Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015 - (Page 86)

Investors Casting a Wider Net Lazetta Rainey Braxton's mission is to give more people access to financial planning. USER PROFILE Kate Stalter 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 such requirement. 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- 86 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," Braxton says. 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 Planner credential. 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. Making Contacts 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 Diversity Committee. Providing Access 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 baby boomers. 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," she says.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015


Morningstar Magazine - December/January 2015