When it comes to attracting more women to the financial planning industry, a road map is emerging even if it isn’t yet well traveled.
“Flexibility and a blend [of remote and in-office work] is where it’s at in the future,” said Jennifer Bacarella, director of firm development at SPS Family.
“We need to be able to let people work in the space that is best suited for them, but we also need to think about the company,” she said. “Through the pandemic, flexible hours always gave us more output. People work whenever now.”
Bacarella was speaking Wednesday as part of a panel discussion on hiring at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit.
While the general focus of the panel was hiring and retention within financial services, much of the emphasis was on bringing more women into the wealth management space, an effort that the panelists agreed requires a new way of thinking.
Even firms where remote work is viewed as a potential threat to a company’s culture are recognizing the need to compromise to recruit and retain talent.
“We’re getting resumes from all over the place, and we totally provide for flexible work environment if someone wants to work from home, but culture is important and some of that gets lost if everyone is working remotely,” said Allison Blake, chief operating officer at WorthPointe.
Blake added that her firm uses equity ownership and flexible work hours to appeal to the “entrepreneurial spirit.”
“I think a lot of people want to be entrepreneurial but might be scared to be, and this is a pretty good hybrid,” she said.
However, when it comes to bringing more women into the fold, especially for client-facing positions, Blake said progress is slow.
“I’d love to say we’ve hired a lot of women advisers, but we get hardly any resumes from women,” she said, adding that most of the female applicants are “moms” applying for jobs in operations.
“I love hiring moms,” Blake said. “Their loyalty is hard to beat, because it is hard for them to find another job that will be compatible with their other role in life, and you don’t need a CFP or even a background in financial services to work in the back office.”
For that reason, Blake said her firm frequently looks outside of financial services for potential hires. “I tend to look for people who have kids because they will hopefully be stable and loyal.”
Marianela Collado, chief executive of Tobias Financial Advisors, described the current pool of potential candidates for hire as “scarce,” especially considering that her firm is looking for more experienced advisers capable of doing “technical, deep-dive financial planning and tax planning.”
“We’re finding it difficult to find more experienced or senior level advisers,” she said. “We’ve almost resigned to the fact we need to hire right out of school or people with very little experience. That requires a lot of resources and time to develop those folks.”
Collado said she has found some success in hiring “moms returning to the workforce,” even though the client-facing “financial advisory role hasn’t been attractive to them.”
“But that’s the beauty of our industry, there is so much opportunity to really have an impact on the success of a firm, whether it’s in operations, marketing or client services,” she added. “There’s so much opportunity, but women tend to default to areas of our industry that are not necessarily financial advisory.”
While Collado is adapting to the trend toward remote work, Blake said her firm has always been “location-agnostic,” which has made it difficult to hire people right out of college because those people are often seeking a “centralized office.”
“We typically hire people with more experience,” she said.
In terms of reducing employee turnover, the panelists advised ensuring that employees feel a sense of ownership, whether that means connecting them to clients or providing a clear career path at the firm.
Bacarella advises “cementing them in” and showing respect by identifying them as associate advisers, as opposed to junior advisers, and helping new hires work toward certifications.
Blake agreed. “If you have advisers that are ambitious you need to offer them a career path or they will find some place that will,” she said.
Collado said engagement and guidance are key.
“My job is to provide a platform where you will be successful,” she said. “I think you need to give these young associates a sense that they are making a difference in the firm. Make them feel like it is theirs. They won’t be as quick to leave if they are getting calls from clients and they feel needed.”
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