Attendees at the Women Advisors Forum in Chicago heard from industry leaders about how they could bring in new assets, help correct the gender imbalance in the advisory profession and foster a better-work life balance at their firms. Read the best of what was said at the conference below or click through our latest slideshow here.
Correcting the Gender Imbalance
Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, CFP Board managing director of public policy and communications, and Eleanor Blayney, CFP Board consumer advocate, spoke about the CFP's efforts to bring more women into the profession, which remains overwhelmingly male.
Mohrman-Gillis said that part of the problem stems from a lack of awareness among young women that they can make a career as a financial advisor.
"We need to correct this image that financial planning is all about numbers. It's fundamentally about relationships, listening. Those are skills that women succeed in. We need to get that message out. We need to change that perception. Successful women in the profession need to be visible as role models to women considering the profession."
'A Lack of Networking'
To correct the gender imbalance in the industry, Blayney urged attendees to become advocates for the profession by speaking to girls and women's groups, participating in career fair days at local colleges and universities. Firms could do their part too, she said.
"There is simply a lack of networking and professional development and professional role models. We don't have enough women in the profession ergo we don't have women leaders. We don't have enough women leaders; we don't have enough women professionals. We have to get out of this vicious cycle and turn it into a virtuous cycle."
Michelle Smith, co-founder and CEO of Source Financial Advisors, urged advisors at the conference to focus on a specialization and to even use personal details where appropriate.
"We're not in the business of asset allocation, we're in the business of monetizing our personalities."
The Importance of Mentors
Advisor Sherri Stephens spoke about the importance of mentors in bringing new advisors in the business. Stephens, who is president of Stephens Wealth Management Group and affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services, met her mentor when she was an 18 year-old high school co-op student.
"I remember going to meetings with him, and clients saying, 'I trust you,' or 'Thank you so much for helping my family, would you talk to my kids?' So much of this gratitude and trust. He was making a big difference in people's lives, and I just knew that this is what I wanted to do."
'I didn't seek to go hire women'
Shannon Eusey, president and founder of Beacon Pointe Advisors, explained how her firm's advisor force became 65% female. The trick, she said, was to foster the right atmosphere and flexible policies.
"I didn't seek to go hire women, but I think we attracted women to the business because of the culture at our organization," she said. "We're gender neutral, but family friendly."
Eusey added, "We try to lead by example. Not just modeling behavior, but also enabling our employees to do it as well."