Middle-Age White Guys Need Not Apply: AIG’s Advisor Group Diversifies Recruitment

CEO Larry Roth says ‘the only way to serve our customers and advisors is to mirror the population’

AIG's Advisor Group is actively recruiting more women with its Generation I initiative. AIG's Advisor Group is actively recruiting more women with its Generation I initiative.

Advisor Group President and Chief Executive Larry Roth is “super excited” about recruitment these days, and not just because his AIG-owned network of independent broker-dealers is scooping up advisors in droves as they leave less profitable IBDs behind.

What’s got Roth charged up is the way demographics and technology are driving change all across the advisor industry. The traditional image of the wirehouse brokerage-trained advisor serving strictly high-net-worth white males is giving way as growing numbers of women, minorities and members of the LGBT community are challenging assumptions about who the average investor is, according to Roth.

“Our industry and our firm are changing dramatically,” said Roth during a sit-down interview with AdvisorOne and the chief executives of Advisor Group broker-dealers FSC Securities Corp., SagePoint Financial and Woodbury Financial. “The only way to serve our customers and advisors is to mirror the population. With the millions of underserved populations and the shortage of advisors, a bunch of middle-age white guys can’t fix it all.”

Seeking a 50/50 Split of Women and Men

For now, white males still dominate the advisor and executive ranks at Advisor Group, but Roth—who was sharing his thoughts during the firm’s seventh annual Women’s Conference in Chicago—said that within 10 years, he would like to see women occupying half of Advisor Group’s ranks both as advisors and as senior executives.

Larry Roth, Advisor Group's president and CEO“We’re not happy where we are, but we’re trending in the right direction, and we’re doing better than many of our competitors,” said Roth (right), adding that Advisor Group has committed more than $100 million for technology upgrades to its wealth management platform over the last five years.

Roth, who was named to Investment Advisor magazine’s IA 25 in both 2012 and 2013, has made a name for himself as an industry trendsetter. He is the 2013 chairman of the Financial Services Institute (FSI) as well as the chairman of the board of directors of the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI).

Across AIG Life and Retirement’s Advisor Group, which brought in about $14 million in revenues in first-quarter 2013, a total of 104 new advisors joined the firm in Q1. Roth said the business continuds to be tough for smaller IBDs as well as large firms such as The Hartford and MetLife, which recently fired 1,000 advisors. Meanwhile, Advisor Group in late 2012 completed its purchase of Woodbury Financial Services from The Hartford. With the addition of Woodbury, Advisor Group consists of more than 6,000 independent financial advisors, more than 800 home office employees and over $125 billion in assets under management.

Woodbury President and CEO Pat McEvoy said in the AdvisorOne interview on Monday that regulatory and market pressures were driving both advisors and IBDs to join larger firms. “Compliance alone is making them look elsewhere,” McEvoy said, noting that movement to new firms is happening even during this time of U.S. stock market strength. Typically, advisors are happy to stay put at their existing firms during bullish markets.

'There Are No Traditional Entry Points Into This Business Anymore'

A lot of men also are exiting Advisor Group simply because they’re retiring from the advisor business, with the average age now at 55—and more advisors at 60-plus than under 30, Roth pointed out. He agreed with Erica McGinnis, Advisor Group’s chief compliance officer and leader of the firm’s newly launched Generation I women’s initiative that the firm wants to use the initiative as a model for working on development and mentoring with other groups such as Asians, Latinos and the LGBT community.

“Larry’s commitment is absolutely genuine,” McGinnis said. “I don’t know how to convince someone that it is, but I didn’t walk into Larry’s office and suggest it. This was borne from our entire executive team.”

Currently, just 15% of Advisor Group’s advisors are women. But with women controlling two-thirds of annual U.S. spending and 70% of those women preferring to work with a female advisor, it’s inevitable that more women will come on board as recruits, McGinnis said.

“There’s a new emphasis around women in general, and it’s not just advisors, it’s investors,” she said. “We’re looking for women who could come here as a second career or as college grads. Not enough boomers are being replaced. At our first women’s advisory board, which has eight women, we asked, ‘How did you get there?’ and every single woman had a different, unique story to tell. Not one of them came from what you would call a traditional channel. We have a nurse, a teacher, a woman who was on welfare. There are no traditional entry points into this business anymore.”

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