“I am a forward-thinking, non-traditional entrepreneur, for the world is ever-changing, and so am I.”
Ethel J. Davis is a visionary and a purpose-driven leader in the financial/investment arena. CIO Women Magazine is proud to introduce her as one of the Inspiring Businesswomen in Capital Management. Ethel J. Davis is part of an elite group of businesswomen who have allowed her authenticity and heritage to shape her dynamic, non-traditional leadership personality.
Ethel J. Davis is the CEO and Portfolio Manager of VZD Capital Management, LLC. She is the first African-American female to own 100 percent of a registered investment advisory firm in the Midwest and one of few within the United States. She believes that being an African-American woman has significantly impacted her leadership.
Regardless of her achievements or success, her formal education encouraged her to develop leadership abilities, efficient collaborative techniques, and a desire for lifelong learning. At the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism, she began pursuing higher education in journalism. But in finance, the grass was always greener, or it appeared to be. The “good ole boy’s “network is live and well and can make or break you if you don’t know how to navigate uncharted waters. But in the world of finance, especially Wall Street, the grass appears to be always greener, but sometimes it is not.
She started her career in finance in 1987 as a customer service representative at Kansas City, Missouri-based Twentieth Century Investors, now known as American Century.
It is evident at the time that there were few persons of color in the financial sector, particularly women. The underrepresentation of women and people of color motivated Ethel J. Davisto learn everything she could about the subject and become an authority.
Ethel J. Davis’s income as a fee-based investment advisor is contingent on the success of her client’s assets. She has over 25 years of expertise in the financial industry, working for reputable companies, including American Century, Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc, and Paragon Capital Management, LLC. VZD Capital Management is a fiduciary who always puts their clients first, and one simple, transparent fee means we only do better when you do better.
“Titles are one thing – heart, passion, and dedication are quite another.”
Ethel J. Davis obtained her Series 6, 63, and Series 7 licenses and went on to work for reputable and prestigious investment companies, including Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., and Paragon Capital Management, LLC. Leaving Corporate America in 2004.
She birthed VZD Capital Management, LLC in 2012 after an unexpected termination that left her broken and disheartened about the financial arena and how they marginalized African Americans, women, and any underserved population. Ethel worked long hours, deeply involved in the community, but yet that wasn’t enough for her compensation, treatment, and employment conditions made it a hostile environment for her.
When you speak with Ethel J. Davis, it becomes immediately evident that while her business is investments, her enthusiasm transcends financial success and speaks directly to her identity as a professional businesswoman, mentor, bonus mother, G-ma, and daughter.
Ethel J. Davis uses her investment knowledge to comprehend each customer’s objectives, time horizon, and emotional state. She makes it her duty to gather their past, extract the data and create a customized solution that supports their aspirations, respects their heritage, and goes above and beyond their financial expectations.
Getting to Know Ethel J Davis
“I have graduated with many degrees, but life offers lessons you don’t learn in school.”
Ethel J. Davis was adopted at five days old from the University of Kansas hospital. Looking back on her life, she gathers that her parents fueled her entrepreneurial spirit and believed in her unconditionally. However, her parents, Vergie and Zether Davis, never made her feel different.
Her father encouraged her to seek higher education to be financially independent and prepared her to work harder to overcome all the gender and ethnicity biases. She has always seen both of them working hard despite dealing with unfair circumstances, yet they continue to strive for excellence.
Ethel J. Davis adds. “I carry their daily legacy by incorporating their faith, beliefs, values, and expectations.”
Ethel J. Davis wants to expand VZD’s reach by moving into Maryland and Tennessee for 2023.
Finding My Way
My book outlining my life is called “Circles in Red.”
When Ethel was in grade school, the teachers would grade her papers in red ink to highlight her mistakes. Upon reviewing the check marks and comments, those corrections often made her feel less than a subpar student.
After spending eight years, Ethel J. Davis summarized her experience intertwined with racism, gender disparity, and greed as the primary culprit for the hostile environment. Another circle in red for the termination resulted in birthing her Registered Investment Advisory firm, which would not have happened if it wasn’t for that wrongful termination.
In her opinion, every setback has been a setup. All the tests became her testimonial, and the mess became her message. Ethel J. Davis adds, “therefore, I am grateful for finding myself in what seems like a valley and thankful for my faith, which led me to greener pastures.”
A Peek At The Rear-View Mirror
“I could have told my younger self to allow no one to steal your happiness or light.”
Ethel J. Davis would have opted to embrace starting her own business much earlier if she had been a long-time employee of Corporate America. She wants to serve an eviction notice for her poor self-esteem, doubt, fear, and feeling of being unworthy so that she would have taken more considerable risks in her life.
Ethel J. Davis will not accept the outside world’s judgments and expectations of her. However, she believes everything succumbs to a higher power that knows the results will benefit everyone. She, therefore, doesn’t regret that the side mirror was less important than the window shield.
VZD Capital Management, LLC – The Game-Changer
“The legacy is the driving force behind the services we offer today.”
With the benefits, the compensation, efforts for fundraising, and significant time constraints, most people opt out of starting their business. Often, people become comfortable with a paycheck and decide to stay within a broken business relationship for fear of the unknown of becoming their boss. Ethel started at the bottom, so the only direction was up.
VZD Capital Management, LLC was incorporated in December 2012 with a strong belief that everyone deserves sustainable wealth for generations to come. The company’s track record for providing a high level of attention from start to finish kelp to facilitate this goal.
Everyone matters, regardless of the zeros in their bank or investment account, as each relationship is part of the business’s familial culture. Since the company’s income is fee-based rather than commission-based, the company achieves more jointly by prioritizing the client’s interests.
Ethel J. Davis says, “We approach our clients with time-tested investment management strategies that are transparent and customized. We help protect their assets by working with other professionals (such as business and estate planning attorneys and CPAs) and finding the most appropriate advice to help you build sustainable wealth – brick by brick. Our solutions help safeguard the financial future and realize our clients’ dreams – one at a time.
Rather than providing a transactional dialogue, the company believes in fostering a long-lasting relationship that travels with the clients through all the chapters of their life. These principles help VZD turn dreams into realities and carry on each legacy from generation to generation.
Roadblocks on the Way
Within the business world, each sector has its requirements and challenges. Some issues drastically affect businesses and organizations across various industries and sectors.
Every business strives to maintain the quality of its customer relationship, its brands’ vibrancy, and its workforce’s satisfaction. A successful company overcomes obstacles to set itself apart from its competitors.
The company’s long-standing success factors are personal engagement and close client relationships.
Ethel J. Davis faced similar challenges. Since she was entering a new world, the early years of creating her company were tremendously difficult. She became conversant with knowledgeable shareholders and gained knowledge of the distinctions between mutual funds, common stocks, and bonds.
Her goal was to get to the position of Senior Vice President, where she could assist in educating stockbrokers on how to satisfy typical clients.
After the VZD was incorporated, further difficulties arose. The initial obstacle was finding the proper vendors who believed in honesty, transparency, and collaboration. It was challenging to switch from a collaborative environment to working alone. Initially, she would utilize her local Starbucks as an extension of her home office.
Ethel J. Davis notes that the industry showed no consideration for minorities or women. She had a high level of education than most people but still had to go hard to prove that she belonged to have a seat at the table. She was passed over for promotions that others who didn’t have her knowledge, experience, or accomplishments received.
The company’s long-standing success factors are personal engagement and close client relationships. VZD wants to celebrate its client’s success and ensure they get the best without conflict of interest or selling investment products with high commissions to pad their compensation.
Ethel J. Davis says, “Our primary consideration regarding growth is to keep our client-to-portfolio manager ratio low. Our clients need access to the decision-maker so we can grow our staff to bring on others who inspire us to become portfolio managers, too. We have been successful in client referrals because we enjoy working with multigenerational families and passing down legacies from one generation to the other.”
Unprecedented epidemic times have undoubtedly changed the entrepreneurship industry as a whole. Despite this, VZD expanded significantly, making adjustments to remain relevant while setting itself apart from competing businesses.
VZD walks through the various journey of life with its clients. The philosophy is simple: prioritizing people – one client at a time. We stay ready for the unknown and uncertainty that happens to people without notice.
Vision For a Better Tomorrow
“I believe in being the change you want to see in the world.”
According to Ethel J. Davis, everyone should have the opportunity to build wealth and have access to financial professionals who can help them along the way. She is proud and honored to have a diverse clientele and to offer financial consulting for those individuals who haven’t been around wealth to understand they can achieve if they only believe in themselves.
The pandemic significantly impacted many women, for they were the primary caregivers who went home to take care of children and aging parents. Many factors continue to keep women in “financial shackles,” such as salaries depressed by inflation, higher interest rates for loans making it difficult to obtain capital for start-up businesses, and the bear market evaporating 20 percent or more of their retirement portfolios. Ethel J. Davis wants to become an advocate for women who are facing unique challenges in building and sustaining wealth due to many challenges regarding their pay levels.
The number one systematic problem that continues to plague women and minorities is discrimination in gender pay and advancement inequity. Despite the rising wage growth, especially after the ” Great Resignation” after the pandemic, women still earn, on average, 17 percent less than men.
The wealth disparity between the different ethnicities is mind-boggling, especially in 2022. Ethel is creating various social media platforms and learning outlets to help people learn about money, from the basics to the most sophisticated practices to develop, preserve and transfer wealth from one generation to the next.
Ethel J. Davis adds, “I plan to grow VZD Capital Management, LLC, into a world-class firm serving affluent clients looking for a fiduciary-driven firm that is diverse and inclusive of all people regardless of their differences.” I want my firm to represent America, where diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but living proof it’s in the pudding through representing my team members who will not be employees but partners. Eventually, I want my bonus grandsons to take over the firm, which is critically important to have a succession plan for your business long before retirement or if something unexpected happens to the business owner.
Ethel J. Davis believes succession planning is essential when you start a business because you must develop someone who can take your place and continue to grow the company without sacrificing independence, a forward-thinking environment, and a collaborative culture.
Moreover, Ethel J. Davis wants to focus on VZD’s Executive Mentoring Program, which she developed to recruit a diverse group of individuals who wish to enter the financial or investment arena and would like an informal program to help them along the way. She wants every person to become a partner versus an employee because every link in the VZD’s chain is critical to the firm’s long-term success.
A Step Ahead
VZD Capital Management currently serves 46 families and is licensed in Kansas, Missouri, and Florida. The company manages over $35 million in assets and looking to add junior advisors within the year. The goal is to grow the company’s assets to over 100 million dollars within three years.
To achieve this, the company has a lot of prospects in its pipeline. While talking about this, Ethel J. Davis says, “We want to write books and curriculums to help non-profits and start-up businesses to get their money right. We are looking into starting podcasts, and media shows to teach the masses basic financial literacy and investing principles. The desire is to have an open dialogue regarding the mindsets of wealthy people versus people who have an unhealthy relationship with money. I enjoy coaching and consulting to help people remove the barriers holding them back from reaching their financial goals and freedoms.
Words of the Wise
So many times, the primary factor that holds people back from becoming an entrepreneur is fear and lack of capital. Fear is a hustler ready to steal, kill and destroy the plans God has for us. Many are afraid to dream big and minimize themselves by playing small. When you have passion and love for what you do, it is never a job. Nobody knows everything, so be proactive in finding appropriate mentors, fementors (female mentors), and coaches to help you understand how to become successful by your standards versus what society deems successful.
I would rather be the best version of myself than attempt to be somebody I am not. If you fail, brush yourself off, forgive yourself, understand that was a lesson, not a life sentence, and become a serial entrepreneur – if that is your dream.