Christine Esckilsen is the chief human capital officer at Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray and is in charge of employee development and the overall culture at the investment bank and asset-management firm. She is in charge of recruiting, including adding more women to the investment industry. Piper Jaffray has been hosting Women in Finance events since 2005. Esckilsen and her team run the events in cities were Piper is located. Its most recent event was Jan. 12 in Minneapolis, and the next is Feb. 16 in Chicago. Piper also conducts events in San Francisco and New York and looks to add more events whenever it opens or acquires an office in a new city.

Q: What roles are you trying to fill at Piper with the Women in Finance program?

A: We are always trying to attract talented women, particularly in client-facing roles, which for us would be investment banking, equities, fixed income, asset management, public finance, but in corporate support roles as well. It’s a little harder to recruit women into the production roles.

 

Q: Are women underrepresented in those other roles in financial services?

A: It is something that we would like to see changed for a couple of reasons. First, obviously if you can open up the talent pool to include a broader group, 50 percent of the population, you are going to have more talent to draw from. You are going to get higher-caliber people when you expand the pool. Secondly, there are ways in which women are found to approach things in the workplace differently from men. On the whole, women tend to be very collaborative and inquiry-based in their approach. They tend to take a different perspective on risk.

 

Q: What is Piper Jaffray’s Women in Finance program, and when did it start?

A: The Women in Finance (WIF) program is a recruiting event designed to provide top-performing female undergraduate and graduate students with information about career opportunities in the financial-services industry and particularly at Piper Jaffray. We have employees from all our business lines and corporate-support areas at various levels present to the WIF attendees about their jobs and career paths, and interact with them more informally during a Q&A session and a social hour. The program began in 2005 in the Minneapolis office. As a result of the strong interest the program generated, we expanded it to Chicago, New York and San Francisco. It provides us with a strong and diverse candidate pool for future full-time opportunities.

 

Q: What are the goals of the program?

A: Our goals are twofold. First, we want to educate more women about the many rewarding careers available in the financial services and hopefully attract more women to choose careers in our industry. Second, we want to attract top female talent to come to work at Piper Jaffray.

 

Q: How many women are in the investment management and officer roles at Piper?

A: We currently have 122 women in production (i.e., client-facing) roles at Piper Jaffray and its subsidiary Advisory Research Inc. This represents about 14 percent of production roles. There are 157 women with officer roles across Piper Jaffray and Advisory Research, about 20.5 percent of officer roles.

 

Q: Why should women be interested in working in the financial-services industry?

A: It’s a great career, it can be intellectually engaging and you tend to be compensated well.

 

Q: How does Piper measure the success of this program?

A: The feedback we have consistently received is that the WIF event creates a comfortable environment where candidates can have candid conversations with Piper employees and ask what’s really on their minds, so they get a good sense about what it would be like to work at Piper. Second, we want to increase our recruiting pipeline of talented women. We interview any WIF attendee who subsequently applies for an internship or full-time position with Piper. We have hired multiple attendees to both internships and full-time positions over the years. We have had success in this regard, particularly in terms of recruiting for our internship program (which in turn is a feeder for our full-time hiring). Last year, 33 percent of our intern class was female.

 

Q: Are you satisfied with the progress?

A: Look, we have more work to do, but we are committed to doing it.