October 23, 2013

Not Enough Women in the Industry: Raymond James Execs

Leaders outline some short-term steps the firm is taking to raise its long-term number of female reps

Tash Elwyn (left), Chet Helck & Scott Curtis at the '13 Raymond James Women's Symposium. Tash Elwyn (left), Chet Helck & Scott Curtis at the '13 Raymond James Women's Symposium.

Top managers at Raymond James (RJF) say they know more women are needed in the upper levels of the firm and across the industry.

“Our professional ratios should be like the ratios of our clients,” said Chet Helck, CEO of private-client operations, before 200 female advisors and other guests at the Raymond James Women’s Symposium in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

“We’re at a healthy level,” Helck added, looking around the conference hall, “but I don’t think it will get there in my lifetime. Progress is slow, though significant.”

On the final day of the event, he and other executives highlighted steps the firm is taking to move things in a more positive direction. “We want to organically train and attract more female talent,” said Helck, “and as we achieve this, the ratio should change across the organization."

He pointed to Bella Allaire, head of technology and operations for the firm, as an example of positive momentum. And Scott Curtis, who leads the firm’s independent channel, mentioned that one of the unit’s six regional directors is a woman, Jodi Perry.  

Having more women at different levels and throughout the organization “helps us help you,” said Tash Elwyn, head of the firm’s employee channel, “and it’s critical for our long-term business success."

Numbers Game

“We want to turn this challenge into an opportunity, as CEO Paul Reilly has explained at this event,” noted Elwyn. “This comes about through succession planning, recruiting and new-advisor training and development.”

About 35% of participants in Raymond James’ training program are women, he adds, “which is a significant number.” Plus, the firm couples the training with extensive mentoring and other support. (About 120 enter the new-advisor training program each year.)

A good number of the firm’s female advisors, perhaps as many as one-third, used to be service associates, Elwyn notes.

The Private Client Group, in cooperation with the Women’s Advisory Council of Raymond James, has just launched a registered service associate program, he says. This pilot project identified 10 high-potential service associates for one year of special training and development.  

In addition, the employee channel started a branch-associate recognition program a year ago, modeled on the recognition programs for advisors.

“These efforts also play into succession planning,” added Helck, because a number of associates have stepped in and stepped up to help run and later manage some sizeable practices.

Recruiting Roundup

During the women’s event this week, 19 non-Raymond James advisors visited with executives and others to assess whether or not it made sense for them to switch firms.

“We are very proud of this number,” said Helck, “because turnover in the industry is very low right now.”

While Elwyn says that figure is roughly double last year’s figure, “It’s still not high enough,” stressed Scott Curtis, head of the company’s independent channel, “though we are thrilled to have these women advisors visiting with us.”

Of the 19, many currently work for the four wirehouse firms, others are employed by regional broker-dealers, and the remaining reps are affiliated with other independent broker-dealers.

In terms of the wirehouses, “Many of their advisors conclude a move from one to another is not going to change their life or their clients’ experience very much,” said Raymond James CFO Dennis Zank, in an interview.

“What are the alternatives? We have to be on these inquiry lists,” Zank added. “That means we should have the opportunity to chat with these advisors, and that’s a pretty nice position.”

He notes that adding more women to the firm as advisors and in other posts is viewed as a “generational change,” meaning that the firm and the industry need to get more younger, capable people into the business to better reflect current demographics.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Zank. But as his colleagues and many advisors discussed at the event, it isn’t an easy change to bring about, either.

“We will overcome the hurdles,” said Reilly, as women increase their economic influence. “And this is great place for them to be. They’re comfortable with our firm and our values.”

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Check out Raymond James CEO: ‘Our Focus Is Not on Acquisitions’ on ThinkAdvisor.

 

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