Steven L. Sanders learned his first lessons about managing money as a middle school student with a paper route. He learned how to count his earnings, and-not being on salary-he learned how to provide good service by making sure the papers never got wet. The results were that he tripled the number of customers he had and began developing the principles and concepts that have led him to a successful career in investment and wealth management.
Sanders used his beginnings as a child entrepreneur and, subsequently, his nearly 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, to create First Genesis Financial Group in Newtown Square, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, where both he and his partner, Roman C. McDonald, grew up. Sanders, chairman and CEO of First Genesis, and McDonald, president and co-founder, are African-American, and target the African-American community, which they feel is one of the largest blocs of underserved investment and estate planning clients in the nation.
First Genesis was created in 2005 and is now approaching $100 million in assets under management, with an annual 70% growth rate. But even more important, according to clients and associates, is the reputation the firm is building for community service and promoting financial education, especially among African-Americans and small business entrepreneurs who are approaching retirement.
"We feel we are filling a void in the marketplace," Sanders says. "We are bringing institutional-style portfolio management techniques to individuals and business owners and serving people with as little as $25,000 to invest."
First Genesis has quickly become one of the largest firms in the country serving the African-American community, and it has accomplished this partially through education efforts. Sanders does a local financial radio program, has written a regular financial newspaper column and is often called on for financial commentary by national television networks, and members of the firm conduct regular seminars for corporations and the public. Contacts are developed from all areas of life, including Sanders' and McDonald's strong ties to the church and the African-American community.
"We have developed a niche," says Sanders. "This is the first generation of African-Americans with wealth approaching retirement and they need our message. You do not want to just spend your assets; you want to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren. Plus, young people are beginning to save more, and financial planning is becoming important to them. A couple of generations ago, the stock market was considered the enemy by young people. Now they are interested in how it works and what they need to do to take advantage of it."
Sanders, who has worked as an institutional investment manager and was employed by a large bank to help educate young people about finances, has written a book, Money Matters for Young Adults. More than two decades ago he founded Sanders Financial, which focused on high-net-worth individuals and small pension plan sponsors. That led to the creation of Advent Capital Management Partners, which serviced large retirement plan sponsors.
The two companies merged into a successful institutional money management firm before Sanders branched out to create his own wealth management firm of First Genesis. Now, Sanders, who was educated at Howard University, and McDonald, a graduate of Lehigh University, divide duties, with Sanders, as chief investment strategist, concentrating on the investment side, and McDonald, as chief estate planning officer, specializing in estate management.
Both men are involved in numerous community organizations, academic groups and African-American groups. "We are passionate about our community and especially about the urban community," McDonald says.
First Genesis is associated with Creative Financial Group, a boutique wealth management organization for high-end estate and business succession planning, which is part of the New England Life Insurance Co. The firm is also a representative of Curian Capital, a subsidiary of Jackson National Life Insurance Co. First Genesis offers Security and investment advisory services through New England Securities (NES) of Boston.
First Genesis offers a range of services for both individuals and privately held corporations, including asset management; business succession; executive and employee benefits; retirement and estate planning; financial planning; and tax reduction strategies.