their story. The more you learn about your prospective client, the more you will be able to connect your story to theirs.
  7. Know what you plan to say. If they aren’t a good fit for what you do, communicate that. Share that based on what they’ve shared about themselves and what they need from a financial adviser or planner, as well as how you typically serve your clients, you don’t think you’d be a good fit for them (or, cost effective for them) at this point. Be kind. Communicate that you’re not right for them, not that they’re not right for you.
  8. Describe what differentiates you. If they are a good fit for you, tell them how you’re different from other advisers and how you believe you can help them. Conclude with, “Based on everything you’ve told me about yourself and what you need, and how I typically serve my clients, I think we’d be a good fit to move forward to our discovery process.” Then stop and wait for their response.
  9. Set expectations. Assuming they agree (and why wouldn’t they?), set clear expectations for next steps and gain their agreement.
  10. Always follow up with a note of thanks, recapping the key takeaways from the meeting and confirming those next steps. Your note can be handwritten on a card (more personal) or by email (much faster).

Remember, everything you say and do communicates a message to your prospective client. Make certain it’s the message you intend.

Enjoy a productive meeting with your next client!

Susan Kornegay Headshot

Susan Kornegay, CFP®, is a partner at Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. After more than 30 years as a financial adviser, branch manager and practice management consultant, Kornegay enjoys helping financial planners define a comprehensive and consistent client experience and then market that experience in clear, client-friendly language. She is a coach, along with Adam Kornegay, RCC™​ in the Messaging and Marketing Strategy FPA Coaches Corner.