Treasure, Time, and Talent
Warren Ritter says that he was born with the passion to give back. By building a career in private wealth management, he has found a way to do it.
Born and raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he graduated from Wofford College with a degree in psychology in 2012, Ritter began his career at the state capitol, where he worked on reforming policies involving agriculture machinery and small businesses. With the contacts he made in banking and finance – and a well-earned pedigree in financial services – he soon found himself a lucrative job as a bank manager for Wells Fargo. “I developed some really good business relationships that catapulted me into the corporate world and to downtown Santa Barbara,” Ritter recalls, adding that his first day in town fell on his 25th birthday, June 2, 2015.
From corporate banking, Ritter quickly transitioned to private investing, joining the San Ynez Valley-based firm Wealth Management Strategies, a move that further cemented his dedication to philanthropic endeavors. “By transitioning into private wealth management, it freed up time for me to serve,” he says. And according to Ritter, the passion to serve was always innate. “Associating with like-minded people made it easier for me to act on that passion, yet that doesn’t always have to be the treasure,” Ritter says. “I realized that if you have the time to dedicate or the talent to share, that’s equally valuable too.”
“I always felt that education was an important piece of my work, because many people in our marginalized groups don’t have access to it,” Ritter says. “There is a barrier in what we are taught and how we are taught. What I do now gives me access to information that I can share with others.”
Ritter is also passionate about improving the access of law and justice to minority groups. “These types of changes happen when our leaders reflect the social evolution we want to see. Some of these laws were created by racist and bigoted people who didn’t have the best interests of everyone in mind.”
As an African American leader in Santa Barbara’s business world, Ritter now effects decisions about how to serve the local community. “Being part of these discussions, you have access to all kinds of people,” he says, “which allows you to integrate your personal and professional life.”
Since moving to Santa Barbara in 2015, Ritter has served on the boards of many nonprofit organizations including Creative Wealth International, the Endowment for Youth Committee, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Santa Barbara County Human Services Commission, and the Santa Barbara Education Foundation. He is also the president of Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals (SBYBP). “I helped nurture that group from its infancy stages,” he says. “I’m from South Carolina, so I am used to seeing a little more diversity and acknowledgment of other persons of color.”
When Ritter first arrived in Santa Barbara, he says he didn’t immediately sense the same level of camaraderie, and felt it was up to him to help foster that connection. “This group of about a dozen people was just a bunch of likeminded Black professionals who didn’t really feel comfortable and didn’t exactly have a place to go together,” he explains of SBYBP. “We just wanted to meet up, and one day we showed up and there were 30 people. It was like moths to a flame. Now we have more than 280 members – it’s a beautiful thing.”
With Ritter’s help, SBYBP has promoted network opportunities and workshops that help young African American professionals foster positive relationships in their pursuit of community service. “We make sure all our events focus on that,” he says. The group’s membership includes young professionals between 18 and 40 years old and enjoys a thriving presence in the local college system, including UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, and Westmont College.
“We are trying to make ourselves a stopgap tool to help orient people who are new to town,” Ritter says. “Oftentimes, persons of color come to town for school or work and feel they are missing something – they might not know where to get a haircut or where to get food that they’re missing from back home. We position ourselves so that when you arrive to Santa Barbara, you can come connect with us and we can help you get what you need.”
All this, Ritter adds, helps the organization in its ultimate quest to keep talented young African Americans in town for the long term. “We become a reason to stay,” he says. “Once people have a job here, they will also have a social community that helps them feel connected and supported.”
Ritter brings this same dedication to building community resiliency to his day job with Wealth Management Strategies. “Whether you are talking about big money or small money, it really comes down to a culture of caring,” he says. “How much do you really care about what you talk about – whether it’s solving homelessness or providing better opportunities for low-income families. What we need to do – and what we’re working to accomplish – is to strive to make funds last longer so that rather than throwing a blanket of money at a problem, we can find and fund programs that can help accomplish lasting changes. It’s all about leaving a legacy. How will you be remembered by your family, your friends, and your community? How can you shape the future for the better?”
For Ritter it comes down to the three Ts: time, talent, and treasure. “I can be on a finance board and bring the resources you might not have, or I can contribute a way of thinking about finance because that’s my field. There are different kinds of treasures,” Ritter says, “and with each kind of treasure, you bring a piece of yourself. And I think that’s pretty cool.”