Allan Boomer of Momentum Advisors has joined the ranks of experienced advisors who are mentoring new planners as they join a demanding but rewarding profession.
Allan Boomer of Momentum Advisors has joined the ranks of experienced advisors who are mentoring new planners as they join a demanding but rewarding profession. Boomer and five other wealth managers tell how they countered challenges and built their businesses.
Walk around any generic wealth management conference and it shouldn’t take you long to notice that the industry has a diversity problem. The advisor population is overwhelmingly white, older and male.
At first glance, it appears that splashy, well-publicized efforts to attract more young people of diverse backgrounds to the profession still haven’t taken root.
But that overlooks a quiet yet powerful transformation underway: Advisors have been rolling up their sleeves to mentor minority newcomers for planning careers, giving them the necessary tools to establish themselves.
Their efforts come amid renewed focus on diversity in the workplace and in U.S. society at large.
What professional mentors accomplish with support and guidance can have a far-reaching impact that lingers long after headlines about protests have faded.
Allan Boomer’s independent firm, Momentum Advisors, is a reflection of where all this is headed: a group of professionals, of diverse backgrounds and ages, helping one another succeed in an industry that is challenging, but professionally and personally rewarding. “I’m really proud not just of our diversity, but the caliber of the team,” he says.
Boomer, who got his start at Goldman Sachs in 2004, founded his New York-based firm in 2012. Since then, the staff has grown from just him to include nine other professionals, operating from two offices and overseeing more than $300 million in client assets.
Tiffany Hawkins, the firm’s managing director, says, “I feel like sometimes people think that there isn’t room for them in this industry, that they’ll be going up against older white men. But there’s plenty of room. You’re not going up against anyone other than yourself.”
Hawkins changed careers, having previously worked as an investment planner for the entertainment industry. She joined Momentum Advisors in 2014 and credits Boomer and her colleagues with helping her develop her financial planning skills.
“I’m black, a woman and I’m young,” she says. “This is not your traditional wealth management person. So it’s important to see people like you who are successful.”
She adds, “When you see it, it’s like someone put a cape on your back with an ‘S,’ and you feel like you can take over the world.”
Financial planning has always been a tough industry for young professionals to establish themselves in, and mentoring has traditionally played a key role in helping many of the industry’s best advisors and managers succeed.
Jason Bowles, an advisor at RBC since 2000, says that of the 30 recruits in his training class, only five survived the hard early years, when many advisors struggle to build a roster of clients.
“I think there is space and opportunity for minority advisors, and we need them,” Bowles says. “It’s not an easy job, but with passion and hard work you can be successful. It’s critical to find the right fit with a company and a boss who will support and advocate for you.”
Momentum advisor Kyle Pitts says that Boomer, whom he has known since they grew up together in New Jersey, became one of his chief mentors when he joined the industry after studying engineering at Howard University.
“He’s been in the business longer than I have, and I didn’t have a business background. I had to transition over to this world, where he was already thriving,” Pitts says. “That relationship is maybe less than a mentor-mentee, because we’re building a firm together, but it’s still accountability and foundational principles.”
‘KEEP THROWING PITCHES’
Even sharing a few words of encouragement can make a difference. Tony Barrett, a Philadelphia complex manager at Raymond James & Associates, credits his branch manager with helping him overcome the difficulties he encountered as a young advisor.
“For me, it was great that someone taught me how to build a book and find a target market,” Barrett recalls. “But the things I remember most are the things that kept me in the seat.”
He recalls a day early in his career
ADVISORS HAVE BEEN ROLLING UP THEIR SLEEVES TO MENTOR MINORITY NEWCOMERS FOR PLANNING CAREERS, GIVING THEM THE NECESSARY TOOLS TO ESTABLISH THEMSELVES.
when, with frustrations mounting, he began to think about quitting. But his branch manager and mentor pulled him aside and reassured him that every young advisor goes through similar growing pains.
“When I was cold-calling, I was always told that the next call could change your career,” Barrett says. “It’s true. That call can turn into a cli-
ent that gives you a ton of money or a ton of referrals. But you have to be in a position where you can keep throwing pitches.”
He adds: “When I mentor people, that’s something I always try to think about: What will instill confidence?”
Boomer also points to how confidence is essential to sticking it out in a profession where the first 49 prospects might reject you, before you land one as a client.
“The biggest thing I had as a 27-year-old; … I’m going to call it false confidence,” Boomer recalls of his early days at Goldman Sachs.
“Maybe that came from working at a great firm. They really pumped me up and made me feel like I was the man. But eventually that false confidence was replaced with real confidence based on real competency.”
NOT ON TRACK
To be sure, the mentoring done by Boomer, Barrett and others are not isolated occurrences. Industrywide, wealth management firms and trade organizations are redoubling their efforts to attract newcomers from diverse backgrounds.
This renewed focus comes as the United States itself is becoming more diverse. African-americans constitute about 13% of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Hispanics, who can belong to any race, comprise roughly 17%, while Asians make up nearly 6%.
Yet the planning industry is still predominantly white and male. Less than one-third of advisors are women and a mere 6% are African-american, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hispanics make up about 7% of the advisor population.
“We’re just not on track to reflect the diversity of the nation,” says Marilyn Mohrman-gillis, executive director of the CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning.
As part of its attempt to encourage more minorities and women to join the planning profession, Mohrmangillis says the CFP Board is currently conducting demographics research. The board is also planning a diversity summit for a yet-to-be-announced date in 2018.
WHEN TONY BARRETT WAS STRUGGLING, HIS BRANCH MANAGER PROVIDED ENCOURAGEMENT. “THE THINGS I REMEMBER MOST ARE THE THINGS THAT KEPT ME IN THE SEAT,” HE SAYS.
Beyond the work of the CFP Board and others, the greatest impact may be taking place at the grass roots, where mentors help young advisors turn imposing challenges into career milestones.
LEARNING TO THRIVE
To further explore the trends, Financial Planning reached out to black and African-american advisors for their stories about entering and learning to thrive in the wealth management profession, and for the advice that they have for young minority advisors seeking to join the business.
“The more people see diversity in the workplace, [the more it] will mean to kids who haven’t seen this as a path for themselves,” says Kobby Okum, an advisor at Edward Jones in Leesburg, Virginia.
Please see the following pages for his and other stories.
Allan Boomer, 40, credits an internship at Merrill Lynch as setting him on the path to opening his own RIA, advising on $300 million in assets.
Allan Boomer (center), who founded Momentum Advisors in 2012, stresses the importance of mentoring newcomers. His team (l. to r.): Kyle Pitts, Tiffany Mcghee, Boomer, Tiffany Hawkins, Timothy Platt and Earl Carr.
Kyle Pitts (l.), who knew Allan Boomer as a child in New Jersey, turned to Boomer for guidance when he got into the advisory business and now works with him at Momentum Advisors.