In order to help female professionals build rewarding careers in the financial advice industry, leaders in our space should understand that the model for success for female advisers looks different in some key ways from what we have seen before.
Over the past several years, I have spoken with numerous successful female advisers throughout the Triad Advisors network and beyond, learning from them about the best practices in areas such as products and service, staffing, operations, networking and education that have contributed to their success by amplifying their natural strengths. I was able to continue discussions on these and other topics at the recent Ladenburg Institute of Women & Finance's Annual Symposium.
My conversations produced insights in three core areas: collaboration, relationship building and back-office management. Although these practices are not exclusive to women advisers, my conversations indicate that female advisers do apply them more consistently and readily. By sharing these best practices, leaders in our industry can position female advisers to build successful careers by creating efficient businesses and driving growth.
Practice "collaboration on steroids"
Whether they work in a formal team environment or not, most successful women advisers find ways to collaborate with their peers. In fact, many of them engage in what I call "collaboration on steroids."
One group of established female advisers I spoke with formed a regular study group to share best-practice ideas and help each other progress. The group has now grown into a healthy recurring forum where members hold each other accountable for goals, check on each other's growth, help their colleagues avoid mistakes and exchange insights on specific client situations.
Another of our top-producing women advisers decided to open her internal monthly portfolio management meetings to other advisers around the country, who come to the table with their own research. These meetings have developed into a joint portfolio management session that enables clients to benefit from the combined thought leadership of numerous experienced advisers.
Many successful women advisers also put a unique spin on their approach to mentorship programs by signing up as mentees, not as mentors as you might expect. These highly motivated women realize they should never stop learning, and thus are willing to let go of their egos to master new skills — and continually find new pathways to growth.
Amplify relationship building
Our industry's transition from a transactional model to a more relationship- and advice-centric one aligns well with the strengths of women advisers, who are skilled at listening with empathy, problem-solving and amplifying client relationships. Once again, the most successful female advisers in our industry show a talent for taking these strengths to an even higher level in building their businesses.
For example, one adviser I spoke with took an in-depth approach to developing referral relationships with local CPAs. She conducted research on each before contacting them to identify their specific areas of focus — individual returns, businesses, complex high-net-worth scenarios, etc. — then met with each CPA multiple times to understand their ideal client profiles.
As a result, each referral she made to her CPA contacts represented a highly qualified and actionable business opportunity for her new partners. The adviser met with each CPA to explain what her firm had done for these clients to help them land and service the business. In short, the adviser treated the CPAs like true partners, not as a funnel for her own growth.
Another of our successful women advisers wanted to improve clients' experiences when they visited her office, so she walked through the process as one of them. She parked in the office complex, navigated to the suite, sat in the waiting room and then in the conference room, and viewed the presentation as though she were meeting with her own adviser.
This prompted her to repaint her office in warmer colors, add a field in her CRM noting each client's preferred beverage and simplify the review presentation. It paid off in a significantly more welcoming experience for clients and prospects.
Prioritize back-office functions
Technology and administrative functions can be challenging, but they can also provide a competitive advantage if approached in the right way. One former wirehouse adviser I spoke with conducted massive amounts of research to choose the best technology for long-term service before starting her own registered investment advisory. For 12 months, she focused on customization, training and fine-tuning, including workflow automation, task assignment and uncovering process jams.
The result is a smooth-running practice where issues are quickly identified and solved — and her clients have noticed. They receive quick answers and first-class illustrations of portfolio performance relative to their goals throughout the year.
Another female adviser calls me whenever she discovers appealing technology that another adviser has adopted, asking me how to learn more, who else uses the technology and if it would fit her practice. This ensures that her clients get the most appropriate tools instead of wondering what's available elsewhere.
Leaders in our industry are well aware that women bring tremendous professional strengths to the financial adviser role. The practices outlined above may not be revolutionary, but top-producing female advisers have found ways to take them to a deeper level, amplifying their own strengths to drive growth.
By highlighting the habits of these successful female financial advisers, we can encourage many more women to join this profession and contribute in meaningful ways.
Amy Rehn is COO at Triad Hybrid Solutions, part of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, a steering committee member for the Ladenburg Institute of Women & Finance and a member of the FSI Investment Advisor Services Council.