John C. Graves continues to serve as a relentless advocate for financial education and tools for African Americans. His goal: placing millions on the path to multigenerational wealth. A lawyer by training, Graves has primarily used two platforms to fulfill his audacious mission: leading the events arm of BLACK ENTERPRISE—the multimedia company founded by his father, Earl G. Graves Sr.—and engaging in key roles at Equitable as a corporate Board Director (2002-2005) and top financial professional (2005-2006). He has also played an invaluable role in the development of collaborative, mutually beneficial efforts between the two organizations.
Graves shares his advocacy and views in the following Q&A interview:
What is your view on the evolution of the relationship between BLACK ENTERPRISE and Equitable?
The late Darwin Davis, Equitable’s former senior vice president in charge of external relations, was a staunch advocate for the creation of a strategic partnership between Equitable and BLACK ENTERPRISE. Like my father, he believed that the demographics of the BLACK ENTERPRISE audience—entrepreneurs and corporate executives—could benefit from Equitable’s mission to help its clients secure their financial well-being.
As a corporate director, what were the issues of greatest importance to you?
Of equal importance was ensuring strong organizational performance and creating opportunities for more African American financial professionals at Equitable Advisors, part of Equitable. By attracting more ethnically diverse financial professionals, Equitable Advisors would have access to exponentially grow investors within its client base. Such an exclusion would limit the creation of innovative financial products and services that would benefit all clients.
Can you share the role you played in the expansion of the strategic alliance between the two companies at the time of the development of BE’s Wealth for Life Initiative?
Given my father’s commitment and BE’s editorial focus on wealth building, we wanted an initiative that would resonate with our audience while serving as a reminder that African Americans should commit to growing their net worth.
Equitable’s sponsorship of the Black Enterprise Ski Challenge and Black Enterprise Financial Empowerment Series created an opportunity for the brand to be associated with a multimedia company that reached an audience of affluent, highly educated and success-driven individuals with investable assets. These events also enabled financial professionals to gain direct access to individuals
As a financial professional, you gained greater insight into wealth creation barriers for African Americans in general. Given the current climate, what should African Americans do to get on the path to multigenerational wealth?
In general, I found the barriers continue to be a lack of education and exclusion from conversations and information about money management strategies and financial service products. African Americans must fully engage in deliberate financial planning that includes homeownership and life insurance policies used as a wealth transfer strategy to beneficiaries. To make such strides, it is imperative that they gain access to trustworthy, professional guidance from top-notch advisers like those found at Equitable Advisors.
Cynthia Bodison, Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Recruiting at Equitable Advisors, and Angela Martin, Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Culture at Equitable, both confirm that the financial services company has realized the evolution of its D&I approach and expansion of its racial equity mandate since Graves’ tenure with the company as well as to meet his stated objectives.
“Equitable has defined an ambitious strategy to achieve strong and measurable progress by 2023. We are committed to strengthening Black representation by significantly increasing our population of Black senior leaders and financial professionals across the organization, as well as increasing the psychological safety and the performance support of Black employees and financial professionals,” Bodison says.
Adds Martin, “Driving progress in diversity and inclusion is a business imperative that we know fuels our success as a dynamic and sustainable business. We are already beginning to look at our products and services to determine where we can create more opportunities focused on our customers and the communities we serve. In addition, our Corporate Social Responsibility platform will play a significant role in how we continue to inform our business model and client approach when it comes to serving communities of color.
Equitable is the brand name of the retirement and protection subsidiaries of Equitable Holdings, Inc., including Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company (Equitable Financial) (NY, NY); Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company of America (Equitable America), an AZ stock company with main administrative headquarters in Jersey City, NJ; and Equitable Distributors, LLC. Equitable Advisors is the brand name of Equitable Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI and TN). Equal Opportunity Employer – M/F/D/V. The 160-year history reference applies exclusively to Equitable Financial. GE-3330056 (11/20) (Exp. 11/22) | GE-3330072 (11/20) (Exp. 11/22)