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Wall Street Journal / Biz - Money

Looking Beyond High-Net-Worth Clients

Adviser Profile: Lazetta Rainey Braxton, founder and CEO of Financial Fountains, has made it a priority to serve the mass affluent clients who are often overlooked. She also believes the industry needs to embrace more minority and female clients.


Lazetta Rainey Braxton

• Founder and chief executive of Financial Fountains in Baltimore
• Education: B.S. finance and international business, University of Virginia; M.B.A., Wake Forest University; Certificate in Financial Planning, Metropolitan University of Omaha, Neb.
• Professional designations: Certified Financial Planner

Ms. Braxton on working across generations: ‘I always ask clients what they know about their parents’ finances and make sure that they have the language to talk about the subject.’Photo: Carl Combs

Background: As a child, Ms. Braxton watched her parents struggle with their finances and noticed that there were no financial experts in the African-American community that they could turn to for help. After graduating from college with a finance degree, she worked in securities analysis, accounting as an auditor and wealth management before deciding to get her M.B.A. After graduation, a mentor, who was a certified financial planner, helped her realize she could aid people like her parents by becoming a financial adviser. In 2008, she passed the CFP exam and started her own practice.

Her practice: Ms. Braxton is passionate about working with mass affluent clients that other advisers might overlook. While she and her team work with high-net-worth clients, she carves out time for mass affluent clients by working with them efficiently. She uses a younger paraplanner at her practice who can spend more time with clients to focus on that segment, while she takes the HNW clients.

On the biggest industry challenge: The financial industry needs to embrace more female and minority clients, Ms. Braxton says. “We’re seeing that in 2050, the majority will be the minority, and advisers will need versatility and cultural competence to address this change.”

A current advising strategy: Ms. Braxton says that many of her colleagues meet with clients on a quarterly basis, but for new clients, that’s not enough. In the beginning of a client relationship, she meets with the client at least every six weeks. “If you give them a financial plan too quickly, it’s information overload,” she says. “I like when we can take our the time and it can be more like financial training.”

More Adviser Profiles

  • Catherine Miller, principal at Atlanta Financial Associates (Dec. 20, 2017)
  • Michelle Begina, managing director at Veritas Private Wealth Management Group (Dec. 13, 2017)
  • Matthew Gilmore, managing director at Strategic Asset Services (Dec. 6, 2017)
  • Lorraine Ell, chief executive at Better Money Decisions (Nov. 29, 2017)
  • Michelle Soto, director of financial planning at B|O|S (Nov. 15, 2017)
  • George Papadopoulos, wealth manager (not THAT George Papadopoulos (Nov. 6, 2017)

On fine-tuning: Ms. Braxton says that in her experience clients underestimate their financial knowledge. They often understand the basics of what they need to do—whether they are saving for retirement or buying a second home—and need their financial adviser to help them fine-tune their plan, she says. “My expertise comes in when I can suggest things they may not have thought of.”

On working across generations: The adviser spends a lot of time having conversations about intergenerational financial planning. “I always ask clients what they know about their parents’ finances and make sure that they have the language to talk about the subject, in case there is support that needs to go from younger generations to older.”

Proudest professional achievement: “Being the president of the Association of African American Financial Advisors,” Ms. Braxton says. She helped run the group’s first conference in 2015, which brought together African-American financial experts to celebrate their contributions to financial planning.

If she wasn’t an adviser, she... “Wouldn’t be anything different,” Ms. Braxton says. “But as a child the first thing I wanted to be was an archaeologist, so I could unearth how people lived. It’s fascinating but that’s exactly what I feel I get to do as a financial adviser.”

—Compiled by Austin Kilham

Corrections & Amplifications
Lazetta Rainey Braxton received a Certificate in Financial Planning from Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, Neb. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it was a Nebraska Certificate in Financial Planning. (Jan. 4, 2018)

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