Time's up for feminine famine in financial planning?

Despite record number of new female CFPs, women still stuck at 23%

Jan 10, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

By Mary Beth Franklin

Here's my personal wish for 2018: As #MeToo gives way to #TimesUp as Hollywood's response to sexual harassment charges, I hope a similar resolve to boost the ranks of female financial advisers finds new inspiration to transform the profession that has been described as "stale, male and pale."

There has been some progress.

There are now more than 80,000 certified financial planning professionals, including a record number of 1,250 women who were certified in 2017, according to an announcement by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards this week.

That brings the number of women CFP professionals to 18,578. However, that means women are still underrepresented and constitute just 23% of CFPs — a statistic that has been unchanged for more than a decade.

It's not just a matter of gender equality. It's simply good business. Women make up 51% of the U.S. population and they are on the verge of a massive wealth transfer, poised to control two-thirds of the nation's wealth by 2030. They will inherit 70% of wealth transfer over the next two generations, for a total of $25 trillion.

Given the size of the demographic and its economic leverage, women can no longer be viewed as a "niche" target. Rather, they represent the new normal of financial planning. Increasing the ranks of female financial advisers is one sure way to attract and engage women clients.

"While we are proud that the ranks of CFP professionals continue to increase, we know that more can be done to encourage young people, women and people of color to join this great profession," said Kevin Keller, CFP Board chief executive, in a statement accompanying the announcement about the 80,000 CFP practitioner milestone, which represents a 43% increase since 2007.

During 2017, 4,930 individuals were certified. One quarter of them —1,250 — were women, a record for the number of new female CFPs certified in a year.

Mr. Keller attributed some of the credit for the record number of new female CFP professionals to the CFP Board's Center for Financial Planning. The center was established to facilitate the future of the profession and to create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession.

With programs like "I Am a CFP Pro," a job re-entry initiative, and its Women's Initiative (WIN) Council, the center helps create opportunities for women and people of color to learn about financial planning as a career and, specifically, how to earn the CFP certification. I am proud to say that I have served as a WIN Council member since the panel's inception in 2013.

It's not just the financial services industry that is focused on the lack of diversity in the financial planning community. The federal government has taken notice, too.

"Many private sector organizations have recognized the importance of recruiting and retaining minorities and women for key positions to improve their business or organizational performance and help them better meet the needs of a diverse customer base," the Government Accountability Office (GA0) said in a November 2017 report on management trends in the financial services industry. "However, questions remain about diversity in the financial services industry, which provides services that help families build wealth and are essential to economic growth."

The GAO report found that while overall representation of minorities in management positions in the financial services industry increased from 17% to 21% from 2007 to 2015, representation of women remained unchanged at 48% of mid-level managers and 29% of senior-level managers.

InvestmentNews is doing its part to foster gender and racial diversity in the financial planning community. Publisher Suzanne Siracuse announced a new initiative beginning this year to provide inspiration, education and awareness around workplace diversity and inclusion through thought-provoking articles, videos, webcasts and columns.

As Ms. Siracuse said in a Jan. 8 editorial: "For the financial advice industry to evolve into a true profession, it must look more like the population it serves — or will be serving over the next few decades."

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