This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Chris King

Alex David – an African American with a dual doctorate in economics and marketing – was recruited to Stifel Financial Corp. in March 2021 to lead its independent broker/dealer subsidiary, which is now named Stifel Independent Advisors.

Last year, he recruited 23 financial advisors with more than $2.53 billion in client assets to join the firm, driving total assets under management at the subsidiary to more than $6 billion. 

His winning strategy? Diversity.

“In 2022, more than 40% of all client assets under the Stifel Independent Advisors umbrella were in the hands of practices headed by women and underrepresented minority groups,” David said. 

That’s about 10 points above the industry standard. According to 2023 statistics from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, only 4.8% of certified financial planner professionals are Black or Hispanic, while women comprise 23.6% of all such professionals. 

While Stifel does not keep demographic data on clients, financial planners who are Black testify that they help build wealth for Black clients, among many other kinds of people.

Cedric Edwards, of Edwards Wealth Consultants in suburban San Antonio, Texas, is one of the Black financial advisors who joined Stifel Independent Advisors in 2022.

With 23 years in the business, he estimates that 25% of his practice is African-American, 10% Hispanic, 5% Middle Eastern descent, 5% Asian American, 15% biracial and the remaining 40% Caucasian (from many regions).  

“I do believe that I, as an African-American advisor, have so much to offer if given the opportunity to help all clients,” Edwards said.

In reality, many of the best advisors are not math geeks or students of investing; rather, they are relationship oriented. They love people and have a sense of service.

Alex David, financial advisor

He sponsors San Antonio’s Puerto Rican, German, Italian, African-American, Turkish, Hispanic, and Arab festivals. He has meditated with his Japanese clients, gone to the mosque to hear the call to prayer with his Arabian clients, and sang karaoke in Tagalog, Spanish, and Korean. 

“Exploring another’s culture is rewarding and mutually beneficial,” Edwards said. “We host a multicultural dinner annually in our home and all the couples bring their different dishes, and we honor and respect each person’s prayer and have intelligent conversations about life. Whether it’s about life in Marrakesh, Tunis, Belgium, Seville, San Juan, Puerto Plata, Manila, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Cebu, Ghana, wherever, we listen intensely and we love the opportunities it creates to learn and love others.”

Given that he wrote his PhD dissertation on “The Rise in Black Women Business Owners from 1997-2001,” it’s not surprising that David sees value in recruiting women to the firm.

Mary Steele brought her family firm – Freehold Wealth Management in Landrum, S.C. – to Stifel Independent Advisors in late 2021.

“Almost 100% of our individual clients are female. Without question, our female clients are more likely to choose a female advisor,” Steele said.

“Women are aligned on the importance of relationships, and financial advisors are one of the most trusted in their lives. The reality in our practice is that female clients are attracted to female advisors with like-minded interests. So client prospecting occurs naturally as potential clients ask for advice once a personal relationship is established prior to a professional engagement.” 

That point clears up what David considers a misconception about his field.

“Many people think that financial advisors need to be math-oriented and/or love investments and money management and analytics,” David said. “In reality, many of the best advisors are not math geeks or students of investing; rather, they are relationship oriented. They love people and have a sense of service.”

He said this fact underlies a profession that often gets a bad rap.

“Often, our industry is portrayed poorly in movies, and the only stories told are the salacious and scandalous ones,” David said.  “It’s not as sexy to write a movie about how a financial advisor helped a family put all their kids and grandkids through college and retire comfortably.”

He said it’s also a misconception that financial planning is a field where you only eat what you kill. “For those who don’t want to work on commission and/or to prospect for new business,” he said, “it is becoming much more common for employee firms and independent practices to hire salaried financial advisors.”

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., David was first exposed to the financial sector as a bike messenger delivering packages to companies in Manhattan, including Wall Street firms. After his education at Baruch College and Pace University in New York, he worked as a financial advisor, a wholesaler, a head of diversity and an economist before Wells Fargo Advisors brought him to St Louis in 2008 to join the executive team of FiNet, its network of independent financial advisors.

“Financial advisors have always decided to enter this field for three reasons: to help people, to do something that matters and makes an impact, and to make a good living,” David said. “For young people who want those three purposes in their profession, then they should explore our industry.” 

Stifel Financial Corp. is a financial services holding company headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, that conducts its banking, securities, and financial services business through several wholly owned subsidiaries. For more information, visit