Edward Jones will launch its Bridge program for diversity this week, building on the success of its recently reintroduced WINGS program for hiring and training female financial advisors.
According to Monica Giuseffi, principal of inclusion and diversity at Edward Jones, the firm has developed a program that features a recruiting event set to take place Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Denver: “Future of Finance — Culture of Diversity.”
“Our charter is to move the needle,” said Giuseffi, who was selected to run the program 10 months ago, in an interview. “We want to advance diversity in our field.”
Edward Jones is in line with the industry average, with up to about 19% of all financial advisors being women. Yet diverse advisors — those of different ethnic backgrounds — represent just 10% of advisors across the industry on average. At Edward Jones, this number is roughly 7%.
The firm uses U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines to define its diversity populations, which include African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Pacific Northwest Islanders. Edward Jones also welcomes veterans, the disabled and members of the LGBTQ community into its diversity programs.
The firm’s goal is to have half of the field agent force — currently 15,000 advisors — made up of women and 33% made up of diverse FAs over time, according to Giuseffi, with progress likely to be seen over the next five or six years.
“Bridge isn’t an acronym, just a strong word,” Giuseffi said. “We have 55 leaders for WINGS [Women’s Initiative for New Growth Strategies] and Bridge. They’ve been tasked with delivering six specific strategies that relate to the performance and health of diverse FAs and growth to attract more diverse advisors.”
As for performance, leaders are deploying mentorship programs, training and coaching reps, and working with them on client-sourcing strategies, Giuseffi says.
“The early data is astounding — attrition falls off significantly if women and diverse [advisors] participate [in such programs] … They all are auto enrolled in the program, but they don’t always participate, so Bridge leaders are asked to work through all senior leadership to insure 100% participation.”
Growth strategies include attracting talent by holding WHOW (Women Helping Other Women) and summits nationwide that focus on diversity, like the one being held this week in Denver. Other steps being taken include collaboration with Edward Jones’ growth division to plug into the firm’s regional infrastructure and the hosting of Edward Jones opportunity presentations to individuals not with the firm.
For these efforts, Bridge leaders ask advisors within a region to explain how they are active within their communities and how they approach outside clubs and organizations to spread the work on opportunities at the firm.
There are hurdles, Giuseffi says, but she believes having more robust support for community outreach as well as better messaging will help attract more diverse advisors and clients, who may feel more comfortable working with registered reps with similar backgrounds to theirs.
The launch of the Bridge program also follows Edward Jones Managing Partner Jim Weddle’s signing of a pledge with 150 other CEOs to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The program’s success within the corporate headquarters, as well as success of the WINGS program, also prompted Edward Jones to move the program into the field, the inclusion executive says.
Edward Jones launched its first WINGS program in 2009. It closed WINGS in 2012 and then redesigned and reintroduced it in September, after Weddle’s pledge singing.