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Bank of America is looking for professionals like you, who want to make a difference in people’s lives while working at a company that values all our differences. Join us for a three-part series where we’re talking with some of their top Black financial advisors about how they found professional fulfillment while bringing their whole selves to work.
Tobias (Toby) Hananda was born in a small town in Zimbabwe, came to the U.S. some 20 years ago, went to college and grad school in Georgia, and is now a Merrill Lynch financial advisor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.
Hananda started at Bank of America in 2007, after getting his master’s degree from Georgia College & State University, thinking it might be a steppingstone to another opportunity.
“I just finished my MBA, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says, “but I knew I wanted to do something that would impact the world, make a little money along the way, and help my parents back home.”
But he quickly felt at home professionally, finding Bank of America to be “a very welcoming company, full of diversity. From the get-go, I got so attached to the company.”
A financial advisor since 2017, Hananda started by working the phones in the credit card division, eventually becoming a team lead before transitioning to personal banking in 2013.
Hananda says a day in the life of a financial advisor is busy but fulfilling.
“On average I will have maybe five to 10 appointments with clients, and it starts off with understanding each client before they come in,” he explains. Where others see differences, Hananda sees the commonalities of the human spirit.
“My journey is a journey of all of us, no matter where we come from. We may speak different languages, we may look different, we may go to different churches, but ultimately we’re all chasing the same things,” he says. “We are all on this journey to become a better version of ourselves.”
In addition to prep work on learning about the client and understanding commonalities or differences, there’s a lot of follow up to be done to manage relationships: “I’m on the phone quite a bit, reaching out to my clients, explaining to them things that are happening in the economy, making them feel reassured that they are still on the right path. I use my email a lot as well, responding to client questions.”
It’s a job that calls for continuous growth and improvement.
“There’s a lot of learning that’s still going on and ultimately just trying to be better so that the next interaction I have with the client is a worthwhile interaction for them,” he says.
There’s also lot of learning that needs to happen with the public, when it comes to using financial advisors, Hananda says—starting with the fact that financial advisors are not only for the rich.
“That, to me, is the biggest misconception that we have to overcome. No matter what station you are in life, no matter what level of assets you have, financial advice is for everyone.”
That is especially true for members of traditionally underserved communities, as financial expertise is essential to closing the racial wealth gap.
“There’s a report that I ran across. Only 35% of Black households have money invested in the stock market. On the flip side, 61% of whites are invested,” he explains¹.
“My clarion call is to make sure that I do my little part in terms of making people know that this is for all of us,” he continues. “It’s critical that we educate minority communities because we need to catch up.”
Representation matters when it comes to getting Black clients to participate in financial planning. “I can’t tell you how many clients I get in my office and they’re truly inspired that there’s one of them on the other side of the table,” Hananda says.
Having diversity on his side of the table also matters to cultivating the next generation of financial services professionals.
“I feel like my presence in the industry hopefully inspires some kids out there in whatever corner of the world they are that at the end of the day, you can do it,” he says. “We all can do it.”
Here’s more on Hananda’s inspiring professional journey as a financial advisor:
What is the most fulfilling part of what you do?
“Making a difference in people’s lives is one of those things that’s really fulfilling. When clients come in the office, we sit down, we start off with their goals: what do you aspire to be, what does the future look like for you? And then based on those goals we do a top-down approach; we try to create vehicles to help accomplish those goals. I get emails from clients, I get letters from clients, and I’m so thankful that I was able to help them.”
What is your favorite thing about working at Bank of America?
Bank of America is big. We have some, I think, 200,000 employees. I work with people from all walks of life. Bank of America allows us to thrive in that melting pot of inclusion and diversity. And I think it’s a wonderful thing that they’re at the forefront of change that’s needed in this country. You probably have seen the commitments that the bank has made in terms of making a difference in our society, to the tune of $1.25 billion dollars. That’s absolutely just heartwarming. I’m so proud to work for a company like that.
What have been the keys to success in your career?
The one thing that I think is absolutely key in this business is the ability to communicate, the ability to dress up your thoughts in a way that clients can understand. You have to be able to communicate well, because there’s a lot of complex things that we talk about with clients, but it’s about distilling those into manageable and understandable nuggets. The art of listening is key as well. It’s such an important part of what we do, because at the end of the day, it’s about the client, it’s not about me.
What advice would you give someone who wants to enter the financial industry?
Try to understand how things work. Whatever challenges you’re going through, it is through the understanding of those problems that you’ll find the solution; solutions are embedded in problems. Think big and don’t give up. There’s always something on the horizon, and fortune favors the brave.
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1 Bank of America and Black Enterprise cannot confirm the statistics mentioned here.