As a young boy growing up in Washington, D.C., LeCount Davis was inspired by “Mr. Payne," the neighborhood financial and tax guru who helped people solve their pressing problems.

“The people in the neighborhood didn’t know anything about investing at the time, but they knew they had to pay taxes, and I saw the impression Mr. Payne was making on the neighborhood and how the people just swore by him,” said the 85-year-old Davis. “He was a very honest man, and he did a lot of pro bono work.”

Years later when Davis began to ponder on a career, he thought about Mr. Payne and the impact that he had on the community. He wanted to work in a field where he would be helping people and giving back to the community. While researching careers, Davis said he came across an article in Kiplinger magazine that talked about financial planning and how it was the profession of the future. “It sounded good to me,” he said.

In 1978, Davis earned the certified financial planner designation, the first Black person to do so, and he has been practicing since then. But he said he would not have been able to build the successful career he did had it not been for the care and guidance of a few people, one whom he calls his “good  samaritan,’’ and God, whom he refers to as his first client. “He invested his blessings and favors in me, but he wanted a return on his investments,” Davis said.

Davis continues to work with some of his long-time clients, some of whom have been with him for 40 years, and he only takes on new clients on occasions from his church and activities that he is involved with. “I am preparing for succession. You can’t do it forever,” he said.

Throughout his 50-plus-year career as an advisor, Davis said he has focused on servicing the underserved population and “inspiring, motivating and preparing the next generation of financial planners.”

In 2001, he founded the Association of African American Financial Advisors (Quad-A) to address the needs and concerns of Black financial professionals. For six years, he published a quarterly financial education newsletter called “Finance and the African American Family.” And in 2020, he published his autobiography, “One Step Back – Two Steps Forward: The Dance of My Ultimate Plan.”

Davis said that as his career progressed, he adopted the theme “lifting while climbing. So, as I am climbing the ladder of success, I am trying to pull somebody up with me.,” he said. “That’s what I really wanted to do and that’s what my mission calls for.”

It was in that spirit that the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning in August created its first endowed scholarship program in honor of Davis. The LeCount R. Davis Scholarship program will award up to $5,000 to qualified Black students at historical Black colleges or professional who are seeking to attain the CFP certification and to practice financial planning.

“I feel very humbled … because it helps me achieve my vision that was given to me. I feel like I am doing what I was told to do by God. He blessed me so that I can bless somebody else,” Davis said, adding that while the endowed scholarship is a step forward, there is still work to be done to involve more Black people in the profession. “We still need to make some movements and so I have to make sure that whatever my name is involved in, it has to be in pursuit of the mission and vision that I have always had."

Davis said he was skeptical when CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller reached out to him two years ago to get his ideas on strengthening the board’s efforts to get more people of color involved in financial planning because over the years he had been through that exercise many times with many company leaders. Previously, he said, such discussions usually never led to any results. “They all talked a certain game, and they never did anything,” he said.

He said he told Keller that people in the industry have been talking about this for some time, but nothing ever happens. “And, in order for you to get something started, you have to make something happen. You have to bring something to the table to let us know that you are really serious about what we are talking about,” Davis said.

‘Evidently, he took that back to the board because the next thing I know Keller called me two years later asking for permission to use my name for the endowed scholarship,” Davis said. “I said I have got to have the details because I don’t know exactly what you’re asking for. So, they came up with a memorandum of understanding.”

Keller recalls Davis wanting to make sure the board was committed to its racial diversity efforts. The scholarship “recognizes the trailblazing role that LeCount has played in the evolution of the financial planning profession,” he said. “He has been quite an inspiration for a number of people, and we thought at CFP Board that this would be a way for his good work in his trailblazing record to be remembered in perpetuity.” 

Keller said the scholarship is the latest effort since the launch of the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning in 2015. He said while the LeCourt Davis scholarship program is the first endowed scholarship for the board, they have 13 different scholarship programs and have awarded more than $1 million to people practicing financial planning as a CFP professional or on their way.

“We have been at this a long time, and we are starting to have an impact,” he said, noting that their growth rate of underrepresented groups is now four times the overall growth rate. Of the 93,940 professionals, 1.8% are Black. “This is all an outgrowth of the commitment that we made back in the middle of the last decade to take this head-on to address the lack of diversity,” he said.

Before Davis settled on a career in financial planning, he had carved out an impressive resume that paved his way to becoming a financial planner. After graduating from high school in 1954, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s, both in accounting from Southeastern University. His first job was at a small accounting firm, King/Reynolds in Baltimore, working for his “role models,” Benjamin King Sr. and Arthur M. Reynolds Sr., Maryland’s first and second Black CPAs.

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