Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015 - (Page 86)
Casting a Wider Net
Lazetta Rainey Braxton's mission
is to give more people
access to financial planning.
Firms that require clients have a minimum of
$250,000, $500,000, or even $1 million in
investable assets are easy to find. Lazetta Rainey
Braxton's firm, the Baltimore-based feeonly planning firm Financial Fountains, has no
The goal of helping underserved people with
financial planning took root while Braxton was
growing up in the small town of South Hill,
Va. Her parents worked hard to support the family,
but still had to rely on debt to make ends
meet. In addition, she noticed the absence
of African-American professionals in the community. That, along with her parents' financial
struggles, bothered her.
"I wondered if it was a matter of what people were
exposed to, information-wise," Braxton says.
"I didn't know how I was going to make a career of
it, but this was personal to me, and I knew I was
going to figure it out somehow."
Road to Independence
Braxton worked her way through the University
of Virginia, majoring in finance and international business. She studied abroad in Spain,
an experience that broadened her outlook.
She decided she didn't want to head to Wall
Street after college, so she worked in accounting
at Marriott, conducting financial and operational
audits. She also did a stint at outsourcing
firm Aerotek. She broke into the financial-services
industry at Baltimore's Brown Capital Manage-
Morningstar December/January 2015
ment, founded by noted African-American
investment manager Eddie C. Brown.
"His focus was, and still is, working with highnet-worth individuals and institutions,"
The job gave her exposure to several functional
areas within the asset-management
industry, including endowment management,
separately managed accounts, portfolio
administration, and back-office operations.
She then spent two years as an analyst at
Wachovia, as part of a wealth-management team,
before beginning her MBA studies at Wake
Forest University. She earned her degree in 2004.
Armed with her MBA, she took a job with
Diversified Trust Co. in Nashville, a firm geared
toward high-net-worth clients. She also
began studying for her Certified Financial
Meanwhile, she was still searching for a
way to bring personal finance to people like her
own parents or to younger investors who
didn't fit into the traditional advisory model.
She became active with the Financial Planning
Association and the National Association
of Personal Financial Advisors, and shortly before
she passed her CFP exam in late 2007,
she left Diversified Trust with the goal of launching
her own firm.
In addition to her desire to serve a nontraditional
clientele, she sought a better work-life
balance that would give her flexibility to spend
time with her husband and young daughter.
Over the next few years, she focused on branding
her fledgling firm and on meeting key players
in the financial planning world who helped
her clarify the vision for her own business. Braxton
and her family moved from Nashville to New York
and Chicago, before settling back in Baltimore.
An important contact was Ed Gjertsen, former
president of the Financial Planning Association's
Illinois chapter and co-founder of the group's
National Diversity Initiative. Gjertsen, who
will serve as president of the national FPA for 2015,
suggested that Braxton join the FPA Diversity
Committee. She was an FPA Diversity Scholarship
winner in 2011.
She also met Jim Pavia, the former editor
of Investment News, at an industry conference.
She mentioned to Pavia that she saw few
other people of color among the group of advisors
attending. Pavia challenged her to write an
op-ed article on the topic of industry diversity.
That piece led to articles for the Journal
of Financial Planning, a stint on the FPA's
Conference Committee, and to chairing the FPA's
In her own practice, Braxton takes a wide view
of diversity, with her client base encompassing
several demographics, including age. She's
a member of Generation X and has a clear
understanding of that age group's goals. She also
works with Generation Y clients, as well as with
One thing that most have in common is no prior
experience working with a financial planner. Client
household income ranges from around $75,000
(single) a year to $400,000 (joint). Across the board
in her practice, Braxton sees herself as a partner
on the journey, helping to educate clients about
finances and getting them on track to achieve their
goals. She says there is a great need for financial
education and planning.
"That's who I love serving-people who
want access to financial planning, who haven't
had it, who see the value of what they
are doing, and want to take it to the next level,"
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015
Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015