What’s Race Got to Do With It?

What’s Race Got to Do With It? – By Robyn Hatcher

Can research on physical health services be applied to financial health services?

Early on I realized to become an expert in communication, you need to understand the human brain. So, several years ago I got certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and have been a brain science junkie ever since. I am constantly looking to learn about the latest brain research. One of my go-to podcasts is NPR’s Hidden Brain hosted by Shankar Vedantam. I listened to one recently called, People Like Us: How Our Identities Shape Health And Educational Success

The guests were researches who studied what race had to do with both medical and educational outcomes. One can’t help wondering if there is some correlation between their findings and what one might find in the financial services field.

The medical services study researchers, Owen Garrick, Marcella Alsan, and Grant Graziani posed the question: “Will black men take more preventative care services if they’re randomly assigned to a black doctor?”

The researches went to a barbershop in an African American neighborhood in Oakland, California. They offered the men free checkups and showed them photos of their respective doctors, then asked them to pick the services they would like to have performed. Most men chose similar routine, noninvasive services regardless of the race of the doctor assigned to them.

However, the study found that during their visit, when doctors suggested the men receive more invasive preventative care services, like flu shots, diabetes, and cholesterol testing, the patients were 50% – 72% more likely to agree if they had an African American doctor! These tests could save hundreds of lives in the African American community.

So, what could this mean for people dealing with their financial health?


Diverse individuals may be fine doing basic financial services with advisors of any race, but might clients feel more comfortable investing more heavily or buying more advanced products from advisors of their own race?

The podcast also mentioned this finding: “Columbia University’s Raymond Fisman found in a study conducted in India that ethnic and religious matching between bankers and customers increased the likelihood of loans being repaid. It also lowered the cost of loans because banks perceived there was a lower risk in lending money.”

To be completely honest, I had some problems with all the studies cited in this podcast. Because when It comes to matters of race, it’s impossible to make broad assumptions. Upbringing, environment, and class play huge roles. I do not necessarily believe that all black,

brown or other clients should be paired with black, brown, and other advisors. So, as a communication expert, I was very interested in another finding in the study.


The study found that the black doctors took more notes than the nonblack doctors and their notes often included “non-healthcare issues” Garrick shared, “The black doctors and black patients were connecting as human beings.” They were having conversations that were saying “I know where you’re coming from. I hear you.” In other words, they created rapport with their patients. Rapport building is one of the main skills I focus on in the communication coaching I do with financial advisors.

Vendantam noted, “The clearest takeaway from the research is that warm and empathetic communication matters.” And, Garrick believes “that doctors might be taught to bridge some of the differences he observed in his study.”


By working with your diverse financial advisors and teaching them strategies like empathy and rapport building they will not only be more successful with clients of their own race, but they will be more successful with clients of all races.

Posted by lavalin

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