Westporter paved way for Black broker-dealers on Wall Street

WESTPORT — Winston Allen faced rejection in the investing industry. But instead of giving up, he took matters into his own hands to become one of the first Black men to open a broker-dealer service on Wall Street.

Allen, who now lives in Westport, grew up in Harlem and attended New York University, earning a degree in economics.

He originally became a teacher at a 600 school, a school at the time for youth considered delinquent or maladjusted, and eventually got an opportunity to work at a high school.

While teaching, he decided to take a different route in his career and applied for the Fulbright Scholarship, which he got in 1961, taking him to Paris. There, he continued his economic studies.

When he came back, he applied to Goldman Sachs and Neiman Brothers. 

But, Allen said, there was always an issue, and he didn’t get either job. 

“When I got there, and they realized I was a Black man, I think their decision was ‘No, this is not what we want,'” he said. 

So, Allen said he decided to find another way to get to Wall Street.

“I realized that you could become an independent broker-dealer if you pass all these requirements,” he said. 

And he did. 

At the end of 1962, Allen received a letter indicating he was accepted as a broker-dealer in Wall Street after passing the National Association of Securities Dealers examination.  

He said he wanted to prepare himself to handle securities and sell mutual funds. Allen then started his own firm, Creative Investor Services, making him one of the first Black man to do so on Wall Street.

“I enjoyed it immensely,” Allen said about his career with Creative Investor Services. 

Allen said he believes his company helped paved the way for other people of color on Wall Street. 

“It opened the door for a few extraordinarily successful individuals,” he said. “The companies now started to use that market that they found was lucrative to advertise for their company. You see Black people in the advertisements that you did not see in the 1950s or so forth.”

After opening his own firm, Allen said he realized that he could get the people he knew to put their discretionary funds into a systematic investment program, where they could put aside money each month into mutual funds that were most suitable for them. 

He said though he did this on a part-time basis as he continued teaching, he was successful with it. 

“There were so many people out there that never had an opportunity to get involved in investing in any way,” he said. “Nobody was approaching them.”

After doing that for about a year, Allen said he wanted to expand the company and build a base of registered representatives who passed the Series Seven exam, an entrance exam for people to be general securities representatives.

He recruited dozens of individuals who worked in various industries, many of whom were Black, to take his crash course for the exam, which taught them to eliminate certain answers for multiple choice questions. 

Allen said that more than 90 percent of the people he recruited passed the exam, which he said is remarkable, as it is detailed and challenging. 

“Before long, I had, probably, 50 or 60 people that were in my corporation and were receiving compensation based on their performance as sales personnel,” Allen said. 

He said that over time, both the men and women who worked in his company became motivated and successful. 

Allen also began to host seminars at the Americana Hotel in New York City, teaching attendees how to pass the exam, while taking classes at Fordham University for his doctorate. He was spotted by the New York Times in 1968, who wrote an article about him for the front page of the financial section. 

That was a breakthrough, too, he said. He started receiving letters from interested companies for mutual funds and employees.

Allen decided to leave teaching and got picked up by a community college to be its discovery program director. He did this for a year while continuing to study at Fordham, which eventually asked him to join the faculty as he got his degree.

In 1970, Xerox Corporation’s board chairman saw the New York Times article and asked him to join the company in Virginia for triple his salary, he said. He agreed, but wanted to retain ownership of Creative Investor Services.

He stayed there until he was moved to Xerox’s Stamford location, about three years later, finding a house in Westport. 

After working with Xerox for years, he left in the early 1980s and got into the real estate industry while continuing to own Creative Investor Services. 

Two years ago, Allen sold Creative Investor Services. 

Now that he’s lived in Westport for many years and traveled the world with his wife, they are setting up a museum with artifacts in their home, which they hope to open around April. He said they have important pieces, including indigenous art and artifacts, as well as Ella Fitzgerald memorabilia, who is wife is related to by marriage.

Allen is also the author of three books: “Don’t Get Mad, Get Rich,” “I Pried Open Wall Street in 1962” and “Live a Purposeful and Meaningful Life.”

He even recently presented his story at the Westport Museum for History and Culture

“There’s a great deal of opportunity if someone is interested in pursuing their passion… and opening a business, being an entrepreneur, as I was,” he said.