I’m really excited to introduce you to a new video series called Black Folks Doing Extraordinary Things (BFDET). In this series, I’m going to be conducting short interviews with Black professionals who are doing some really interesting and exciting things to make a living.
My goal with this series is two-fold:
One, I really want to expose people, especially Black youth and Black professionals who are considering career transitions, to the endless career opportunities that exist in our world. There are so many interesting jobs and career paths out there––many of which, people may have never even heard of or thought to explore. So, this really serves as a way to provide more insight into some not-so-common-roles or jobs that are actually lucrative.
My second goal with this series is to highlight some of the incredible work that Black folks are doing in this world. Black people, like all other groups of people, are non-monolithic, meaning, we aren’t all the same––we come from so many different walks of life and carry diverse experiences. By highlighting more of our stories, I hope to reduce, or maybe even completely eliminate, some of the stereotypes that often follow us.
I hope you enjoy this content, and please don’t forget to subscribe for future updates! Oh! And if you’d like to be featured in this series, or know someone who should, please drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much!
This edition of Black Folks Doing Extraordinary Things features Justin Brantley, a Senior Financial Auditor based in New York.
• Name: Justin Brantley
• Location: New York, NY
• Age: 27
• Role: Senior Financial Auditor
• Salary range: $70 - 80K in New York (Payscale estimates a $76K median range https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Senior_Auditor/Salary/3d1f4567/New-York-NY)
• Important note about salaries: Salaries vary greatly, depending on the role, industry, a person's experience, etc. Be sure to do your own due diligence and research and don't be afraid to ask people who are doing the work you want to do!
For those interest in auditing, Justin recommends checking out these resources:
• National Association of Black Accountants: https://www.nabainc.org/
• Learn more about financial literacy: https://www.earnyourleisure.com/
Learn more about Justin and connect with him:
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Jus_TheDreamer
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jus_TheDreamer
Adriele Parker: Welcome to another episode of Black Folks doing extraordinary things, a series dedicated to highlighting some of the incredible interesting work that Black folks from all walks of life are doing. Not only to make a living, but to also just make a difference in our world.
Today I’m here with Justin Brantley, who is a Senior Financial Service Auditor. Senior Financial Service Auditor – boom! I, myself, have no clue, Justin, what that even entails. I’m really looking forward to just chatting with you, honestly, slightly selfishly, to learn more myself and just to learn more about your work and how you got here.
To start us off, if you could just give us a quick introduction, whatever you’re comfortable sharing. If you can include your age or at least a ballpark, where you’re based, and what it is that you do.
Justin Brantley: For sure. For sure. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I think what you’re doing is amazing, so to be a part of it is really an honor. My name is Justin Brantley. I’m 27 years old. I currently live in New York City, Washington Heights to be specific. But I work in midtown Manhattan at a firm called, EisnerAmper. My day-to-day is an auditor, but my work really is financial literacy. I think it’s something that’s so important for our community. We weren’t really given all those tools and resources, so being able to use some of the knowledge that I’m getting from work to help our community goes hand in hand.
Adriele Parker: Yeah, for sure. I love that. That’s awesome. Tell me a little bit more. You said that you kind of have two kinds of roles. It sounds like auditing and then also financial literacy. What is auditing? What does that even mean? I have no idea. What does it mean to work in an auditing space? Then tell me a little bit after that about financial literacy.
Justin Brantley: Yes. It’s funny. I just saw a meme the other day that said, “Explain auditing to a six-year-old.
Adriele Parker: Give it to me that way. That’s how I like to think about my work. [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: [Laugh] The meme was like, “If Tommy says he has six cookies, I’m going to verify he’s telling the truth.”
Adriele Parker: Okay.
Justin Brantley: That’s that.
Adriele Parker: Okay.
Justin Brantley: A lot of what we do is making sure these financial service companies, whether they’re broker dealers, private equity companies or hedge funds, that if they say they have, for instance, $10,000 in their bank account, we’re going to now confirm with HSBC, with Chase, “Okay. Are they telling the truth? Do these numbers agree to each other? Do they reconcile?”
A lot of it is standard based. There’s just a lot of regulation that goes on in the audit world. We’re making sure that these companies are following tune with those standards. It’s a lot of fact checking, in my opinion. I think that’s, in layman’s terms, what I’d say we do.
Adriele Parker: That makes sense. Okay. Got it. You’re just fact checking. I love that. Okay. Then what about the sort of financial literacy side? What does that look like, professionally?
Justin Brantley: Yes. To me, financial literacy is so important, because it’s easy to get money…
Adriele Parker: Sure. Yeah.
Justin Brantley: …but taking in – yeah. [Laugh]
Adriele Parker: [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: But holding on to that money. Because sometimes we will get money, and everybody’s mom, aunt, uncle says, “It burns a hole in our pocket.”
For me, it’s being able to teach people different avenues and different resources where they can put their money. Whether they’re looking to save for retirement or have something for 5 to 10 years that they can now use when they want to expand their family or whatnot, just finding different outlets and being able to tell people, “Hey, you don’t have to just put everything into savings.”
Just sharing as much knowledge as I can about money, about money habits, saving – all of that.
Adriele Parker: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah, I think especially in black communities or I’ll speak to African American communities, because that’s what I can speak to from experience. Growing up, you just don’t learn a lot about investing, right? There’s not a lot of widespread knowledge within our community. I know growing up – for me, I thought to make money, you work a job, and you might have your savings account and your checking account, and that was it. I didn’t realize – now, I’m interested in actual investing. I’m invested in stocks and I’m looking at small companies and startups that I can invest in. I’m like…
Justin Brantley: Right.
Adriele Parker: …I had no idea. Like you ask me even five years ago, I had no clue. Five years ago, I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable, right? But finances, that was not my area, and I didn’t know it needed to be. Right? But finance, I think it is embedded in so much that we do. We don’t even think about it day to day because, again, it hasn’t been a topic that is kind of dinner table discussion, for lack of better words.
Justin Brantley: That’s what it is.
Adriele Parker: Yeah. Talk to me a little bit about the things you enjoy about the work that you’re doing. I mean, obviously, you’re passionate about knowledge sharing, in helping orgs, helping people. But like that day to day, what is it that you enjoy? Is it sitting in front of spreadsheets? Is it talking to actual clients? Then in contrast, what are some of the things that you just like?
Justin Brantley: I’m a math and a money nerd, if you will. For me – right. [Laugh] Exactly. I’m trying to see where the money resides.
Adriele Parker: Right. [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: I want to know where the money resides, okay.
Adriele Parker: Here for it. [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: Some of these equations, they are tough. When they’re naturally like foot or – they net to zero, to me, it’s okay. I just figured out a puzzle. That little joy is kind of where the numbers can kind of make me happy. But I’m really a people person. When I’m client facing, when I have an opportunity to go out and have lunch and really build a relationship with the client, I know not only am I doing myself service, but the firm is benefiting from this at the same time. The numbers, definitely, they have their ups, but for the most part, it’s the people that I focus on. The least – I mean, the part that I dread are the…
Adriele Parker: Oh, gosh! Not dread. [Laugh] Strong words.
Justin Brantley: …the deadlines! My God! It’s like – so, in audit, you have pretty much an entire binder’s worth of financial information that you have to audit. From the cash to the inventory, to the capital, expenses – you name it. When we go into it, it’s not necessarily a – “Okay, you have to get this done, and this done, and this done today.” You have to get the entire audit done by that deadline. We really have autonomy over our timeline, but that deadline don’t budge.
Adriele Parker: Right.
Justin Brantley: As the end of month hits, especially during busy season, it’s a crunch. Sometimes you have to sacrifice other things to be able to get your work done by that deadline. I hate it. Can’t stand it.
Adriele Parker: What does that feel like? Like having to sacrifice other things.
Justin Brantley: It’s – okay. If I’m going to be real, it’s depressing.
Adriele Parker: Please, yeah.
Justin Brantley: I remember maybe back in 2018, I told my mother I couldn’t come home for her birthday because I had my biggest deadline. We work on Saturdays, which it seems like it’s okay, it’s not that big of a deal. But having half of a day, less of a weekend, while still traveling back and forth to – whether it’s to a client or whether it’s to the city or upstate where I’m from, to see my family. It’s sacrificing time with your loved ones is like the - the real grudge. [Laugh] Not grudge, but…
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: …that’s the real…
Adriele Parker: It’s a pain point.
Justin Brantley: It’s the main point. But at the end of the day, it has to get done.
Adriele Parker: Yeah, for sure. Do you think there’s a world in which like your work could exist where there’s a better balance between – or maybe not necessarily better balance but less of a sense of urgency? Which by the way is one of the pillars to white supremacy, but that’s another discussion.
Justin Brantley: They find a way to boil that in everywhere. There’s always something that is making us as people of color, as Black folks, uneasy in everything. To me, I think more resources for some of these companies starting earlier. Maybe saying, “Hey, let’s not try to fill up the entire book of business when the staff that we have right now are barely being able to finish the things that – the clients that we do have.” I think a lot of it is management. Again, we’re in a capitalistic society, so… every firm is going to try to max out the coins…
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: … of coming in.
Adriele Parker: That’s the industry.
Justin Brantley: It’s that give and take. “Oh, okay.” We want all the clients, the big money spenders. But okay, here are the people now losing out on their own work-life balance.” That’s what I will say.
Eisner, if you’re listening, you also could give a brother a raise…
Adriele Parker: Oop! [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: …vacation days, you know. [Laugh]
Adriele Parker: Come on! Sprinkle it in there.
Justin Brantley: [Laugh]
Adriele Parker: Right? Sprinkle it in there. Sprinkle it in there.
Justin Brantley: You’ve got to do what you can.
Adriele Parker: You have to. You have to. You kind of touched on it, but are there other ways that you think your identity as a Black person impacts the work that you’re doing? It could be the work specifically, the role that you’re in, the industry overall. How do you think being Black impacts just what you’re doing and your ability to succeed in the way that you see fit?
Justin Brantley: One of the big things that we’re even talking about at my firm is our lack of diversity, especially in management roles. While day to day, as long as the numbers agree, there’s no problem. But especially as someone’s growing through their career in audit, there’s so much that we don’t know. That having someone that looks like you, having someone of color to guide and be a mentor, be a resource is so pivotal.
Adriele Parker: Sort of like unspoken rules are you speaking to?
Justin Brantley: Exactly. Unspoken rules, but also rather than spinning your wheels, trying to figure something out, some of the older more senior members, they’ve been working through this for 10, 15 years. But if you don’t feel comfortable approaching them to ask that question, everything changes. You have to get it where you can and…
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: That definitely has ramifications.
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: But as far as the financial literacy space, I mean – again, because we aren’t having these types of conversations at the dinner table, there are very few Black folks who are knowledgeable enough to even share information, but are confident enough to put their own experience out on the line.
Adriele Parker: Right.
Justin Brantley: But for me, I love it because I have this audit background. Some few people are really having these conversations on a regular basis. It’s empowering to be that one black friend or the few folks who are having the conversation, who are leading the conversation. Whether it be on social media or even in person. I mean it – I’ve learned that – especially people of color, we want to see results.
Adriele Parker: Yes. [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: Telling somebody, “Hey, if you put this money in the stock market and don’t touch it for five years...” “Man, I’m trying.”
Adriele Parker: Five years?
Justin Brantley: Exactly, exactly.
Adriele Parker: How about five hours, maybe? [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: Years, minimum. Yeah, five years minimum. Because that’s how the white patriarchy has found all their money. They…
Adriele Parker: It’s an interesting and good take on privilege, right?
Justin Brantley: Yeah.
Adriele Parker: The reason why a lot of Black people are seeking fast money is because we need or have needed money in that moment. There’s a need – there’s that urgency constantly of, “How am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to feed my family? How I’m going to…” Whatever it is. That idea of putting some money that I need right now into something that I got to let sit for five years – unfathomable! Why would I do that? Why would I do that?
Justin Brantley: Right. There’s…
Adriele Parker: Sit here and starve, or let my kids suffer or my family or whatever, not get what they need because I’m waiting. Right? The privilege is the ability to be able to sit some money aside for five years and forget about it, and then pop up later, “Oh, yeah! Okay. I did invest that.” Right? That’s privilege, right? It’s real. But again, because of our inequities in this world... sorry, I’m going on a tangent. I could do this all day.
Justin Brantley: Ok! [Laugh]
Adriele Parker: That’s a good segue into the next question, which is how did you get into this. What led you here? Because again, it’s something that isn’t openly spoken about. Black folks traditionally and historically in America haven’t just openly talked about their finances. How did you get into this work? What experiences or education got you here?
Justin Brantley: I got my Bachelor’s and my Master’s from SUNY Oswego in Public Accounting. I think even back in high school, they told us that accounting was like the basis of this.
For me, “Okay, I want to go to the concrete jungle, and I want to learn how the money is being moved from Wall Street to Fifth Ave, and all this stuff.” That was kind of like the nudge in the direction. But genuinely, I feel like the more I learned, the more excited I was to sort of infiltrate this Pandora’s box of information. I didn’t have any internships in accounting. I didn’t have a father, uncle, cousin, who worked in this space. I really said, “Okay. If my university has a five-year program where I can kind of just knock it out in one go, and I can learn the skills to maybe create my own business one day, I need it.”
But as far as how I got to the space I am right now – with Eisner, they gave me the opportunity to work in tax or not for profit or audit. Then even within there, you have the opportunity to go into financial service or commercial. Working in the commercial space, you get to see a lot of different organizations. We audit the National Basketball Association. We audit the NBA. We audit some of the MLB baseball teams, and that was what really got me excited. I was like, “Oh, hey! I’m about to be at MSG. Auditing everybody, getting everybody’s money.” Didn’t work out too well.
Adriele Parker: A dream!
Justin Brantley: Right.
Adriele Parker: Okay. Okay.
Justin Brantley: Then I realized that I wasn’t getting on the engagements that I sought after so much. I said, “Okay, let me switch gears. In financial services, that is really where the money is going in New York City. Spotify, Facebook, and the Knicks. While they all are big players, the money is going through these broker dealers, these private equity funds, where there’s high, high net worth folks pooling their money together to invest in certain things. Really just – I kind of skip hopped and…
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: …now, a little bit of everything, I was – my staff here, I was that jack of all trades. I thought that was good for a moment. But once I decided to commit to one thing, it’s been a blessing.
Adriele Parker: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I appreciate you dropping these little gems of knowledge around here.
Justin Brantley: Right. Yeah, I put in a summary. [Laughs]
Adriele Parker: Let me go on over here and look at these equity firms and such. [Laughs] Awesome! What are some – perhaps, tangible steps or actions that you would recommend someone take if they’re interested in doing what you do? I think something you mentioned was that you didn’t have any internships. I think that’s really interesting because a lot of people, especially in finance or business, I hear, are constantly looking for these really well-known programs and intern to full-time hire programs.
Justin Brantley: Right.
Adriele Parker: Can you speak a little bit on that and some advice you have for people that are interested?
Justin Brantley: Well, I didn’t have an accounting internship, I still interned at very reputable business organizations, and to me, I was nervous that I didn’t have an accounting internship. I felt, “Oh, they weren’t going to take me.” But as you build your experience and as you build your professional and business acumen, it all starts to come together regardless. While I know not everyone’s story is the same, get that internship, regardless of what it is. Walk towards that path is what I would…
One of the very important things on how I even got my job – conferences. Any opportunity you have to network and to be in front of decision makers and recruiters, put yourself out there. Because somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who’s hiring.
I think that’s number one. Number two, experience is one thing, and education is another. Sometimes, neither are enough. For me, even though I have the degrees and I’ve been working at this firm for four years, I’m now realizing at the beginning or middle of my career, I still need certifications, I still need to continue my education.
Adriele Parker: Yeah, it doesn’t stop.
Justin Brantley: It doesn’t stop. The one thing I’d say to anyone who’s looking to get into this industry is start fast and start early. You have to – I know it’s a lot of education, I know it’s a lot of schooling, I know it’s a lot of tests. But the more senior you become, the older you get, the more is on your plate. The more personal and family business that you have to deal with.
The sooner you go out and get your CPA or your CFA or whatever it is, just give it a shot and don’t be discouraged. Because that time lost, you’re never going to get back. If you’d like to be an auditor, you have to – it’s a specialized industry. You have to dive in and sacrifice some summers.
Adriele Parker: Yeah. Do you think that it’s possible for someone or have you seen anybody transition from a different career into being an auditor?
For sure, definitely. Most of these organizations, I mean, when they see your resume, they’re looking for accounting, finance, business administration. It’s not as easy to just come up here and landed a role at a public accounting firm.
Adriele Parker: Sure, yeah.
Justin Brantley: No. I mean, even an intern who I was working with this past year, she used to do choreography for the carnival – or for the circus. Excuse me, not a carnival. For the circus. That was amazing to me. I said, “Wow!”
You really got to explore your interests out of college, and now you’re taking a second shot at it. While it is – there are barriers to entry…
Adriele Parker: Anything is possible!
Justin Brantley: …it’s possible. Anything is possible.
Adriele Parker: Anything is possible! [Laugh]
Justin Brantley: [Laugh]
Adriele Parker: Kevin Garnett. KG!
Justin Brantley: Oh, Kevin Garnett! Yeah.
Adriele Parker: Yeah. I’m glad you got the reference. Some people never get in it like, “Oh, gosh!” Classic! Classic! Right? [Laugh] He lived his best life that night. Oh, gosh! Black boy joy. But yeah. I definitely think – like I said, anything is possible. I think there’s certainly an entryway. But it’s helpful to just hear from you, a subject matter expert. You know what that could look like. Any final words or anything else you’d like to share, knowledge you like to drop? It could be about specific to your role or just overall.
Justin Brantley: I say one thing that I’ve learned in this industry is that once you get here, there’s so many avenues you can take. In college, maybe they only talk about audit and tax. But there’s forensic, there’s consulting, there’s wealth management. I’ve had friends who have left public accounting and go get their PhD, work at companies like Spotify, or lead some of the different finance departments of a private company. Helped their own friends, kind of be their CPA or accountant.
The last thing I’ll say, don’t run away from your career aspirations. Regardless how scary they are, you should walk towards them. Because in that way, you see it coming like – if you’re avoiding what you know you have to do, you’re not getting any further.
Adriele Parker: Yeah.
Justin Brantley: Definitely steadfast, even if it’s a big dream. Even it’s a big, big dream. One step at a time, one goal at a time, and you’ll get that.
Adriele Parker: That’s exactly it, taking a step at a time. Well, I so appreciate you doing this. For those of you watching this, there will be a transcribed version of this, link below. Also, a little bit more information about Justin, and hopefully, maybe a couple of resources that you’d like to share with folks that are interested in learning more about auditing. If you have questions, drop me a comment and I hope to see you back here soon.
Justin Brantley: All right. Everybody, thank you.