What firms can do to attract women advisers

Fewer women apply for jobs as financial advisers than men, but that shouldn't stop firms from trying to create more balance in their adviser ranks

Nov 19, 2019 @ 4:07 pm

By Kristen Kimmell

In today's increasingly global society, it's become clear that in order for companies to thrive, their employees must reflect the wide range of clients and communities they serve.

[More:From the C suite with New York Life's Yie-Hsin Hung: Getting more women invested]

In the wealth management industry, this theory and actual practice are way out of line — particularly as it relates to women.

Let's take a quick look at the numbers. Women will inherit 70% of the wealth passed down over the next two generations and control two-thirds of household wealth by 2030. Women aren't a niche; they are our client base.

Most women seeking a financial adviser — 70%, according to some studies — say they would prefer to work with a woman. And yet, current estimates suggest that female financial advisers account for just 15% to 20% of the total adviser population.

Supply and demand

Simply put, the wealth management industry has a supply and demand problem. And we can't wait any longer to fix it.

To be fair, there are far fewer women applying for jobs as financial advisers than there are men. But that shouldn't stop firms from trying to create more of a balance in their adviser ranks.

New role

That's why I'm so excited to step into my new role as head of adviser recruiting at RBC Wealth Management. It's worth noting that, even in 2019, I'm one of only a few women to hold the top recruiting position at a wealth management firm in the United States. So, you can bet that I have some ideas on how we can achieve better balance in this business!

Women a priority

Now I want to be clear that women aren't my only focus. My job is to attract and retain the best talent — both male and female — from a variety of backgrounds. But for all of the reasons above, recruiting women will be one of my special priorities.

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While boosting the number of female advisers at my own firm is my primary concern, I'd also want to see progress in the industry as a whole because I believe, in this case, a rising tide lifts all boats. Here are a few ways we can start to move the needle:

1. Make our firms more welcoming to a diverse set of advisers, including women. At RBC, we do this in many ways, including our Women's Association of Financial Advisors, an employee resource group dedicated to helping female financial advisers succeed in their positions.

My colleague, complex director Kirstin Turner, recently shared the formula behind our own women's peer mentoring program, in hopes that we can inspire similar support networks across the industry.

These efforts roll up to a culture that makes women feel welcome, and that's half the battle in achieving more gender parity within an industry.

[More: MeToo: Even in the financial advice industry, sexual harassment is a serious problem]

2. Shine a spotlight on the role models in our business. Just as clients want to work with people who resemble them, so too do female professionals. That's why we should do a better job of highlighting the incredible women in our industry and sending them out into the community to be ambassadors for our business.

Two years ago, we tried to do exactly that with a video series that told the personal stories of some of the women serving as financial advisers at our firm. They talked about the path they took to their career and what they do in that role today. As actress Geena Davis says, "If you can see it, you can be it."

3. Ensure the benefits we offer are designed for the employees we aim to recruit. For example, I'd encourage other firms to look into a service called Milk Stork, which makes work trips easier for nursing mothers by providing cooler kits, postage and shipping supplies to allow them to safely ship or carry breast milk home.

We cover the cost of this service to ensure our female employees can take care of business while still caring for their families. The response we've received has been positive.

With more education, higher earning careers and more inheritance coming their way, women will be the primary consumer of wealth management services in the not-too-distant future.

We want to make sure they have their choice of financial advisers, whether it's women or those from other diverse groups.

Kristen Kimmell is head of adviser recruiting for RBC Wealth Management-U.S.

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