René Nourse is the founder and Managing Director of Urban Wealth Management, which started in 2012. She's a guest commentator on CNBC Closing Bell and, to top it off, she's the 10th President of the Association of African American Financial Advisors. She’s also a trailblazer in the profession, advocating for women, people of color, and inclusive leadership.

René’s Path to Urban Wealth Management

René didn’t always own Urban Wealth Management, and she wasn’t always a CFP®. She started out in the insurance industry, working for Mutual of Omaha. While she was there, she developed a niche where she offered a special discounted rate for disability to government employees. Her manager, who was also African American, took notice and really worked with her to build that niche — and her skills. He was one of only three African Americans working at Mutual of Omaha at the time, and he became René’s mentor. He’s played a huge role in her career ever since. 

Under his guidance and thanks to René’s own driving force, she got her Series 65, which allowed her to sell mutual funds. That got her pretty excited, and she left Mutual of Omaha to start working for a deferred compensation plan company in LA County. After her experiences there, she decided she really wanted to become a stockbroker (the term at the time), so she got her Series 7.  

During this same time, still in the late 80s, René took time off to be with her new baby. When she was finally ready to go back to work, though, nobody wanted to hire her. Whether it’s because she was a new mom, a woman of color or both, she struggled to find a new firm. But then she found Dean Witter, a family-owned company she loved. When the firm was acquired by Morgan Stanley, though, she left for Prudential Securities. She stayed there for seven years and then went to Smith Barney. And when Smith Barney was eventually acquired by Morgan Stanley, René said enough was enough — and she started Urban Wealth Management.

Supporting Women Through Leadership and Service

Since then, she has been devoted to supporting women — both in the profession and the clients her firm works with. At Urban Wealth Management, there are four female CFP® professionals, including René. With her all-women team, her firm focuses on giving women the option to be in a safer, more supportive space, where it’s not just about investments. It’s about their life and their hopes.

As a woman-led firm, René also creates a space for female planners entering into the profession — and she encourages other planners and firms to do the same. As she explained in our conversation, women can be aggressively recruited in the profession, but once they’re in a firm, they’re often the only woman, they’re offered little support, and they’re at sea during this massive transition. 

And if you want to attract these new planners, regardless of gender, René believes that those in leadership should step up and create a culture that offers the right environments. Planners and planning professionals are seeking a culture that lets them do their best work, René shared, but not all firms are conducive to that. Focusing on culture within a firm is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and so that everyone can bring their real skills to the surface.

Regardless of who they are, René also believes that new planners need a mentor, someone to help them navigate what can be a very overwhelming and complicated industry. That’s part of what she does in her own circles and firm, but mentorship is something she thinks everyone in the profession should seek (and provide). 

The Importance of Mentorship and Community

As René explains, mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal affair, like a mastermind or a paid coach. It can be inside or outside of the profession. It could be a group or a single person. But find someone who can answer your questions, calm your worries, and help hype you up is essential for new planners and professionals. Because she’s a firm believer in the power mentorship, she joined the AAAA — the Association of African American Financial Advisors — in 2015. Her initial call to join, she said was that there weren’t ways to stay connected with other women or people of color in the profession. So she immediately jumped in, and she met a ton of wonderful professionals.

Over the last 4+ years, René has been very involved and has even joined the AAAA’s Board. Now, she is the President of the Association, a role she accepted with pride because she wanted to continue the legacy of the organization’s founder, LeCount Davis, MBA, CFP®. This year, René says, she is helping the association focus on the 3 M’s: messaging, mentorship, membership. After the association’s conference in September, René will be actively guiding the launch of their new mentorship program, which she believes will connect many professionals — new and veteran alike. 

But there was a major thread through our discussion with René: how community, leadership, and mentorship all lend themselves to finding a niche and doing the best work we can do as financial planning professionals.

How to Find Your Niche

Are you looking for your niche, the thing that makes you a truly unique professional in your space? René’s quick and easy answer is: Who are you? What are you passionate about? What is your specialty? For many younger clients who are coming into the profession looking for an expert, for example, they have student loan debt. They need someone who knows all about student loan options, or who can help them manage other debt while paying that down. René provides another example: planners with an interest in the tech space. You can work with people who are in the tech field, or identify a specific company that you are very familiar with in terms of their services, their products, their employee benefits.

In this episode René talks about narrowing a niche down, aligning with a smaller sect of people, and finding ways to get interested in different parts of the work. Because at the end of the day, that makes you a better planner, and potentially a better leader and mentor down the road.

If you want to hear René’s great insights into the progress of the profession, the role of inclusion, and how to find your place in all of it, take a listen to this week’s episode.


What You’ll Learn:

  • Rene’s path to founding her own women-led and women-focused firm
  • The role that culture and positive leadership play in the profession
  • How to “groom” leadership skills in the next generation
  • The importance of feedback on a team
  • Supporting female planners after recruitment
  • All about the AAAA and René’s role there
  • The value of mentorship — for the mentor and the mentee
  • Finding your niche and leaning in
  • The changes next generation planners are creating in the profession


Show Notes:
In this episode with René Nourse, we reference:

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