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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Guest Post: Blacks With Money Spotted in Church

American culture tends to focus on material items and how many zeros a person has in their annual salary. One trend I wish I saw more of is advice on how to invest those zeros, especially within minority communities. If more American minorities knew how to invest their money wisely, imagine the positive impact it would have on the U.S. economy. One of the issues facing minorities and investing is that financial advisors don’t know how to approach particular groups.  

In 2011, a colleague of mine brought a story to my attention and asked me to think about it. When I read the article about financial advisors having difficulty tapping into the African American community for new clients I wondered why. 

Gimmie dat Gum
by Annie Lee
The article gave a solution to those financial advisors who lacks the confidence to approach an African American about their
financial portfolio. … Head to the Black churches. What? Did I read this correctly? 

At first I didn't know if that was a slap in the face to the Black race or if the editor just let the reporter write any thing that she wanted. After reading through the article I didn’t think that the story had enough substance and among other things the writer seems absolutely clueless about the African American community. 

I asked my colleague, who is also a financial journalist, to share her thoughts on the piece and she hit all of the missing links that the reporter failed to address.

By: Guest Blogger Dreamy Eyes

Whenever I search for stories about Black Americans and investing, I expect something near the high bar set by publications like Black Enterprise magazine, with its meticulously researched stories. So I was really annoyed to click on this piece from a Web site for financial advisors, about how to target Black clients. 

Artist unknown
The headline, To Pull in African-American Clients, Pinpoint Local Black Churches, was the first red flag. That a financial advisor — or anyone else looking for something from Black people (like a block of votes), for that matter — should consider pastors as a conduit to a potential client base is unbelievably trite. It could also come across as shady when you consider that pastors are supposed to be trustworthy, not marketing kits.

Either the publication is stunningly ignorant about Black people, or it thinks we don’t know rubbish when we see it. Or maybe the writers and editors there don’t care that they’re representing us with rubbish. 

Let’s start with the fact that giving financial advice is time-consuming work. In order to stay in business, many of these men and women need to work with households that have at least $250,000 in investable assets aside from their primary home. 

  • Are financial advisors going to find that demographic in a local church?
  • What if they assemble more in country clubs or on the boards of charities and foundations?
  • Or other houses of worship?
  • And what type of assembly should an advisor target—a modest storefront in an inner city or rural town, or a palatial mega church in a leafy suburb?
  • Even if affluent Blacks do attend church, what priorities do they have for their money?
  • Tithing, for instance, eats up 10% of one’s gross income if done strictly according to what a lot of pastors teach. How does that affect the other 90%, before taxes?
  • What should an advisor say to a Black churchgoer to gain trust? 

We don’t know whether the advisor mentioned in the story had signed up and retained Black clients this way. No pastors or Black advisors were interviewed. If a financial advisor strolled into my church with the same carelessness that went into this article, the same stereotypical assumptions about Black people and their churches, I’d ignore that man or woman, no matter how golden his or her investing track record was.

Understandably, not all columns, blogs or whatever, can be winners. I’ve even read a few stinkers in The Wall Street Journal. I also understand the need for a publication to connect with a minority group. 

For Blacks, there is some logic in starting where a lot of them are, like churches. But the editors and writers at AdvisorOne really should have remembered that Blacks have been part of the American fabric for a very long time. Pinning an entire article’s premise on one hook: ‘you’ll find Black folks at church,’ is no longer interesting or revealing. It wouldn’t print something silly like, “To Reel in Business from Whites, Turn on ‘Friends’,” unless this were The Onion

If this, or any other business news outlet, is going to publish stories about Blacks who invest with the help of a financial advisor, it should assume that the readers are just as sophisticated as the financial advisor. That is typically how these relationships work, because the client has accumulated their wealth by running a business or earning a huge salary as a corporate executive. Stock the stories with the sorts of facts, interviews and examples that will keep Black investors, advisors — and their clever White counterparts — reading. 

This discussion took place almost five years ago … has anything changed with advisors techniques on how they attract African American clients? Share what you know in the comment box below or send an e-mail to You can also tweet your findings @TCsViews

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