Early in his career, Brian Butler worked as a bank manager to get his foot in the door to becoming a financial advisor. He thought he would be able to find a program that would accept and allow him to get licensed and trained. But it wasn’t the smooth path he had imagined.

“I remember I would interview and then, magically, three or four other people would get the job, and then I would interview again, and it just kept happening over and over,” said Butler, who has been in the business for 22 years, and is president of Wealth Standard Financial, a Houston-based firm.

Butler, who is African American, realized that he was trying to break into an industry where “nobody looks like you in the hiring positions,” and that, he said, makes it more difficult to compete. He further noted that a lot of times you are dealing with a family friend or friends of friends that get their children into the programs he sought early on. “It’s a hard mountain to climb and the business is hard enough anyway,” he said.

Butler was one of six Black LPL financial advisors featured in a recently launched video series for Black History Month. Titled, "Around the Table: Black Advisor Voices," the advisors shared their perspectives on topics such as overcoming barriers to success, why they chose to become independent financial advisors, the importance of mentorship and how the industry can better serve the Black community.

New York-based advisor Dana Wilson said when she started her career she had no one to look to for help. “It was hard to just kind of maneuver when you are not really being seen,” she said.

Wilson and the other advisors spoke of how important it is to have mentors in the industry. “Our industry is so deep and so broad that not one of us can know everything about all things all the time. So, it helps to have people not only in your circle but in your corner that you can lean on to talk to, to ask questions, to answer questions and to provide feedback,” said Denika Tokunaga, a Maryland-based advisor.

Wilson added that you are not going to find a mentor by just sitting around. “You have to be able to pick up the phone and reach out to whomever. It doesn’t have to be someone that looks like you,” she said.

Lauren Taylor Riley, head of LPL’s Advisor Diversity & Inclusion team, and moderator of the series, said the aim of the series was to focus deeper on LPL’s Black advisor community and draw out some of the nuances of the barriers they face. Also, she said, the aim is to look at how the industry, individuals and the firm can work to address some of those barriers. 

Despite gains last year, Blacks and Hispanics still represent just a fraction of certified financial planners, according to the latest report from the CFP Board. The numbers showed Black and Hispanic CFPs grew to 3,688, up 12.6% from 2019, with Blacks comprising 1.68%, or 1,493, and Hispanics accounting for 2.46%, or 2,170.

Taylor Riley said the percentage of advisors of color at LPL are on par with the industry. “We have a long way to go. The low single-digit percentages industrywide and at the firm level obviously leave a lot of room for improvement, but we are taking a very intentional purpose to creating some strides in a positive direction” she said.

She said LPL has been meeting advisors of color by getting involved in organizations such as the Association of African American Financial Advisors and reiterating the importance of creating an environment where advisors can thrive. “Making that known to underrepresented financial professionals, so that if the opportunity arises for them to maybe want to pursue the independent path, that they realize that LPL is a viable option for them,” she said.

The advisors spoke of other barriers to success, such as compensation issues, lack of training and mentorship opportunities, preconceived biases and difficulties establishing a client base. 

The seven-part weekly series runs through March 30 and can be viewed in the LPL newsroom.