From the August 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

MS-SB Makes Push for More Female FAs

The Women Financial Advisors Forum is now online for women interested in becoming financial advisors at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney says it has launched the Women Financial Advisors Forum online for women interested in becoming financial advisors at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which as of June 1 includes about 18,500 global representatives in some 1,000 locations worldwide.

The website aims to highlight "the opportunities, challenges and advantages of a financial advisor career for women," the venture says.

"We are very pleased to launch the Women Financial Advisors Forum," explains Andy Saperstein, head of Wealth Management. "We are committed to making Morgan Stanley Smith Barney the firm of choice for the world's best financial advisors, and this initiative is part of our efforts to cast a wide net for talent and support women in their careers and professional development."

The site includes a forum for questions and concerns, information about the job requirements of an advisor, how to apply, career development and frequently asked questions. See http://womenfaforum.morganstanleysmithbarney.com.

It has been introduced a year after Citigroup agreed to pay some $33 million to settle a San Francisco lawsuit brought by 2,500 Smith Barney female advisors.

Recently, Jamie Goodman of Merrill Lynch accused Bank of America of discriminating against female financial advisors by offering them lower retention bonuses than their male counterparts, Reuters reports.

The advisor's suit seeks class-action status and claims that since wealthier clients have been steered to male advisors, female advisors were typically eligible for only lower production-based bonuses.

It comes 13 year after a widely publicized discrimination suit was brought against Merrill, and the broker-dealer implemented a national account-distribution plan that included teams of advisors as a means of eliminating discrimination.

The most recent lawsuit was filed as Goodman v. Merrill Lynch & Co., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 09-5841. It was brought by Goodman, who has worked for Merrill Lynch since 1992.

According to Reuters and the lawsuit, Goodman is in the top-quintile of Merrill's 15,800 financial advisors and has been a $1-million producer for nearly a decade. She is being represented by Stowell & Friedman of Chicago.

The Bank of America, which owns Merrill Lynch, says it will vigorously defend itself and that its merit-based retention program was executed fairly and without discrimination.

"To serve U.S. wealth, you need a broker force that looks like that wealth," says Chip Roame, head of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, a consulting firm serving the financial-services industry. "And you need to have a broker force that can capably serve the diversity of wealth."

Recruiting efforts that further these objectives are valuable, Roame notes, but they have to be complemented by efforts to retain advisors from a diversity of backgrounds. "You can't just hire --- you also have to be committed to retaining diverse brokers with a strong retention plan," he explains.

Creating the right work environment, i.e. a corporate culture that is truly welcoming, is also crucial to such an effort. "Hiring is just the first step," concludes Roame. "We need to see the brokerage firms retain women, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and others."
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