Get Serious About Recruiting Women Advisors

As appeared in FinancialAdvisorsIQ

For a client-centric practice, there is no more critical indicator of future success than the composition of its team. Thus, every advisory firm’s top priority should be acquiring, developing and retaining the best possible people, who in turn can provide the best possible service to their clients. In this context, advisors must ask themselves if women are adequately represented — at all levels — in the practice. Advisors who can honestly say yes will find that they are far better positioned for long-term growth than those who cannot.

Advisors must recognize that women decide where a growing chunk of the nation’s wealth is invested. The notion that female clients are more comfortable working with women advisors than with men is an inaccurate generalization. But at the same time, it is prudent to assume that at least some women do identify better with female advisors, who might have greater sensitivity to, or similar experiences with, financial challenges surrounding marriage, divorce, death of a spouse and gender-specific issues. Therefore, it stands to reason that advisors who wish to maximize their ability to attract clients now and in the years to come should make sure they are adequately staffed with women at all organizational levels.

Although more female advisors have been entering the industry in recent years, women are underrepresented at most investment-advisory firms. According to Fidelity Investments’ 2012 Broker and Advisor Sentiment Index, the number of female advisors with fewer than five years’ experience increased by 40% from 2010 to 2012. Even so, women accounted for only 13% of the survey’s respondent pool.

If predominantly male advisory firms believe they can recruit and retain new female advisors without making changes at their firms first, it is wishful thinking. At all levels, women — just like men — want to see a path toward future professional development and fulfillment. That path will be clearer at firms where women regularly have been hired, supported and ultimately promoted to the highest levels.

Along the same lines, firms should adopt philosophies and policies that prospective employees will see as accommodating toward professional women. These include:

  • Rejecting the assumption that female advisors should focus on serving other women, and instead placing no constraints on their practices
  • Implementing a mentoring program that offers regular guidance and advice to all professionals
  • Allowing for flexibility in striking a balance between work and family responsibilities
  • Providing a working environment free of gender bias and discrimination

Though it may be a generalization to say so, men and women tend to have different perspectives on a wide variety of subjects, including personal, business and financial issues. The industry now needs to take advantage of these differing perspectives. Doing so should foster creativity and innovation in such key areas as service, investing, practice management, technology and professional development, among others.

Indeed, advisory firms that have not yet embraced women as integral parts of their practice are running out of time. Forward-looking firms that seek sustainable success must do so as soon as possible, with meaningful participation from men and women alike.