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"What does it mean to be you with us?" – Charles King

Internal Sales Sr. Analyst

I was born in South Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul, alternating between my mother and grandparents. I was raised by a single mother with my older sister.

My mother worked hard at three jobs to provide for our family. After marrying my stepfather, she went back to school to be a teacher. Her drive to do and want more was and is still inspiring. As a history teacher, she taught “real” and uncensored history, and was harassed for it. My biological father was around, but he wasn’t really part of my life. I still talk to him occasionally to make sure he’s doing alright but the person I look to for guidance is my stepfather, who I call “dad.” He has been there for me since I was three years old and I talk to him daily.

Charles King, standing arm crossed

My stepfather’s connection with my mom started in high school. After high school, they went their separate ways but eventually found their way back to each other. I remember when I was four years old, my dad asked my permission to marry my mom, that’s the kind of stand-up guy he is. Seeing him and my mother never give up on their goals and dreams has really shaped the person I am.

My stepfather is a magna cum laude Harvard Law graduate and co-founder of Nilan, Johnson, Lewis, a Minneapolis law firm and at one time the largest Black-owned law firm in the Midwest. He is the smartest person I know, and always made me work for what I wanted. He gave me a lawn mower with a full tank of gas for my fourteenth birthday, along with a message that said you can have anything you want if you work hard enough.

My grandfather was also an exceptional man and someone I looked up to. Growing up Native and Black in St. Louis, Missouri was not easy for him, but he managed to get an education and move to Minnesota, where he met my grandmother and became the first Black licensed realtor in the Midwest. He was instrumental in several large projects in Minnesota, including the first indoor shopping mall in the nation. To watch him succeed in a predominantly White industry was inspiring to say the least. His path was not easy, but he taught me that no matter what you do, do the best you can.

A unique path to education

Growing up, I was a knucklehead and probably too smart for my own good. I wasn’t a bad kid, I just wasn’t focused on the right things. I didn’t do my work in school because it was boring and I didn’t feel challenged. At sixteen, I decided to put my lawnmower to use and work full time, part of the reason why I didn’t finish high school. I discovered that yard work paid well and I could get anything I wanted with hard work. I’m pretty sure that’s not what my dad meant when he gave me the mower.

I got my G.E.D. when I was seventeen and started an automotive engineering program at Dunwoody College of Technology the next year. At the end of my second year, I dropped out of the program with an associate degree in automotive technology. I worked at UPS for three years while working on cars on the side. I loved and still love anything that has to do with cars — driving, building, repairing.

In 2003, I joined the Army at age twenty-two and was deployed to Iraq. Three years later, I was medically retired due to injury which was very difficult for me as I had anticipated making a career of it. Retirement from the Army led me to Savannah, Georgia where I tried to raise my family. But it didn’t work, I wasn't the same person I was when I deployed. Instead, I came back broken; I didn’t get the help I needed, and my marriage ultimately ended in divorce in 2007.

Feeling alone and broken, I went back to school at Savannah State University, where I double majored in PC repair, and Network Administration. Working in this field didn’t make me happy so I went back to working on cars and became a foreman. This also wasn’t working for me, and I still wasn’t getting the help I needed. In February of 2012, my stepfather came to Savannah and brought me back to Minnesota. He saved my life. If it wasn’t for that pivotal moment, I likely would not be sharing this story now.

Charles King sitting on a couch

Once back in Minnesota, I went back to working on cars and in 2013, I helped pilot a Veterans Treatment Court by being the first enrollee in the program. In 2016, I re-enrolled in college and graduated from Metro State with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in economics. I never would have thought, that as a high school dropout, I would end up with 4 degrees.

Most of my electives were in financial management, which I feel set me up for the opportunity at Securian in April 2022. I started in Wealth Management, and in less than one year, I have been promoted to the Internal Sales Sr. Analyst of SecureCare for the Midwest and West Coast territories. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given since joining Securian and for the people who have believed in me along the way.

Being intentional about diversity in the workplace

One of the best parts of working at Securian Financial is the relationships I have and can build. I remember my first day at Securian, the entire team welcomed me and that has been my experience of people I have met outside of my teams. There are tons of opportunities to network, both internally and externally, providing endless possibilities. The room for growth is incredible. That being said, I am aware that I work in an industry where African Americans are generally under represented. I believe companies need to be more intentional about hiring people of color. In my opinion, people are afraid to have difficult conversations when it comes to Race, but these conversations and holding our leaders accountable is important to increase the racial diversity in the workplace. Currently, I see it mostly present at middle and lower levels and often wonder which of the ten largest financial organizations even have an African American person on their Board of Directors or in upper management. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Securian has a Black man on our Board of Directors.

Charles king, smiling, bio photo

I work in an industry where African Americans are generally under represented.

Coming into one of the Nation’s least diverse industries as a person of color is not something I take lightly. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the women, especially the women of color, in a historically white male-dominated industry. It takes a whole different level of strength and determination to succeed, and I hope people recognize that.

“Be You. With Us” means bringing my full self to work, and not trying to fit a certain mold or leave parts of me at the door. It also means helping others do the same. Outside of my day job, I am part of the Servicemember Associate Resource Group (SARG) leadership team. SARG helps veterans, current service members and military allies build relationships and promote the recruitment of veterans. I am here to help; I want to bring as many of us veterans and service members together as possible. I want veterans to know that there is a supportive community outside of the war zone with the same camaraderie you have in the military. SARG directly supports me personally and professionally.

I am also a member the Association for Wholesaling Diversity (AWD) and graduate of their Wholesaler Development Program. AWD is a magnificent organization that promotes the success of Black men and women in financial services. Securian Financial is a gold level sponsor which makes me very proud to work for an organization that cares about people that look like me. I would encourage any young Black professionals to look for opportunities with AWD and Securian Financial.

Be you. With us.

At Securian Financial, we want all our associates – current and future – to bring us their ideas, their passion and their most authentic selves.

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Meet our colleagues

As our organization works to create a culture of inclusivity and belonging we’ve launched a series of stories sharing what it means to be you with us at Securian.

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Charles King is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. His statement was given freely.

DOFU 2-2024