Raymond James hosted its 20th annual Women’s Symposium in October in St. Petersburg, Florida, celebrating with a record crowd of nearly 500 female advisors, prospective advisors, staff and educational partners. It also shared plans for several technology updates with the attending reps.
“This is the biggest symposium ever, as it should be,” said Sacha Millstone, an employee advisor with Raymond James in Boulder, Colorado, at the event’s opening session.
During the recent recession, “When we could capitalize on a great opportunity in the industry, Tom James announced the firm’s succession plans, and then CEO Paul Reilly challenged us to think very big … and make Raymond James the firm of choice for female advisors,” Millstone explained. “We are now acknowledged as the leading firm for women advisors in the industry.”
With the Raymond James Network for Women Advisors, directed by Nicole Spinelli, the firm is focused on “retaining female reps and applying skills development to foster our businesses,” the advisor noted. “Non-Raymond James female advisors know what we have to offer and that we would love to have them here.”
In fact, the number of prospects attending the symposium stands at 29 this week, up from seven in 2010. “The number of groups calling us” continues to rise, said Millstone.
In addition, close to 90 female advisors have participated in a group-coaching program, which has boosted their growth in assets under management by as much as 36% more than their peers, she adds. Plus, a one-on-one coaching program has helped more than 25 women reps grow assets by as much as 66% more than their uncoached counterparts.
A recently established program to support branch-offices staff who are not yet advisors includes 10 women, three of whom have since become FAs. The next group participating in the career-development program should number 20.
“Twenty years ago, the firm recognized it was necessary for women advisors to get together and share breakthrough experiences and moments,” said Spinelli. “That legacy continues and is growing thanks to our exceptional executive leadership.”
Sallie Krawcheck received a warm reception at the Women’s Symposium and then shared her views on how to best support and influence female investors.
Women control about $20 trillion in investment dollars and represent some 9% of the world’s billionaires, she shared. They also are expected to inherit 70% of $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth globally over the next 40 years.
“Give clients the opportunity to ask questions, focus on risk management or downside risk,” Krawcheck said. “Men see money as a river, while women see it as a pond. They think this is all they have, and most fear they could become a bag lady. Be more holistic, a concept I came to accept super late in my career.”
Some 90% of women, studies show, are interested in investing that has a social impact. “If you had talked to me about this at Merrill Lynch, I would have said, ‘Get out of my office,’” she joked. “Women say they are goals-based and invest in their values. They don’t just want to make money now and give it away later.”
With research showing that 60% of women globally want to invest in companies with greater gender diversity at the top, Pax Ellevate has responded by launching the Global Women’s Index Fund. It slices and dices members of the MSCI World Index members, investing in firms with a high percentage of women on their corporate boards and senior management.
Financial-services firms have room for improvement, when it comes to their female leadership and, hence, their ability to be included in the Global Women’s Index Fund, according to Pax Ellevate.
Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly acknowledged as much in an interview. “Our progress at the firm has been good,” Reilly said, “but we know it’s not enough. Bella Allaire is on the executive team, and she is tremendously influential and extremely well respected.”
The firm has two women on its board, he adds, American Water CEO Susan Story and Shelley Broader, CEO of Walmart’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Canada.
In the Private Client Group, over half of the regional directors are women, according to Reilly. “That is working well, though we’ve got more work to do.”
Addressing Krawcheck’s challenge for the industry not to view female clients as a “niche,” the CEO says Raymond James’ take is that women represent “an underserved segment.”
“The aggregate numbers indisputably demonstrate what an opportunity serving women [with financial services] is,” Krawcheck explained, in an interview. “And if we were doing everything right today, it would not be an opportunity but an [existing] business.”
To help women, especially those in transition after the loss of a spouse or the arrival of their inheritance, advisors must be “trained and skilled to manage change,” said Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute, at the event.
“Advisors need to ask how their clients want to receive information and recommendations and how an advisor can best support them when there are decisions to be made,” Bradley explained. “Do advisors need to use graphics in their presentations or slow down the pace of communications?”
These steps are “a good start,” she advised. “Don’t be a mind reader. Ask!”
At the conference, Raymond James told its female advisors about improvements to its client-reporting tools, collectively known as Client Center. “It’s a big release,” said Chief Information Officer Vincent Campagnoli, in an interview.
“It will create significant time savings for advisors” in terms of their preparations time for client meetings, as well as scheduling work, Campagnoli explained. “We are always working to give time back to advisors. This will do so.”