Catherine Bonneau, chief operating officer of Cetera Financial Group, says she may have found a focal point that can help the advice industry add more women and minorities.
Looking specifically at the independent channel and its struggle to raise the level of female and minority participation, the executive says she has thought about the challenge for years and concluded that one channel or segment may hold the secret to success.
“The financial institutions channel is about 40% female in terms of its registered representatives. And their performance is close to that or stronger than that of [advisors in] other channels,” Bonneau explained during a panel discussion Monday at the FSI OneVoice event in San Diego.
“Why the bank channel? It seems tied to compensation and benefits,” she said during a session focused on advancing women in leadership, and that has her feeling positive about diversity and inclusion in the business.
“I’m hopeful for the profession, as it becomes less dependent on transactions and more dependent on financial planning and holistic services, that we can switch compensation and benefits in ways that will help [other channels]” become more diverse, Bonneau said.
Women are increasingly the heads of households or main breadwinners for their families, and that means “benefits are crucial,” she said, as are stable earnings or monthly income.
“By tackling that benefits challenge, we can quickly level the playing field,” Bonneau said. “It’s up to the industry to see if we can do this.”
More Secrets of Success
Other panelists at FSI described what their firms are doing to boost female participation and leadership.
At Fidelity, there’s been a big focus on firm culture, according to Lisa Burns, head of platform technology for the firm’s institutional operations.
“Embedded in the culture are employee resource groups, like the women’s leadership group that is 9,000 strong,” Burns said. “This is a significant network of women meeting and sharing around career development and jobs.”
Fidelity made big strides to have a “safe and respectful workplace” when it started a special program to support this effort two years ago, she explained. This entails classes with 10 to 20 employees in a room engaging in role play and related activities.