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.”