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Industry's Need for More Female Advisors Takes Center Stage at Event

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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, which took place in Tampa in late September and drew roughly 400 female advisors and 250 other guests. “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.

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 hosted its first high-net-worth event for female clients. The program was held in Beverly Hills for about 135 attendees and featured 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.”

Female Advisor’s Advice The crowd at the Raymond James 2018 Women’s Symposium received lots of helpful tips on business growth from four top female financial advisors. The panel discussion, led by Jamie Kosharek, vice president and director of strategy and operations for the Raymond James Financial Institutions Division, aimed to help advisors prosper in good times and bad. “The grass is greener where you water it,” Kosharek said.

The four members of the panel, who work as independent contractors or employee advisors, began by describing how they launched their careers and then described how they attract referred prospective clients and the impact community involvement has on their practices. Carolyn Hash of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, became an advisor after her family urged her to spend less time on the road. Her daughter, who urged her at age 3 not to travel so much, is now part of her team.

Kayla Koeber of St. George, Utah, worked in the Southern California film industry for 20 years, but then decided to make a change and become a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch. Kjersten Lazar of Somers, New York, said she moved out of work as a belt buyer for Macy’s when that firm got into financial trouble. “Bad things happen to good people,” she said, explaining that she decided to pursue a job at Prudential Securities in the mid-1990s. Brigette White of Burlington, Vermont, studied finance in college and has been with Raymond James for some 25 years.

Referral Tactics What’s the best way to ask for referrals? “Referrals are important,” Lazar said. “I help people in nontraditional ways and then find a way to ask for their contacts naturally, when it makes sense.”

“You must find a comfortable way to ask,” explained Koeber, who said that about 10 years ago she decided to work strictly “with those I enjoy as clients. Be sincere and say things like, ‘You are who we want to work with, … so if you find [someone very much like] yourself out there [in need of an advisor] please refer them to me.’ It’s the ask that counts.”

Don’t underestimate your ability to add clients when conditions get tough. “In a down market, like 2008, there is tremendous opportunity,” Koeber said. She also calls every client every month. “During bad times, especially, I make the hardest calls first.”

Community Connections Another technique to find prospective clients is to send messages on high-quality, friendly note cards and write, “It’s wonderful to have a financial planning relationship with you. Do you know of anyone who may be scared in this tumultuous time? If they matter to you, they matter to me. Thanks.”

In terms of community involvement, Hash says that she learned from a business partner and mentor that “if you do good things and take care of people, you will reap the rewards.” This means doing things like serving on boards and supporting activities of service organizations. “Work closely with people for the common good. Get to know them, and then you likely will get unexpected business opportunities,” she explained. For instance, Hash sponsored a client’s charitable golf tournament, and at the event she met a woman who later signed on as a client.

“You never know. The best rewards that you get do not have a dollar sign on them,” the advisor said. “It’s about doing the right thing. Take care of people, and then the money takes care of itself.”

White’s charitable focus is United Way. “Community work is the right thing to do, and it’s also a ton of fun,” she said, adding that this work has put her in contact with many local CEOs and other people she might not have otherwise connected with.

Four years ago, a prospect visited with the advisor and described her late husband’s work in education. “Why not set up a scholarship fund to your honor husband with your appreciated stocks?” White asked. The plan is moving forward.

Keynote Speaker Think financial advisors don’t have much to learn from the food industry? Think again, according to Kat Cole, the COO of Focus Brands and head of its business in North America — which includes Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Jamba Juice and other franchises.

Speaking at the Women’s Symposium, Cole admitted that producing both quality and consistency on a daily basis “is a challenge, but a powerful network … can deliver on this mission.” But, when it comes to food and financial advice, “there are similarities,” she explained, such as their having brick-and-mortar locations and engaging in community-based work.

There’s also the growing digital competition and transformation of the industries. “More and more sales happen with UberEats … and that causes us to question, what will happen with my … business 20 years out?”

With change a constant, it’s critical for advisors to accept the fact that the next generation of clients “will view it all differently from their parents,” Cole said.

To stay in business, try these three strategies: One, “evolve your products and services so they feel relevant to consumers”; two, address economic issues involved with your business model, i.e., the unit-level costs tied to labor expenses, competitive pressures, etc.; and three, figure out which brands/products and services you want to keep in your portfolio.

To maximize your impact on clients, “fire in the belly” is crucial, Cole said. “If we don’t do something, the competition will.” It’s worth questioning which products and services you have decided not to offer and say, “That’s unacceptable,” she said.

Instead, ask yourself, “I have to do this — and how can I do it credibly? With partners?” she said. In other words, focus on how collaboration and cooperation can help you become more competitive.

As for keeping your business in balance, “Just because you can do [something new] does not mean you should,” Cole said. Businesses have limited resources, so it’s best to focus on producing your “highest return” rather than “being it all for everyone.”

Award Winners During the recent Women’s Symposium event, the following individuals received a 2018 Women of Distinction Award:

  • Sheri Lucas of Raymond James Financial Services (independent channel) in Cincinnati, Ohio, with over 32 years in the business;
  • Diane Guffey of Raymond James & Associates (employee channel) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 31-year career;
  • Holly Stallworth of Raymond James Financial Institutions Division in Henrico, Virginia, 18 years in the business;
  • April Dorey of Raymond James Ltd. of Canada in Edmonton, 30-plus year career; and
  • Ali A. Criss of Financial Insights (RIA/Investment Advisors Division) in Tacoma, Washington, nearly nine years in the business.

“In addition to being successful businesswomen, the [award winners] are leaders within their communities and our profession,” according to Lynch. “They embody Raymond James’ core values and prioritize giving back, not only to their clients and communities, but also through mentoring. We are proud to recognize them as this year’s Women of Distinction.”

Janet Levaux is editor-in-chief of Investment Advisor and Research on Wealth. She can be reached at [email protected].


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