Against All Odds: DALBAR’s History
DALBAR is an award-winning financial services market research firm that prides itself on the remarkable progress it has made within the financial space since its inception. DALBAR was founded in 1976 by CEO Louis S. Harvey – or, as he is known to his colleagues, Lou – and its humble history highlights the importance of cultivating aspirations and persevering against all odds.
DALBAR’s Founder & CEO
Lou has always been an entrepreneur who dreamed big. His business career began in Jamaica, where he initially worked at IBM counting inventory. However, once the inventory was counted, Lou took it upon himself to learn how Jamaica’s first computer worked and to solve problems – ones that would take days to do by hand and slide rule – using advanced computer programming.
Before long, Lou’s passion for computers drove him to migrate to New York, where his career eventually intersected with financial services during the 1970s. Soon, Lou was applying his knowledge of computer systems to the financial services world.
“My journey began with the transition from fascination to a mission. Fascinations drove a thirst for knowledge in science and math (in academia) and then to data processing, computers, and mutual funds (in business),” stated Lou.
Over time, after working with a diverse range of corporate leaders, he said he discovered his mission: “I wanted to be a vice president that represented the intellect, knowledge, and power to make major decisions.”
The path toward becoming a leader of his own company did not come without hurdles.
Lou had great ambitions, which seemed unattainable at the time. As a visible minority, Lou faced cultural challenges related to the color of his skin. He stated, “As for race, I have always been an outsider. In Guatemala I was an outsider because my mother was from Jamaica. In Jamaica I was an outsider because I was from Guatemala. In New York I was not American.”
In addition, his friends and family were initially skeptical about his mission of becoming vice president of a company. “They were proud of my accomplishments, but vice president seemed out of reach,” he said.
Succeeding in New York City’s competitive business sector during the 1960s and 1970s as a visible minority, without the full support of those closest to him, was no easy feat. However, Lou did not allow himself to be deterred by these challenges. He stated that he “remained focused on the mission and not on the hurdles.”
The Birth of a New Business
As Lou progressed through the corporate world in New York City, he recognized the need for a business based on ethics within that space.
After accomplishing his mission of becoming a vice president, and then a senior vice president, he realized, “I wanted to be a success with an ethical foundation.”
This prompted him to found DALBAR in 1976.
The company’s first clients were individuals Lou had encountered in his previous career, who were frank about their issues within the financial services industry. DALBAR’s undertakings arose from these discussions, as Lou proposed solutions to issues.
“The idea of creating standards in support of research then evolved as the mutual fund and retirement industries grew. DALBAR stepped up when opportunities were recognized and created momentary solutions as well as others that have lasted for decades,” he said.
Today, DALBAR is a leading financial research firm, operating in both the US and Canada, that develops ethical standards and measurement systems to improve the quality of products, service, and compliance for financial firms.
Lou, who is now in his early 80s, continues to act as CEO and guide the company with his impeccable leadership and forward-thinking vision for the company.
For those who are looking to build impactful careers, he provides this sound advice: “To help policy-makers make prudent decisions… Apply inherited and learned skills to guide others to seize opportunities and avoid pitfalls.”