As the percentage of female financial advisors within Raymond James and the industry hovers at around 16%, executives say they are doing all they can to broaden the industry’s appeal to both women and minorities.

“It takes a while to build a book of business and a team,” said Raymond James Chairman & CEO Paul Reilly, in an interview during the firm’s 24th annual Women’s Symposium in Tampa. “It’s frustrating across the industry, for both women and men — who see the job as a great profession.”

Still, the broker-dealer and many of its peers are taking steps to shift the industry so that it better reflects the diversity of its investor clientele.

“We are getting things going at universities, such as supporting the first class of financial planning students at the University of Southern Florida,” Reilly said.

At Raymond James, women and minorities account for about 30% of the 250 yearly participants (or trainees) in the Advisor Mastery Program. “But how do we get more, and how do we get to 50%?” asked the executive, who led both Korn Ferry International and KPMG International before joining Raymond James in 2009.

“It’s hard to get candidates in general,” he added. While men seem more likely to give it a try, women often express concerns about the lack of guaranteed income.

Some women, for instance, also don’t want to become investment-banking types. Instead, they want to have more control over their time and their work-life balance.

“It’s a great lifestyle job, since clients don’t have many financial emergencies” that require extremely late hours or weekend attention, he pointed out. “We have to get the message out that financial advisors’ work is [Main Street and] not Wall Street … ” Reilly said.

The good news, he adds, is that more and more universities are offering financial planning programs. “We do recognize that this is hard [work] to do right out of school. We haven’t cracked that, but are focused on it.”

Where’s the Financial ‘Ally McBeal’?

Part of the problem — in addition to finding enough mentors for diverse advisors in training or new to the business — is the lack of fictional advisors in movies and TV shows who are women.

“We need a TV show, like an ‘Ally McBeal,’ the attorney, and the doctor shows,” said Michelle Lynch, head of Raymond James’ Network for Women Advisors.

“I just recall the woman advisor in the Will Farrell movie about the couple who start an underground casino, ‘The House,’” so they can raise money to send their daughter to college, Lynch explained.

Events & More

For Raymond James, though, the annual Women’s Symposium continues to grow in popularity and is attracting 10% more participants each year, according to Lynch.

In early October, the firm is hosting its first high-net-worth event for female clients. The program will take place in Beverly Hills for about 135 attendees. One keynote speaker is historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

“We are working to expand our brand footprint on the West Coast and give back to women clients. We should replicate this in other parts of the country,” said Lynch.

The invited clients and prospects have about $3 million and up; some work with veteran advisors like Lisa Detanna, she adds.  

Industrywide Effort

Firms across the business aim to boost the percentage of women and minorities who work as advisors, according to Reilly and Lynch, so they can better serve clients.

“Ninety percent of female advisors coming from other firms tell us they fell into the profession. In other words, that someone introduced them to it instead of them figuring it out on their own,” Lynch explained. “This is why we focus on career-changers” like teachers.

Raymond James also is working with some wirehouses and other national firms to share ideas on how to improve the industry’s diversity. “It’s an informal group that has met once and likely will meet again in a few months,” she said.

“Lots of male advisors want a woman as their successor partner, but we do not have a bucket of women for them to partner with,” according to Lynch. “We have to boost awareness and use as many resources as we can to spread the word.”