WSR Honors Leading Professionals And Industry Executives With First Pathfinder Awards Of The Year, Including The First Organization And First Lifetime Pathfinder
In recognition of Black History Month, Wealth Solutions Report continues its Pathfinder Awards series into the new year by naming the Top Black Industry Leaders of 2023. As always, this group of invitation-only Pathfinder Awards recognizes excellence and achievement in the wealth management industry and provides a platform for discussion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) matters.
The WSR editorial team selects individual winners from underrepresented communities who have a strong industry reputation, demonstrate excellence and commitment to the industry, command wide influence across wealth management and can serve as role models for others in the industry or aspiring to enter it.
After reviewing a wide group of outstanding potential winners who embody the stature and spirit of the awards, the editorial team selected the winners below for this distinguished honor. In addition to the winners named here, we name the winners of the Top Black Rising Stars of the Year category in a separate article.
For the first time, the Pathfinder Awards will recognize an organization that has demonstrated commitment and action to improve DEI, spearheading change across the industry, as well as a Lifetime Pathfinder Award to an individual who spent decades breaking glass ceilings and promoting advancement for African American advisors and clients.
We also provide a platform for those who are making a difference for underrepresented communities in wealth management and beyond, including last year’s winners, to speak so we can understand how to improve.
How Much Changed In A Year?
To gauge the progress, changes and challenges for DEI in wealth management over the past year, especially for the Black community, we spoke with the winners of February 2022’s WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Black Leaders in Wealth Management, asking their views.
“We haven’t seen significant change in the last 12 months. Most firms are continuing in their commitment to make substantive, sustainable change, but nothing groundbreaking,” said Alex David, President and CEO of Stifel Independent Advisors.
David sees hope in the shifting focus in wealth management, stating, “Firms pressing forward represent progress, however. In previous years, unlike most other business imperatives, firms looked at DEI with an extraordinarily short-term perspective. They’d say, ‘We must hire 10 underrepresented advisors this year, or the program doesn’t work.’ The subtle change in expectations will make a difference.”
Dasarte Yarnway, Co-Founder of Onyx Advisor Network, who received the award jointly with Co-Founder Emlen Miles-Mattingly and recently launched Yarnway Wealth Management, points to a lack of progress in access. “Our industry acknowledges that there is an issue – both for Black professionals and for minority investors. While financial information is seemingly at the fingertips of consumers, quality professionals remain out of reach for the Black community and its minority counterparts.”
Yarnway adds a word of encouragement: “This slow climb is one that many acknowledge, but set their feet upon the path to trek. May this year be one of true action.”
“I’m pleased with the awareness that has grown in our industry about the Black community’s underrepresentation in the C-suite, but so much work still needs to be done,” said Kevin Beard, the Chief Growth Officer of Atria Wealth Solutions.
Beard emphasized that the industry must take action early in a child’s life: “As an industry, we must go beyond encouraging Black youth to attend college. We must become personally involved at the grassroots level – engaging one-on-one with children in high schools and churches, for example. Only then will we truly begin to change the trajectory of the Black community.”
We thank last year’s winners for sharing their views. This year’s winners are below, in no particular order. Please join us in congratulating them.
Lifetime Pathfinder Award
The first African American to earn the Certified Financial Planner designation in 1976, Davis founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors (AAAA) in 2001 to address the needs of Black financial professionals. Davis holds the position of Chairman Emeritus and a member of the Board of Directors for 2023, after which he will transition to an advisory role.
With an accounting background, Davis established a consulting firm in 1970 specializing in financial planning, financial management, investment consulting, tax planning and small business management. He has served as a lecturer in accounting at Howard University and in financial management at Howard’s School of Continuing Education.
With a passion to serve the financial planning needs of the Black community, Davis published a quarterly newsletter for over six years titled “Finance and the African American Family.” He also hosted a financial television program called “Common Cents.”
In addition, Davis served several years in the role of Senior Consultant at an accounting firm based in Washington and as Assistant Director of Finance for an international labor organization, concentrating on South America and the Caribbean.
Black CEO of the Year
Appointed to lead Smarsh’s C-suite in June 2022, Goodman took the reins in the fast-evolving world of regtech, bringing over 25 years of experience in payments, financial services, hospitality and technology. As CEO, she focuses on scaling the firm’s operations and capacity.
Goodman previously served as President of the Payments and Risk Solutions Business at Fortune 500 company Fiserv, where she led the firm’s business for bill payment, prepaid solutions and financial and risk management, additionally working with the digital payments business. Prior to Fiserv, she held positions at American Express, Worldpay US, Dell and Bain & Company.
Goodman also has served on the Board of Directors of Charter Communications since 2016 and previously served on the Board of Directors at Alcatel-Lucent.
Black Portfolio Manager of the Year
Willis has experienced a rapid ascent in his more than 10 years in the financial services industry. Starting his career at the age of 21, he has risen from a novice financial advisor at a team affiliated with Principal Financial Group to his current position as Senior Vice President at Pinnacle Financial Partners.
He began as an investment analyst in Bank of America’s private bank before being promoted to portfolio manager. Willis then became the first financial advisor hired for JP Morgan Wealth Management in the Mid-Atlantic, where he also helped interview, hire and train new advisors. Last year, Pinnacle recruited him to help expand its Washington-Baltimore area market. As a result, Willis is dually registered with Raymond James.
Based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Willis works with everyone from mass affluent clients in need of holistic financial plans, to ultra-high net worth clients in need of sophisticated trust and estate solutions, business exit planning and tailored portfolio management. He holds Certified Financial Planner, Certified Private Wealth Advisor and Certified Investment Management Analyst designations as well as an MBA in Finance from the University of Maryland.
Willis has served on DEI councils at Bank of America, on JP Morgan’s Advancing Black Pathways as well as its Black Leadership Forum, and now with Pinnacle’s DEI initiative where he strives to cultivate more diverse representation among both financial advisors and their clients.
Black Client Advocate of the Year
Reid joined Signature Estate & Investment Advisors (SEIA) almost six years ago as Client Services Director, leveraging her experience in senior housing and healthcare to help the firm create its Lifecare Affordability Plan, a healthcare-driven financial plan service that allows clients to explore hypothetical scenarios with increasing care needs.
Prior to SEIA, Reid served as a marketing professional in senior housing and healthcare, gaining experience in assisted living, nursing care, dementia, independent living and hospice care with firms such as Capital Caring, HCR Manor Care, Goodwin House and Vinson Hall Retirement Community – Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation.
Reid also served in product management and sales at Eastman Kodak, Oracle and Openwave Systems.
Her commitment to civic engagement began while visiting residents of Goodwin House in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, as a youth. Reid serves on the boards of the Insight Memory Care Center and Senior Services of Alexandria, and is a member of Jack and Jill of America.
Black Marketing Executive of the Year
Smithers-Alexander joined Wealthcare’s marketing team, which she now leads, almost eight years ago, where she provides marketing collateral and advice to Wealthcare’s over 170 advisors, helping them to build, refine and expand on the story of each advisor’s firm.
She helped her firm launch the GDX360 platform as well as its partnerships with Pontera and Wealthbox, creates and produces advisor recruitment campaigns and promotes the firm’s branding.
Smithers-Alexander also contributes to marketing support as new advisors are onboarded and works with the advisors, providing resources and education to help them increase productivity and efficiency while growing their practice, including social media campaigns, prospecting emails and marketing.
With over 20 years of experience, Smithers-Alexander previously served in marketing roles for two nonprofit fine arts organizations in Richmond, Virginia, and as the Market Specialist for Genworth Financial’s Long-Term Care division.
Smithers-Alexander enjoys spending time with her husband and special needs daughter, riding roller coasters and skydiving.
Black Business Development Executive of the Year
Over three years ago, Todd joined Fiduciary Trust International as EVP, Head of Regional Markets, serving clients including family offices, endowments, foundations and individuals with a responsibility to develop and implement strategies to grow the firm’s market share, profitability and revenue, including initiatives for new business among high net worth clients in the U.S. and other regions.
Todd serves on the firm’s Operating, Management and Executive Committees, as well as Franklin Templeton’s Management Committee.
With over 25 years of experience in financial services, Todd held positions as EVP and Managing Director, Wealth Management at First Bank; Director, Sales at Key Private Bank; a Managing Partner at JumpStart; Senior Managing Director at National City, which is now PNC Bank; and Vice President in investment banking with Morgan Stanley.
Todd serves on the Board of Directors at LifeMoves, a nonprofit developing solutions for homelessness. In his spare time, Todd enjoys riding his Harley and working out.
Black Financial Advisor of the Year
Serving almost six years as Executive Director and Financial Advisor at Manhattan West, McCurdy serves clients in the sports and entertainment industries with a holistic approach to wealth management that accounts for the unique financial situations of athletes and entertainers.
McCurdy’s services span across tax planning, cash management, investment management, retirement planning, budgeting and estate planning.
Prior to Manhattan West, McCurdy worked at AdvicePeriod and as a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley.
McCurdy founded Pro Skills, a club basketball and youth mentorship program in Southern California. He lives in Sherman Oaks with his wife and daughter.
Black Creative Executive of the Year
With over 12 years of experience in marketing, interactive creative direction and graphic design, Kelly has served as Chief Creative Officer at Snappy Kraken almost seven years, managing graphic design and creative direction for both the firm and its clients.
Her styles range from trendy and edgy to clean and sophisticated, and she received an American Graphic Design Award in 2015. All Snappy Kraken’s visuals must pass across Kelly’s desk.
She has served as a creative director, art director and graphic designer for various organizations including Platinum Advisor Strategies, BEM Interactive, Kangaroo Express and Our State Magazine of North Carolina, as well as freelance marketing with businesses, individuals and startups.
“Your message can be clear, it can be powerful, and it can even be great, but if it is not wrapped around something visual with a high impact, you lose your connection and effectiveness with your clients,” Kelly says on Snappy Kraken’s website.
Kelly enjoys spending time with her three children, activity and working out, playing various musical instruments and cooking.
Black CIO of the Year
With almost seven years’ experience as Chief Investment Officer of Bogart Wealth, which does all its money management in-house, Spencer oversees the firm’s investment models and assets, portfolio research, construction and management, as well as trading functions.
Prior to Bogart, Spencer served almost a decade at ProShares Advisors, where he managed ETFs benchmarked to U.S. Treasurys, investment grade and high-yield bonds, and currency indexes, as well as mutual funds, before moving to equity index-based ETFs and then to volatility and managed futures indexes.
Spencer has also worked in ETF product development and counterparty credit risk management.
Originally from Cape Verde in West Africa, Spencer gained his affinity for travel and exploring cultures through his experience growing up in an American diplomatic family. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish.
Black Consulting Executive of the Year
Arriving at Pacific Life Advisory over two years ago, Williams serves as Managing Director of the Southeast Region, assisting the firm’s advisors in its independent RIA, trust company and family office channels with tax deferred solutions, financial planning and assistance navigating legal issues that high net worth clients often face.
With over two decades of experience as a financial professional, attorney, advanced planner and coach, Williams has served at companies such as Allstate, MassMutual and Jackson, and conducted his own private legal practice. He holds a J.D. as well as a Master of Laws in tax and wealth management.
Williams leverages his broad base of experience in client meetings alongside advisors as well as teaching continuing education classes.
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Williams enjoys supporting University of Alabama sports, the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Pelicans, barbecuing, and spending time with his wife and triplet daughters.
Black History Month Organization of the Year
A professional association of fee-only financial advisors, NAPFA works toward a better industry through its DEI Training and Certificate Program and through engaging Dr. James Pogue, a diversity awareness trainer, to speak at its national conference and work with NAPFA’s executive leadership and board members to further DEI among its members.
The DEI Training and Certificate Program provides NAPFA members and non-member participants with education and resources regarding culture, hiring practices, inclusion and people, teaching participants how to contribute to DEI outcomes in financial planning.
NAPFA has also used its platforms to engage in DEI efforts directly, for example by featuring Black professionals in its NAPFA Playbook Series classes and in its Marketing Masterclasses, as well as on its podcast, NAPFA Nation, previously known as Mindset Mastery.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Executive Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org