May 20, 2011

TD Ameritrade Wants More Women Advisors and Investors

‘We’re moving in the right direction,’ says Tom Bradley--but slowly

TD Ameritrade Institutional announced Thursday that it has launched an outreach effort to aid in professional development of women advisors. It also said it aims to provide RIAs with additional tools needed to effectively market their services to female investors.

“It’s obvious, and something we as an industry have to recognize, that we have a problem with diversity, and especially with attracting women to the profession,” said Tom Bradley in an interview at the National Association for Personal Financial Planners annual conference in Salt Lake City, where he was a keynote speaker.

“There are really two issues; one is attracting women to the profession and the second is women as investors. A big part of this is treating and communicating with women in a manner with which they’re comfortable.”

Bradley says this is one reason for the new initiative. The second is in studying and contrasting behavior between the sexes.

“On the retail brokerage side, we see men much more active in their trading,” he added. “Women are much more ‘buy-and-hold.’”

The company sponsored NAPFA’s Women’s Initiative pre-conference event Tuesday, a program designed to attract and support women as leaders within the profession. 

“We’re continuing to do what we always do, which is to sponsor and participate in events, and ask female advisors about their challenges and what help they might need,” added Kate Healy, TD’s director of solutions and client marketing, who is responsible for heading up the program.

The genesis for the initiative, Healy said, was the lack of gender parity they noticed when putting together new practice management platforms.

“Parity in many other industries is close to 50%, which isn’t the case here,” she explained. “Just like we do with technology—and really all our platforms—we asked for advisor input in the practice management area. They came back to us and said more outreach to women advisors and investors.”

She notes women like to talk with other women. She also notes women inherit twice, once from their parents and then typically once from their spouse.

“And when envisioning retirement, men are typically direct and say ‘I want a beach house,’” she explained. “Women are more indirect by saying they want to provide for family, then have money left over to spend time with friends and family and then they’ll say they’d like to maybe do it in a beach house. These are the types of issues we as an industry have to educate ourselves better on.”

Sponsoring networking and professional development events is just one way TD Ameritrade Institutional helps to advance women advisors. According to the company, it’s also working with successful women advisors to create mentoring and coaching programs leveraging its practice management and educational resources. The TD Ameritrade Institutional Women’s Advisory Panel will serve as a sounding board for feedback on relevant issues and challenges facing women advisors and investors.  

When asked about industry-wide outreach efforts to date, Bradley said “we’re moving in the right direction, but it is very, very slow. We need to speed that up.”

Like Bradley, Healy sees “pockets of success “within the industry, but agreed more are needed.

“Women have historically been underrepresented in the advisor ranks; we’re working to change that,” Bradley said. “Women have also been underserved as investors by the financial services industry as a whole even though they control $14 trillion in assets. Advisors who recognize and effectively respond to the growing influence women have over household investing decisions will be well-positioned to gain market share and differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive environment.”

According to a TD Ameritrade survey of 1,000 investors, more women (56%) feel they need professional investment guidance than men (46%).

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