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Desperately Seeking Women: IRI Research Explains Advisor Gap

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Careers in the financial advising field are expected to grow at twice the rate for all jobs between now and 2020—but where are the women?

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) on Monday released new research findings that identify strategies to recruit more women to the financial advising field because of what amounts to a desperate shortage of them. Although financial advising as a career is projected to grow 32% from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a large part of that that growth needs to come from women, says Cathy Weatherford, IRI President and CEO.

Only three in 10 advisors are now women, yet 70% of women would prefer to work with a female advisor, the IRI study finds.

“What we have is a women’s market that is flourishing,” Weatherford said in a statement. “By and large, women consumers would prefer to work with women advisors. The financial advising field is already experiencing considerable growth, but given the emergence of the women’s market, the opportunities for women advisors are more than substantial. As such, firms’ ability to recruit and retain women advisors is only going to grow in importance.”

Weatherford announced the study’s findings at Advisor Group’s seventh annual Women’s Conference in Chicago, a day after Advisor Group announced its own Generation I initiative to recruit more women to the firm. Advisor Group President and Chief Executive Larry Roth is the chairman of IRI’s board of directors.

“I want to share with you a personal goal,” Roth told 250 female financial advisors from FSC Securities Corp., Royal Alliance, SagePoint Financial and Woodbury Financial in attendance at the Advisor Group conference. “Before I retire—and I’m not a young man—I would like to see the advisor population mirror that of your client base. We know that half of the wealth in this country is controlled by women. Let’s get rid of the old white guys. The way to do that is with more female advisors in the business.”

Based in Washington, D.C., the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) is a not-for-profit trade group that for 20 years has represented the interests of the insured retirement industry. IRI also serves as an information source about annuities, insured retirement strategies and retirement planning.

 Key findings from the IRI report:

  • The survey of college-educated women age 25 to 49 found job-training provisions would increase the likelihood of women pursuing careers as financial advisors. On-the-job training would be the most effective, followed by online training or training through a local college or university.
  • When evaluating a job, 94% of college-educated women value work/life balance. Among other very or extremely important factors, 90% value a good relationship with their boss, 87% value meaningful work, 85% value good relationships with colleagues and 85% value salary.
  • Of women who expressed an interest in becoming a financial advisor, salary considerations and growth of the field were the primary drivers.
  • Firms can enhance their appeal to women by providing affinity groups and mentoring programs to enhance on-the-job training. When recruiting female advisors, firms should emphasize these programs as well as efforts to improve work/life balance to overcome perception barriers regarding generating clients and job stress.
  • Testing associated with licensing to become a financial advisor does not inhibit most women from pursuing the profession. Three-quarters of women said testing has no influence on their interest in becoming an advisor.
“We’re all trailblazers here,” Weatherford told the women at the Advisor Group conference. “Women may represent only 30% of financial advisors today, but they’re unbelievably well-suited to the profession. Women are relationship-driven, consultative and compassionate. It makes you the right people to serve Americans who are seeking security in retirement.”

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


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