For Beacon Pointe, an RIA based in Newport Beach, California, diversity happened accidentally, according to founder and partner Shannon Eusey.
When the company started in 2002, “I was the only woman,” she told ThinkAdvisor on Monday. “There was no intention when we started the business to say, ‘Let’s create a diverse work environment.’ I think it was happenstance as we looked at various positions.”
Eusey said that her presence as “a female in significant leadership of the company and one of the founders” made the firm “OK with hiring anybody. We really looked at who’s the best person for each key position.”
Intentional or not, that early example led to a very diverse firm where women are well-represented in leadership. “As it stands today, our director of marketing, female. Our director of research, female. Our director of planning, female. Our CFO, female. It just so happens that that’s how the firm was built out because of the qualifications of the women. As we look at it today, 65% of our firm roughly is female, which is really different from the industry,” Eusey said.
Since writing the business plan for Beacon Pointe in graduate school, Eusey said, the firm has grown to oversee about $7 billion in institutional and private client assets.
Eusey said that having more women in the firm has helped add a different element” to client conversation. “The conversation tends to be a little bit different when there’s a woman in the room,” she said. “It’s allowed us to bring more women clients to the table, or spouses of clients to the table.”
To help with that effort, Beacon Pointe established its Women’s Advisory Institute (WAI) to educate and engage female investors. “That probably wouldn’t have come out if we were an all-male organization,” Eusey said. “It’s very much promoted by the women in the office, but very much taken advantage of by the men in the office. The men have recognized what a great pathway that is to help bring the ‘way’ for the spouse or whatever to the table for understanding the investment.”
In a conversation with Mary Rosai of Schwab at Impact earlier this month, she noted half of advisory firms don’t have a female advisor at all. Eusey said that’s hardly surprising considering “30% of all advisors out there are female.” She suggested that her firm has been so attractive to female advisors because of the presence of women in its leadership. Firms run by men only or where women only occupy administrative positions will have a hard time attracting female advisors. “I’ve heard it when I’ve spoken about the subject or done forums — they all want to attract women into their offices, but it’s hard for [women] to say, ‘What’s the upward mobility for me?’ if they don’t see it within the organization.”