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Emem Horton: Let's Talk About Money

Bank executive Emem Horton attributes her life and career successes to her Nigerian-born parents.When this bank executive walks up to greet customers, the exchange stirs emotions that customers can't quite keep to themselves. 
"Being a young Black woman within the banking industry, I've gotten interesting comments," says Emem Horton, who has steadily advanced in the industry from teller to personal banker to assistant branch manager, and now branch manager. "Some customers have questioned my authority. I have also been celebrated by customers who tell me they are proud of me for managing a bank."

Whatever their reactions, Horton's intentions are the same, and that is to help customers. She is responsible for all of the functions of a branch office, including hiring employees, approving loans and lines of credit, marketing the branch, building a rapport with the community and assisting customers with account problems. It's a powerful position for someone who initially had no longterm goals for a career in the banking industry. 

"I initially thought I would work for the bank for only about six months, but nine years later I am still in banking and loving it more and more each day," says Horton, a branch manager for Colorado-based Public Service Credit Union. "We are all about helping members afford life and showing them how to restructure debt to capitalize on their monthly income." 
She has been tempted by other careers that also could have positioned her to make a difference in the lives of others. Prior to her banking career, she earned a sociology degree with an emphasis on women and gender studies and race relations from the University of Colorado Boulder. The former president of CU Black Student Alliance wanted to be a consultant and sociology expert in court cases and legal affairs. But she says, "God had a different plan, revealing a different path" and the banking industry stuck with her. 

A few years into her banking career, she earned a master's degree in higher education leadership from Argosy University, Denver with the expectation that she would direct her career to academia as a dean or provost and venture outside of the state of Colorado. But, her desire to transform lives daily by providing financial education, advice and guidance to the community far outweighed the prospect of a new career. And the desire was planted early by an education-oriented family.  

Horton attributes her life and career successes to the influences and guidance from her Nigerian-born parents who moved to the United States to attend college and raise a family. Her mother is a nurse specializing in elderly care and her father is a Petroleum engineer. “My parents have always stressed that education is the key to success. Furthering our education was always presented to my sisters and I as a priority, a must -- not an option.” 

Furthermore, when she was a teenager, one of Horton’s two older sisters and role models worked for a bank. Both sisters helped her to set up her own first bank account and taught her how to properly use a debit card when she was only fourteen. From the casual visits to the bank to hearing about the daily ins and outs of working within the financial industry, the conversations about finances flowed naturally into the home. While many tend to stray away from financial conversations, Horton addresses them head on every day when interacting with her bank members. "The interactions are personalized and catered towards my members’ needs," she says.
Emem Horton, who holds a sociology degree, says, “Ignoring your credit will not fix your credit. You need to fully examine it and find the root of the problem."
Her ability to help extends beyond the walls of a bank building.

"When I realized that many of my family and friends, the people I love were as unaware of finances in general and how my knowledge positively impact their financial picture, I knew God had revealed my calling," says the Colorado native, wife and mother of a 1-year-old son. "This is when I realized that financial literacy is the key to success and true financial freedom. Using my education, work and personal experiences to educate my community is something I strive to do. It is important to me to utilize my gifts and resources to reach back and help lift my community as those before me have done.”  

The Financial Basics
For Horton, the education process begins with explaining the basics of saving, budgeting and understanding your credit score. She says people need to prioritize their savings and make sure to pay themselves just as they would their light bill, rent or mortgage. She notes that little things add up, so it's important to create a budget and to know where your money is going.  

She adds, “Often times you can cut out small expenses and restructure your spending to use your financial resources to benefit your family and fund your future plans."  

She warns people not to ignore their credit score, particularly if it is not in good condition. “Ignoring your credit will not fix your credit. You need to fully examine it and find the root of the problem. Don’t allow negative items to ferment, rot or potentially decompose your financial profile."  

If people face their financial health head on and actively work to correct issues, it can take anywhere from three months to a year to see fruitful and significant changes. If you're working towards buying a home, that's not a long time to prepare. 

To increase financial literacy, Horton recently started her own consulting firm, E&H Consulting, and has conducted presentations, seminars and workshops for community organizations, namely women's groups.
"It is rewarding to see women open up about their goals and dreams, and also to be in a position to direct and guide them on how to reach their financial goals," she says.
To learn more about E&H Consulting, contact Horton at emem.horton@gmail.com

 “Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled”
is an online series published by Canady’s Corner to honor Black women who are making a mark in the world in their very own way.