Adviser's Consultant: What it takes to retain women advisers

Brittain Prigge of Balentine shares her firm's success in cultivating a staff in which female advisers make up the majority

Aug 31, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

By Liz Skinner

Brittain Prigge has helped foster a corporate culture at Balentine that encourages women at the advisory firm to “lean in,” as Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg would say, and resolutely pursue careers along with motherhood.

Making it happen and sustaining that ethos has required open-minded policies and procedures that allow for flexibility and offer support at every turn.

“Women really want to feel a comfort level,” Ms. Prigge said. “They want to feel they are understood and like they have the ability to grow.”

Six out of nine of the Atlanta-based firm's advisers are women — making it a real standout.

Only about 23% of the nation's certified financial planner are women — a paltry proportion that's been the case for the past decade.

At Balentine, it comes down to promoting a work-life balance by accommodating different situations that may come up in people's lives, she said.

(More: What draws women to certain IBDs)

When one woman faced circumstances that required her to move an hour away from the office, she was afforded flexibility in what time she got to work in the morning. When the job of one woman's husband moved the couple states away, Balentine crafted a remote working situation.

“It's about looking for solutions that allow them to be successful,” Ms. Prigge said.

For the past three years, Balentine has hosted a half-day forum for its female employees to discuss the specific challenges of being a woman at the firm. Topics have included Ms. Sandberg's book, maternity policy and career paths.

The firm's women also have more informal quarterly meetings and a mentoring or “sponsorship” program where a mentor has a vested interest in promoting the employee and helping them get ahead, she said.

Tip sheet:

• Make sure the firm's management group and all other levels of the business include women.

• Foster shared responsibility within the firm: When someone needs time off to attend to family or another personal task, others understand and chip in because they know they will be afforded reciprocal assistance.

• Host formal or informal meetings to discuss what it's like to be a woman at the firm, and listen to feedback.

• Offer flexibility with regard to work hours or location if possible to accommodate situational needs.

• Encourage mentoring or sponsorship among women at the firm to help with career growth and informal counseling.

• Embrace technologies that can allow for working remotely, such as laptops, tablets and cloud-based programs.

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