Financial advisers seek to close gender gap

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 9:36 PM

In a male-dominated industry, Edward Jones expanded its Twin Cities office, adding several women.


Stacey Okan of New Brighton is among the new Edward Jones financial advisers who has made a career change, in her case from advertising sales.


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Edward D. Jones & Co. has been bolstering its Minnesota team, and its latest hiring of financial advisers include several women, which stands out in a male-dominated industry that has long struggled to diversify.

The St. Louis-based brokerage said one-third of the 30 financial advisers it recently hired in the Twin Cities are women. That’s noteworthy given that by some estimates, women make up as little as 8 percent of all U.S. financial advisers.

Even after years of special efforts to attract and retain women, it’s not clear how much progress has been made.

Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based market research firm and an authority on the profession’s numbers, said it hasn’t tracked the gender breakout consistently enough to say whether the percentage is going up, down or holding steady.

The lack of women financial advisers is an odd contradiction, as several surveys show that a majority of women make significant financial decisions in the household.

“I think the industry as a whole is still embarrassed by the numbers,” said Danny Sarch, president and a financial services recruiter at Leitner Sarch Consultants in White Plains, N.Y.

Edward Jones, known for developing its own financial advisers by training rookies from scratch, says that 18 percent of its advisers nationally are women, including nearly 25 percent of its recent hires.

Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial Inc., which focuses on recruiting experienced advisers from other firms, says that 17 percent of its adviser force is female. That appears to be holding rather steady, said spokesman Chris Reese. “It is an effort of ours to hire women,” Reese said.

Nick Lampi, regional leader at Edward Jones in Minneapolis, said he doesn’t know why women remain so underrepresented in the industry.

“It’s the million-dollar question,” Lampi said.

Edward Jones, which currently has 12,907 advisers, has stepped up recruiting toward its goal of having 20,000 advisers by the year 2020. It currently has 339 financial advisers in Minnesota, with more on the way.

Overall numbers down

Both Edward Jones and Ameriprise are growing their ranks, even as the industry contracts. Cerulli forecasts that the total U.S. adviser head count will fall to 297,515 by the end of 2016, down from 316,109 at the end of 2011. (In tallying the females, Cerulli counted advisers who work directly with clients and are either registered investment advisers or reps holding a Series 7 securities license.)

The majority of Edward Jones’ new Twin Cities hires are career changers making their first foray into the business, Lampi said. For instance, the company’s Forces program targets people transitioning out of military service. According to Lampi, Edward Jones attracts entrepreneurial-minded people wanting to run their own show.

The company provides six months of training, including helping recruits study for the Series 7 and Series 66 exams they must pass. It also pays a salary for the first few years until advisers build their independent practices.

It’s a homegrown adviser model, one that Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial Inc. has moved away from to focus more on attracting experienced advisers.

Boot camp includes a trip to St. Louis, where new recruits practice face-to-face relationship-building skills.

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