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5 Lessons from the Godfather: LeCount Davis, Sr. Shares Wisdom from a 40-Plus Year Career

LeCount Davis Sr., CFP®, has been making history since he first received his CFP certification in 1978. He was the first African American CFP® professional. He founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors (Quad-A) in 2001. And he’s always focused on making an impact in his community and profession. All reasons why he is a winner of a Lifetime Achievement in Diversity and Inclusion from InvestmentNews.

The next generation of history makers have much to learn from him, said 2050 TrailBlazers host Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, in a recent episode highlighting an industry trailblazer in celebration of Black History Month.

Lesson No. 1: Find Your Champions and Allies

Davis knew that if people had more knowledge about their wealth and finances, it would have a ripple effect of good on their financial lives. That’s what led him to financial planning and to founding his first company, LeCount R. Davis and Associates. In doing research for how to realize his vision of providing planning for all aspects of a person’s financial life, he found the International Association for Financial Planning (one of the organizations that merged to form FPA in 2000. The other was the Institute of Certified Financial Planners). He went to a few meetings and met several people who shared his vision, including then IAFP president Alexandra Armstrong, CFP®.

Armstrong did not engage in what Davis described as “benign neglect” of him when he was the only person of color in the room, she welcomed him and he started volunteering on several committees within the IAFP.

Another person Davis recalled as being an ally was Robert Ginsburg, who after Davis got his CFP® certification told him that would get him to the table, but it wouldn’t get him anything off the table. Ginsburg invited him into the inner circle, showing him the inner workings of the financial planning profession.

Lesson No. 2: Be the Champion to Bring People into the Profession

In 2001, Davis founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors, or Quad-A.

“I knew that if we didn’t have that type of group, [we had to] put the group together that would be able to approach the industry in certain numbers,” Davis said. This would ensure that black financial planners had the numbers to generate the respect of the industry and make progress.

His company underwrote all the expenses for the organization in those initial years, so Davis knew the organization had to grow—both because his pockets were not that deep and because he wanted to reach more black planners.

But credit is due all around, Davis said.

“I was the first president of the association, but you got a lot of people who came after me who did wonders for Quad-A,” Davis said, giving praise to Lazetta Rainey Braxton, CFP®, in particular. “If they had not put in the sweat and tears and blood they did, Quad-A … would not have gotten to where it is right now.”

Lesson No. 3: Stick to Your Goals

In your profession and your life, there are always going to be trials, but you have to press on. Identify your goals and stick to them.

“There are going to be tough times, but you’ve got to tough it out,” Davis said. “Joy and pain are just like sunshine and rain. You have to first have the ability to withstand the hard times.”

Lesson No. 4: Always Learn

Strive to always learn about your profession.

“You must be students of your profession,” Davis said. “You can never stop learning.”

Lesson No. 5: Practice What You Preach

Some articles out there show financial planners don’t always follow their own advice. Doing that affects your credibility, Davis said.

“People see what we do, they don’t just listen to what we say,” Davis said. “So if we’re going to tell them to do certain things, they’re going to wonder why we are not doing the same thing that we’re telling them to do.”

The next generation of planners should take these lessons from one of the profession’s history makers.

“My generation and me, I’m able to do what I do because of advisers like you,” Dorsainvil said to Davis. “I’m able to do what I do very easily. It’s not the easiest but it’s easier than maybe you’ve had it.”  

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Mentoring: The Key to Retention of Diverse Hires

The business case for diversity has been a topic of conversation since the 1980s. And it feels like only recently the financial planning profession in particular is ready to take some action.

One of the many takeaways from CFP Board’s inaugural Diversity Summit held last October, is that we can start advancing the profession today by mentoring.

“Mentoring is crucial if we are going to get minorities up to speed in our profession,” said Louis Barajas, EA, CFP®. “Mentors help speed up the success process for financial planners. Especially those also servicing underserved clients.”

Charles C. Adi, CFP®, said his mentoring relationships accelerated his learning curve.

“It enhanced my textbook education with the practical/emotional side of the business,” Adi said. “My mentor definitely prevented me from making mistakes while delivering advice and challenged me to be my best daily.”

Mike Alves, CFP®, CLU®, CRPC®, said mentoring is the reason he even chose financial planning as a profession.

He went into finance through the investments route at Merrill Lynch, but he found something was missing—helping people.

Alves met a colleague who was a CFP® professional who suggested the CFP® designation.

“He said if you want to help people, you have to get your CFP®, and he was right,” Alves said. “If it weren’t for him, I would not have been a CFP®. I might have been out of the industry altogether.”

Adi’s mentor motivated him to get his CFP® certification.

“If it were not for her, I probably would not have pursued the CFP® designation when I did,” Adi explained. “I would have pushed it off for a few more years. Especially since none of my clients asked about it.”

Informal Mentorships Better

For years companies have implemented formal mentoring programs for women and people of color, but the most impactful mentoring relationships are informal.

Studies show that informal mentoring programs are responsible for deeper relationships that last longer than those forged from formal mentoring programs, according to research cited in the book Diversity at Work. The book also reported that mentees in informal mentoring relationships reported higher job satisfaction, higher salaries and more advancement opportunities.

Alves’ story indicates that’s true.

“For some reason I felt a connection,” with the people he chose as mentors. As a result of these relationships, he was able to learn more skills quickly.

Studies show that women and people of color face a harder time finding a mentor. Alves says look for people you have a connection with. It doesn’t have to be somebody from your same cultural background. None of his mentors were Latino, it just has to be somebody who cares about you and who you connect with.

FPA Latino (3)What Makes for Successful Mentoring Relationships?

Barajas mentored numerous people over the years—not all financial planners—and he says it takes both sides to make the relationship work.

“Mentoring is about a give and take. Both sides have to offer something. Both sides have to be engaged. Both sides need to be vulnerable and share what’s worked, what hasn’t and stories about their lives,” Barajas said.

In addition to effort on both sides, showing appreciation is also key, Alves said.

“Make sure you appreciate the time and advice that a mentor gives you,” Alves said. “If someone is trying to help you, you should show appreciation.”

Barajas will give a talk on mentoring for FPA’s new community, FPA Latino on Feb. 28, at 2 p.m., EST.

“I’m hoping that we attract mentors who are willing to share their stories and mentees who are hungry for advice to help grow as individuals as much as financial planners,” Barajas said.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Increasing Retention of Diverse Individuals in the Profession  

2050 TB 1.31.19A black female millennial stood up at the CFP Board’s Diversity Summit in the fall of 2018 and asked the question, “Diversity at what cost?” to a panel of industry leaders including FPA Chair Frank Paré, Lazetta Rainey Braxton of Financial Fountains, Catalina Camoscio of Prudential and Dr. Frank Dobbin of Harvard University.

She went on to explain that she’d started her interview process earlier in 2018 and experienced firsthand the findings from CFP Board’s diversity research. It was traumatic, she said.

“You’re exhausted, you get home every day and you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” she said, voice quivering. She went on to ask, “How are we being mindful of sending young people of color into these spaces—to help reverse mentor and help folks come along” when it comes to genuine inclusion?

This question and the woman who posed it stay with the 2050 TrailBlazers podcast host Rianka R. Dorsainvil, she said in a recent episode with Katie Augsburger and Andrew Greenia.

“I sit on a couple of diversity advisory group boards and that is something that is always going to stick in my mind,” Dorsainvil said.

Attracting people of color to professions is not the issue, it is retention. Oftentimes people will be attracted to the financial planning profession but feel like this young woman felt and leave.

The following are helpful tips on how to increase retention through genuine inclusion.

Leaders Need to Believe and Examine

Oftentimes people from diverse backgrounds will feel uncomfortable or discriminated against and will leave a firm or organization.

Katie Augsburger, who has a long career in human resources and now is a partner at Future Work Design, said oftentimes companies bring in diverse people and think they are inclusive.

“They will say, ‘Yay, we’re diversified. We’re so excited,’” but once this employee brings up issues of racial tension, microaggressions or discrimination, they are labeled as a complainer who makes everything about race. That employee will either leave of their own accord or get fired.

“That is common amongst organizations—even organizations who say they are really focused on equity, diversity and inclusion,” Augsburger said.

But when these employees speak out on these things, they need to be heard.

“We need to believe people,” said Andrew Greenia, consultant with Promise54, an agency that helps organizations develop diverse and inclusive teams and cultures. Oftentimes when these employees cite racial discrimination or other issues when they leave, it goes to the wayside and leaders simply replace them and ignore why they left.

This is probably because “believing them requires you do something,” Augsburger added. But companies need to do something.

Companies are not going to fix these issues within their culture until they examine and address the reasons why diverse people have left. If it takes hiring a diversity and inclusion consulting company, then do that.  

“We usually think about new employees coming in and what can sometimes be forgotten is all the employees who have left,” Augsburger said. “What were they yelling and screaming for, mentally, when they were leaving? We often place the blame for lack of retention on the people and not the policies, procedures that pushed them out.”

Understand the Barriers to True Inclusion

Augsburger said that diversity is inviting somebody to the party, but inclusion is asking them to dance. In your organization, are you asking your diverse hires to dance? Do you genuinely value the opinions of your employees from diverse backgrounds? Do you invite them to the table when it comes to decision-making? Are you supporting them and listening to them? Are you ensuring they have equal access to advancement, good pay and resources? Augsberger said these are all areas to examine that lead to better inclusion, which in turn leads to better retention.

There are several barriers to true inclusion in companies today, including:

  1. Oftentimes people think that creating a more diverse and equitable culture in the profession means that there will be less work or rights for white males.
  2. Many professional practices, including a heavy focus on one set definition of “professionalism” are deeply rooted in dominant, white culture.
  3. Companies expect people of color to “fix” the diversity problem. “We are expecting people from marginalized communities to just show up and thus the problem will be solved,” Augsburger said.

Examining and altering your perspective when it comes to these things can lead to more inclusive and equitable outcomes.

“Inclusion is really the process of naming and making room for multiple ways of being and seeing them as valid,” Greenia said. “Those require learning what is equity, what is inclusion, what is diversity, and also unlearning what have been the barriers and normalized practices.”

But none of this will be accomplishable without the participation of leaders, said Catalina Camoscio, vice president of recruiting and development at Prudential, at the CFP Board Diversity Summit in October.

“We can talk about it,” Camoscio said, “but until we as leaders in positions of influence act on it and demonstrate it, we will not move the needle for people like” the young woman who posed the question of the cost of diversity.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.