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It’s been a year of milestones for Kamila Elliott, and by extension the wealth industry where she is a leader in many communities. 

As the first ever Black CFP Board chair, she is also a full-time financial advisor who launched her own RIA this year, Collective Wealth Partners, where she is CEO. 

Elliott spent her early career at Vanguard, where she advised ultrahigh net worth individuals, as well as endowments and foundations. She also worked at Dimensional Fund Advisors, a Texas-based asset management firm, and Black-owned wealth firms Rutledge Financial Partners — which affiliates with LPL Financial — and Grid 202 Partners. She became a certified financial planner in 2013. Elliott also sits on the Investment Committee for Women Against Abuse and is a member of the Association of African American Financial Advisors.

In an interview with Financial Planning in January, when her term as chair began, Elliott said her goals as the CFP Board chair included improving the industry’s lackluster diversity record, communicating the appeal of financial planning careers to more young people and conducting research to show if working with certified financial planners can improve someone’s finances. 

FP spoke with Elliott again recently about her historic year as the CFP Board chair, her progress toward those goals and what she sees in the future of the financial planning profession. 

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. 

FP: How’s your year been going?

Kamila Elliott: It’s been very busy. (Laughs) As the first Black chair, and being a woman, too, I didn’t realize initially how big of a deal it was. And then particularly, with the heightened focus in getting more communities of color and women engaged in the financial planning profession, in terms of advisors and as clients, there’s just so much work that needs to be done to make this profession more inclusive. I think we’ve done a really good job in planting the seeds. 

One of my big areas of focus was having more access to diverse financial advisors or CFP professionals, and creating a pipeline of talent into the profession. And that was through working with historically Black universities, getting in front of more people of color, sharing with them about the profession. We’ve done a great job of that.

One of the other focus areas is pro bono. We think pro bono always has to be one-on-one financial planning. Which it can be, but it’s hard to solve an issue when there’s so many people that need help. So one thing we’re working on is, how do we help facilitate group sessions or webinars. Advisors getting out into communities and doing more webinars with people of color. 

And then the other — we just had an update on this last week, actually — is the longitudinal empirical research study. We were able to track, are your financial outcomes better if you’re self-directed versus if you were using a CFP professional? We’re seeing some progress there. So I’m really excited about that, too.

FP: What surprised you most as you embarked on doing all these projects? 

KE: How many interested parties it takes to get these things accomplished. (Laughs) It’s a wonderful financial planning ecosystem, but there’s a lot of moving parts and partners. As CFP Board, we’re only a group so big. We only have this many volunteers. But if we want to make a really good, meaningful impact on the profession, it requires us to go outside of the CFP Board and go to other nonprofit organizations and to other advocacy groups and get their support. So one thing I didn’t fully embrace is how large our ecosystem is. 

And then one other thing, too. I’ve been to so many conferences this year, and events. I’m probably at one or two events a week at this point. I saw there were a lot of brown and Black faces already in this profession that people could look to. But it’s been really great this year to see how many people have reached out to me and said, seeing that you’re a CFP professional, you’re an owner of a firm, you’re in a leadership position, this gives me so much more hope in the profession. And that’s been very rewarding. But it was also humbling, in a way. It’s 2022. I thought, in my mind, oh we’re there. This next generation is like, no, we don’t really don’t see any people who look like you owning firms, in leadership roles. And so it gives them hope that there are structural things in place to help advance people of color in the profession. 

FP: They still need to get that hope. They can’t take for granted that their role model is going to be out there for them to look at. 

KE: Absolutely. We don’t think about it. Even in the media. Outside of Ozark, there are no TV shows about financial advisors. There’s shows about restaurant owners, real estate agents, doctors, lawyers. In the media, there are so many images and portrayals of all these other professions, but not much on the financial planning profession at all. 

FP: How do you think that the profession can engage more with putting its own image out there?

KE: One thing is, people make an assumption that all we do is sit with numbers all day long and manage portfolios, but that’s really that’s a smaller percentage of what we do. Most of my meetings with clients, we’re talking about their financial goals. What does retirement look like for them? Do they want to buy their first house? How they want to fund their children’s college education. How they want to help support ailing parents. A lot of my conversations are around that. We do spend time on investments. But I think if people realize how…

Read More: Kamila Elliott, first Black CFP Board chair, reflects on 2022

2022-11-21 22:46:45

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