Healy is leading TDAI's efforts to build a sustainable workforce of new advisors.

TD Ameritrade Institutional is putting its diversity money where its mouth is, and Kate Healy is leading that charge. Ask the managing director of marketing and leader of the firm’s Women’s Leadership Initiative to describe some of the projects the firm is working on and get comfortable, because there are a lot.

There’s the RIA Career Exchange. There are the two grants and 12 scholarships (two of which are dedicated to underrepresented groups) to support financial planning programs and students. There’s the intern guidebook series to help advisors build a sustainable internship program in their firms. There’s the support for non-TDAI industry events that are dedicated to bringing more women into the industry. There are the dedicated networking opportunities for women and students at TD’s conferences and the conference sessions and the student résumés highlighted in the conference app.

It all comes down to sustaining the future of the RIA industry, Healy said. “We need to increase the pipeline of people who are coming in [and] just by dint of the population, they need to look different from what we have now.”

It’s not just attracting new blood to the industry, though. New advisors need to be supported once they’re here. “One of the things we try to do is tell the stories of successful women advisors,” Healy said. “One of the things we say a lot is, ‘You can’t be what you don’t see.’ If you’re not seeing successful women [in financial services], it’s not a career you’re likely to enter.”

TDAI’s Women’s Initiative is “two pronged,” Healy said, to focus on female investors as well as advisors. “How do we get more women into the industry and how do we support them when they’re in here, and how do we get the proper support for [female] investors? How do we teach advisors how to work with women and the specific needs they might have?”

TD uses it conference to bring those issues to advisors and educate them on what female investors are looking for in their advisory relationships. She noted that two-thirds of the wealth in this country is controlled by women, “so if you don’t have those folks in your business, you’re probably putting yourself at risk for not gaining that market share.”

All that work is paying off, too. Healy said that in the last year, 49% of entry level positions at financial planning firms have been filled by women. “It’s encouraging to see that we’re making progress. However, we still only have 23% of CFPs who are women, and roughly a third of women are principals,” she said. “We still need to build up that support layer.”

Advisors are “getting the message that they need to have a more diverse workforce,” Healy said, but where some are struggling is in thinking, “’I need to hire a woman.’ No, what you need to do is figure out the right demographic for your firm.”

Millennials are a larger, more diverse demographic than the baby boomers, she said. “They’re 40% diverse and quite frankly, we know that clients like to work with someone who reminds them of themselves in some way, whether that’s by gender, by race or by age. You’ve got to have a full suite of advisors in your business to make sure you can meet the needs of the changing demographic.”

She acknowledged the perception that some older advisors have of millennials: that they don’t work hard. “I’ve not seen that with millennials I work with, but they work differently,” she said. “They work smarter, they use technology. They don’t have to be in the office in front of you to get the work done.”

Attracting qualified candidates will require advisory firms to work a little differently, too. For example, firms may need to be more flexible about when their advisors work. “I will tell you, flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s a work-life in the 21st century issue,” Healy said. Allowing people to work flexible hours or to work from home, “those are the kinds of things that RIA firms really need to take a look at [in order to] support women and millennials.”]

— See the full 2016 IA 25 in the May issue of Investment Advisor, and find ongoing coverage of the honorees, including extended profiles, all month on the IA 25 homepage.