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Margaret Starner: A Raymond James ‘Maverick’—Top Women Extended Profile

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Margaret Starner, CFP, entered the field of financial planning in the early ‘80s and says she owes much of her success to those who’ve supported her during the past three decades – especially other women.

(Starner is one of the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.)

“Some other women advisors became part of my network, like Alexandra Armstrong (who now leads Armstrong, Fleming & Moore in Washington, D.C.),” Starner said. “She was a leader who had a great impact on many of us at the time.”

Women in the field were “a close-knit group and I was fortunate to be a part of it, since there not yet many textbooks on what to do back then. Planning was a fairly new concept,” explained Starner.

The vemargaret starnerteran advisor now leads the Starner Group, which has about $350 million in assets under management and is based in Coral Gables, Fla. She works with two associates – Scott Weingarden and Bruce Cacho-Negrete – and several other staff at the Raymond James & Associates office.

Over the years, and still today, her main role has been that of an advocate – and a fairly vocal one at that. “I tend to say what others may not be comfortable saying, about things like getting more time for training and time for doing what we need to do.”

She believes many women like to have such “lead time” for learning and preparation in their professional endeavors. “This time to get up to speed increases our confidence,” Starner said.

When female advisors or other women in the field face challenges or “hit walls,” they also like to turn to other women “to help them get through it, like girlfriends do when it comes to personal issues,” she noted. “They need a sounding board, too.”

“I knew someone who was going through a bit of a crisis, so I worked with another colleague to organize Tuesday and Thursday calls for her,” said Starner. “This way, we’d offer her our thoughts, and this gave her the courage to terminate some clients and people working for her.

“Within four to five months, she was out of the rough patch and is today a super-successful advisor again. And it beats going to the bar,” the veteran advisor joked.

“When you recognize these rough patches, it’s good to step up to the plate and be proactive,” she said. “And I do have male colleagues call me, too.” The capacity to both ask for help and offer it is important for all advisors, Starner notes.

“Raymond James makes it easy,” she shared. “[Executive Chairman] Tom James is a huge advocate of supporting women and recognized early that they could be good advisors.”

The Raymond James Network for Women Advisors hosts an annual conference, Starner says, “and from the start, we were given complete freedom in how to frame the program and target it to what women really want and need.”

She believes this forum allows Raymond James to “recruit better and better women and create an environment in which more women can succeed. For me as a woman, it’s given me a forum to encourage others, and that could have been harder otherwise.”

The broker-dealer is now led by CEO Paul Reilly. “He’s an equal advocate,” said Starner. “He has four daughters, so women continue to be a priority at the top – and we have had so much freedom to help each other.”

See the lead news article on the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the profiles of all the 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the article on the process for choosing the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the 2010 50 Top Women in Wealth.