Marilyn Mohrman Gillis Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, Executive Director of the CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning.

The CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning isn’t just talking about diversifying the advisor workforce, it’s trying to do something about this stubborn problem for the profession, and CFPs themselves are at the center of that solution.

Based on research findings that were presented at its first Diversity Summit in late October, the Center learned that it’s critical that prospective planners first become aware of the profession and find role models to be attracted to joining the profession.

But the second and perhaps greater solution to diversifying the advisor population is that those nascent planners receive career support —  specifically mentors —  to help them stick with their careers through the challenging first few years of being a new planner.

That’s why, said the Center’s executive director, Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, that it is expanding its highly successful WIN-to-WIN women-to-women mentoring program to embrace all prospective CFP professionals.

(Related: Inside UBS’ Huge Diversity Push)

In an interview, Mohrman-Gillis reported that 700 women CFPs had participated in the WIN-to-WIN program since its launch two years ago, resulting in 1,670 mentor-mentee engagements.

She said that while those 700 mentors only had a short-term obligation to help those being mentored, such as helping them prepare for and eventually pass the CFP exam, in many cases the engagements had turned into longer-term relationships, helping women with “career choices and advancing in the profession.”

In the expanded mentor program, the Center has made it easier to sign up for the program, to secure a mentor, and then to “find somebody to work with,” Mohrman-Gills said.

The mentor program provides for “enhanced connection opportunities,” allowing a mentee to, for example, “work with someone of same race or ethnicity,” since the platform includes photos of available mentors. The mentees can also choose a mentor who is in the same geographical area, or has expertise in specific financial planning topics like estate planning or charitable giving.

“We’ve set up clear expectations for the mentor and mentee; more of a road map” in the expanded program, Mohrman-Gillis said. That map includes making sure the mentors know all the available tools that the Board provides to prospective CFPs, such as the CFP Board Candidate Forum to help prepare for the CFP exam for the first time, or until they pass the exam.

When asked whether that roadmap includes specific ways for the mentor and mentee to communicate, Mohrman-Gillis says the process is “up to the mentor and mentee,” and could encompass one or more telephone calls or email exchanges or, if they live near each other, person-to-person meetings.

(Related: CFP Board Proposes Changes to Disciplinary Process)

As with any other mentoring program, the relationship is shaped by the preferences of the two parties. The mentor agrees to be available for at least six months, and “we suggest two or three contacts within that period,” said Mohrman-Gillis.

She said the Board’s Center will be monitoring the program, measuring the number of engagements, mentors and mentees, and will “measure whether mentees can get through the pipeline,” meaning achieving their CFP.

That’s not the only metric of success, she said. “We want to have a sufficient pool of mentors so there are options for mentees,” such as for people of color, but also “sufficient representation across business models,” so someone who wants to work in a small RIA or a large brokerage firm can find mentors in those channels.

The CFP Board isn’t forgetting about women professionals as it expands its mentoring program for all prospective CFP candidates. Mohrman-Gillis says it has more than 500 CFPs from 44 states participating in its WIN advocate program, in which women CFPs agree to work in their local communities to build awareness of the profession among women and girls and dispel any misconceptions they might have about the career.

Does Mohrman-Gillis expect the same level of success with the Board’s expanded mentoring program as it has experienced with the women mentoring program? After all, while there were a record number of women achieving the CFP in 2017 — 1,250, or 29% of new CFPs — women account for 23% of all CFPs.

Among the broader advisor population, the percentage of women has been stuck at around 16% for years. The numbers are even starker for people of color: at the Diversity Summit in November CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller reported that less than 3.5% of the 82,000 CFPs in the United States were black or Latino.

Mohrman-Gillis says she’s both “optimistic and realistic” that its women and diversity programs can make a difference by presenting new solutions to these challenges by “convening the collective talent and resources of the whole profession.”

That was exhibited clearly at the Board’s Diversity Summit, which attracted not just a notably diverse group of attendees but also leaders from several wirehouse, insurance and RIA custodian firms that you normally don’t see cooperating on issues.

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