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When veteran financial advisor Al Jones joined the investment industry 27 years ago, he didn’t know any other Canadian Black advisors and had no role models who looked like him. One of his first conferences was attended by more than 500 delegates, and just two, including Mr. Jones, were Black.
In commemoration of Black History Month, Globe Advisor spoke with Mr. Jones, president and certified financial planner at A. Jones Wealth & Estate Planning Inc. in Barrie, Ont. He reflected on his career’s beginnings and where he’s at today.
Describe your early days as an advisor.
At the time, I was the only Black person in my office and region in Bradford, Ont. When I would arrive for appointments, some people expected to see a white man as Al Jones is a typical white Canadian name. They weren’t used to seeing a Black person in their community in financial services. Some asked my manager to send another advisor.
Fortunately, I started serving a neighbourhood of another ethnic community, Portuguese. They saw themselves as outsiders in Bradford, and they welcomed me as one of their own. We were able to find a commonality and they felt I was cut from the same cloth.
What keeps you going in this industry?
The ongoing desire to help people. I presented myself honestly, by showing genuine concern for individuals and being a good listener.
Most of the retention is the amount of hard work that goes into building your practice and the amount of financial sacrifice. Some people come into the industry and see advisors generating good incomes and lifestyles, but what’s forgotten is the amount of work to get there. Recruiters need to say, “This is what you can earn, but realistically, you’re not going to see that income for a little bit. You have to get over that three- to five-year hump and then things will start getting easier.”
I started with families. They may not have been high net worth but if you work with them and create that relationship, you will grow with them.
What makes this a great industry for Black professionals to join?
When you work for yourself, once you get grounded, you have a lot more latitude and flexibility in your lifestyle, and more balance.
What Black advisors need to do in the industry, myself included, is the job itself. Blacks need to see there are professionals who look like them and are doing well.
The Black community is an untapped market. Recent Black immigrants are also untapped. They’re going to need the skills that an advisor or financial planner brings to the table to understand investing, tax and learn how to keep more of their money in their pocket. Some don’t know how to do that.
– Deanne Gage, Globe Advisor reporter
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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– Globe Advisor Staff