From the September 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

AIG Exec Larry Roth on Independence, Growth

(CHICAGO) AIG Advisor Group President and CEO Larry Roth gave the opening address at the firm's "Why Women Are Winning" event. He later shared some of his views on the organization, which includes AIG Financial Advisors of Phoenix, FSC Securities Corporation of Atlanta and Royal Alliance of New York.

How did the women's conference get off the ground? This is the second women's conference. FSC in Atlanta held one with some of their top female advisors, about 18 months ago in 2006, with the idea of exchanging ideas, brainstorming and sharing best practices. It was a really big hit. A year later, other AIG advisor groups, discussed having another event open to top female advisors across the organization.

Now it is an annual event. And our intention is to really build something broader around it. We don't want it to be just a one-time [once-a-year] opportunity, but we want it to have a web strategy and be part of break-out sessions at other meetings.

We have a very significant meeting, training and education budget. We would like to have a hybrid approach with both broker-dealer specific meetings and overall advisor-group meetings with women's programs. We feel so fortunate to have so many smart people spread throughout our firms, and we don't want access to these people to be limited.

Of our 7,500 advisors, slightly more than 25 percent are female. Many top practices are women-owned or have women in them.

Why do women FAs thrive in the independent model? If you look at certain law firms and big CPA firms that specialize in adapting the workplace to women who might have children and/or have left the workforce but then come back to it, the environment is so flexible.

Within our environment, you can design any type of practice that allows you to mix your personality and skills with any type of client, and that model is perfectly suited to those who need any type of flexibility in their schedule. And it is a low-cost-of-entry model.

You can always hire people to help you with those sides of the business that aren't your cup of tea. You have a lot more longevity with your clients, too, because you can continue to do this into your 70s and 80s.

At the big regional and wirehouse firms, this just doesn't seem to fit their business model.

Your group has just tapped Jeff Auld to lead AIG Financial Advisors and Mark Schlafly to head FSC. How do you give your advisors a sense of continuity in light of these and other executive changes? Advisors get up in morning thinking about their clients, first, and their business, second. And we have to continue to run a high-quality back office, so that they know we are continuing to invest in the business and focusing on things like technology and our investment-advisory platform, since they need those tools to run their business.

Schlafly and Auld are very positive for us, since their reputation in the industry is having an advisor focus. We have had no push back or calls from advisors about the changes we've made, and I don't expect that we will.

How is recruiting going? The last few years, recruiting has been tough, because advisors have been busy serving clients and to move is disruptive. Plus, many advisors we serve have big businesses now.

Historically when things are a little bit rocky, recruiting picks up somewhat. But honestly, we've gone from feast to famine in the past six months. I'm not sure what exactly is going to happen, but I think recruiting will continue to be difficult.

Our retention rates have been fabulous the last few years, so it doesn't hurt us that much when recruiting is difficult. We are actively recruiting, but it's a funny time right now.

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Janet Levaux, MBA/MA, is the managing editor of Research; reach her at jlevaux@researchmag.com.

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