At a recent holiday party, someone asked me, “why do you work exclusively with Millennials in tech?” I generally would respond that my soon to be wife is a developer, and we just happen to share a similar network. It was never my intent to oversimplify my business model and the lane I’ve created for myself; I simply figured it would be best to eliminate the minutiae and keep the conversation casual.
Until recently, it never occurred to me that I wasn’t sharing my story. I wasn’t allowing people the opportunity to learn about what I do and who I serve. So, since my goal is to write and publish a written piece once a week, I figured answering “why Millennials in tech” with authenticity would be a good contender.
Don’t Just Start a Business, Solve a Problem
While I was in b-school, I started my finance career. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the financial services industry at large was reserved for wealthy baby boomers. As a matter of fact, most firms have relatively the same culture and are built on the same broken business models — models that I knew we were unfit to serve my generation. With ownership being the end goal, I decided to use their business model to my advantage. I became a student of the game. Instead of spending my early years in the business cold-calling and chasing after friends and family members — like many other financial professionals — I devoted my time to a deep-learning of my craft.
At the same time, my fiancée, Kemberly, pivoted into the tech space, and I discovered an enormous opportunity to address certain pain-points from the wealth management lens:
After all, it’s a practical decision: startups that aren’t able to pay a competitive salary or those that desire free cash flow for growth opportunities could still attract and retain top talent by offering equity in the company.
Essentially, it allows employees to participate in company growth. You succeed when the company succeeds. It’s a marvelous way to incentivize employees and align their interests with those of the company. And if you’re lucky enough to have picked a winner at an early stage, you could amass enough wealth to shift your entire family trajectory. I’m talking about real legacy wealth. No wonder it plays such a critical role in employment decisions among Millennials — 60% of us agree that equity compensation was the primary reason for accepting a position.
But, how does one navigate that wealth potential without a grounded financial education? Moreover, how do we use it achieve our goals if professionals charged with the responsibility to serve are incentivized by product sales, commissions, the size of your assets, and anything but your best interest? These are the problems that I’m solving at Deane Financial.
There Are Riches In Niches
If you know anything about the financial services industry, as a black male, under the age of 30, I stand out like a sore thumb. Often, when with colleagues, I’m usually the youngest and only black person in the room. I’ll admit, for a long time, I naively perceived this to be a disadvantage. Be that as it may, it took me reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” to find the advantage in my “disadvantage.” In fact, I rightfully convinced myself that my blackness and age made me a unicorn in the financial services industry (no pun intended).
A rhetoric you hear in this industry is “grow or die.” No knock to them, but I don’t compete with the Morgan Stanley’s, J.P. Morgan’s, or even Wealthfront’s of the world. We’re a purpose-driven company that doesn’t just make decisions to maximize the value or growth of the business alone, but instead..
chooses a path that aims to be the best at what we do.
So, why Millennials in tech? Simple. I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a minnow in a vast ocean. For me, there’s value in going an inch wide and a mile deep — and garnering expert knowledge. By the same token, expecting a company to be good at everything, might be unrealistic because very few businesses can serve everyone, all the time, in any situation. The way I see it, specialization is my key differentiator, competitive advantage, and holds me accountable to produce things with greater efficiency and excellence.
Moreover, specializing and working with a niche allows me to be proximate to the needs and desires of my clients and their families. It allows me to be entrenched in their lives and the community I serve. The continued clarity gained from working with a niche is instrumental in aiding my vision for building a firm that addresses the particular needs, constraints, concerns, and opportunities inherent for Millennials in tech. And I must say, it’s refreshing to experience that feeling of genius, knowing you’re equipped with solutions to deal with complex “things” way before they have the power to become problems, simply because you’ve seen them time and time again.
Noteworthy mention: If you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of noise in the financial world. Being a specialist makes it easier to ignore that noise and only focus on the “things” that can potentially affect my clients and their specific goals.
The Future of Innovation
It’s no secret that Millennials lead the way in the digital future. After all, we are digital natives who’ve been shaped by technology. To be quite honest, technology is what enables me to run this investment advisory firm as a solo-advisor. So much so that I’m not certain the path I’ve forged for myself was feasible or cost-efficient 10-15 years ago. Over the years of planning and building Deane Financial, I’ve grown a tremendous appreciation and genuine interest in technology and the role it plays in wealth management for my generation. It’s my way of staying ahead of the curve and adapting to industry disruption to best serve my clients.
The Perfect Match
I alluded to this earlier in the post, but I genuinely wanted to work with like-minded people. It is my priority to build long and fruitful relationships with people whom I generally mesh well with. Of the 85,000 CFP® Certificants, there are vastly more Certificants over the age of 60 than under the age of 30. Moreover, just under 3.5% of Certificants are Black or Latino (I can empathize with the black tech community in this regard for sure). This is not to say your average advisor — usually a 55-year-old white male — can’t be a good fit. It’s just less likely that someone 20 to 30 years your senior is coming from a similar place in life as Millennials. Simply put, there’s no generation before us that have done the things we’re doing in this specific era. It’s all about relatability.
P.S. If you’re in the New York City area, I’m still accepting invitations to open bar/free food holiday parties 🙂 Happy holidays!