Many white advisors may have never asked a Black advisor what it’s like to be a minority in the industry. So Chris Gandy told them what it’s like.
Gandy is president and founder of Midwest Legacy Group in Chicago and president of NAIFA-Chicagoland. He spoke on “The Disparity And Opportunities,” an online discussion of diversity and inclusion, part of a series of online sessions by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
Gandy’s presentation wove his experience in the financial services industry with the current COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest in the nation.
When Gandy entered the industry in 1999, he was coming off a short stint playing pro basketball in France and looking forward to life off the court. But he was the only Black advisor in his training class of 10, and found his unique set of challenges getting started.
One big challenge was that his natural market, the Black community where he lived, did not have a lot of money. Another challenge was being told in his training class that he wouldn’t make it in the business because “your people don’t buy life insurance, they don’t understand it and they definitely don’t keep it – it lapses every time.”
In his first week in the business, Gandy attended his first NAIFA meeting, where he met a fellow advisor who introduced him to the industry. He said that relationship helped him get off the ground in the business.
Viewed With Suspicion
The Black community in the U.S. spends $3.9 trillion every year on goods and services, Gandy said.
“But we've been asking them to spend money on products that they're unfamiliar with," Gandy said. "Many of us in our families have been the first ones to go to college. The first one is to be educated. And the first ones to be able to get the information and be able to provide it to our families, one generation in one generation ahead and one generation behind.”
Even though Gandy owns his own company today, he still finds he is viewed with suspicion because of his race. He recalled one incident when he was wearing a business suit in his office building one day, and was coming out of the basement lunchroom to catch the elevator upstairs. A group of women had entered the elevator before him and they promptly exited the elevator after he got on board.
Turning to the current state of affairs in the U.S., Gandy said that the COVID-19 pandemic combined with civil unrest has shown that “a clear color line is being drawn.”
“We have unfortunately misdirected some of the anger over this,” he said. “The real pandemic is not COVID-19 but the disparity between cultural and financial power.”
COVID-19 has impacted the entire nation, but it has affected Black and brown communities differently than white communities, he said. In addition, Black and white families have reacted differently to the pandemic and its economic fallout.
Most white families saw the pandemic as a change in their lifestyles. But most Black families went into survival mode. “And the result of that survival mode was chaos,” he said.
Civil unrest and rioting in the wake of the death of George Floyd begs the question of who is rioting and why are they rioting, Gandy said. “It’s not all minorities who are rioting,” he said. “The people who are rioting are rioting because they’ve lost hope.”
But the unrest also has created opportunity for advisors, he said. The industry has seen a surge in term life insurance, and consumer search traffic for life insurance reached its highest level in years.
'What Do Black People Really Want'
Gandy said he frequently is asked “What do Black people really want from whites?” He listed the following:
- They want to be heard.
- They want equality - not revenge.
- To be recognized.
- Not to be looked upon differently.
- To have the same civil liberties as every other American.
- To appreciate and understand the struggle.
- To be treated as human.
He gave some suggestions to advisors who want to engage with the Black community.
1. Community involvement.
2. Do business with Black companies and individuals.
3. Recognize that you can’t solve the ills of the past.
4. Involve professionals such as accountants and attorneys from minority groups in your practice.
5. Invest in the community. Sponsor an event, do something that helps the children.
“We must all treat each other like you want your children to be treated,” he said.
Gandy also urged advisors to “find someone who does not look like you and invite them into this industry.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.