A ‘Grave’ Threat for Ad­vi­sories

Per­sh­ing Ad­vi­sor So­lu­tions’ CEO chal­lenges ad­vis­ers to di­ver­sify their staff — or be­come ir­rel­e­vant.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By To­bias Salinger

Per­sh­ing Ad­vi­sor So­lu­tions’ CEO chal­lenged ad­vis­ers to di­ver­sify their staffs — or be­come ir­rel­e­vant.

LACK OF DI­VER­SITY WITHIN THE AD­VI­SORY IN­DUS­TRY rep­re­sents a “grave” threat, ac­cord­ing to Per­sh­ing Ad­vi­sor So­lu­tions CEO Mark Tibergien.

“Our tal­ent doesn’t re­flect the face of our com­mu­nity, nor does it re­flect what I think is im­por­tant for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial ad­viser move­ment to ad­dress as a cri­sis,” Tibergien said in a speech at the May NAPFA con­fer­ence near Seat­tle.

“To the ex­tent that we do not ad­dress what our fu­ture is go­ing to look like, what you have cre­ated here with NAPFA will be­come ir­rel­e­vant in 10 or 15 years. It’s a call to ac­tion.”

Tibergien, who runs one of the coun­try’s largest cus­to­di­ans, ad­mit­ted that a 65-year-old white man is an ironic speaker for this mes­sage. He and other pre­sen­ters at the con­fer­ence, how­ever, pointed out the sheer num­bers high­light­ing the prob­lem. They also pro­posed a se­ries of changes they hope will lead to more ad­vis­ers who are mi­nori­ties or women.

“We as a so­ci­ety have over­come a lot of the overt sex­ism that is out there in the work­place. But I do be­lieve that there’s still un­con­scious bias and gen­der-role ex­pec­ta­tions that still ex­ist, most of the time un­in­ten­tion­ally,” said Gretchen Halpin, prin­ci­pal of Hewins Fi­nan­cial Advisors in Chicago.

“In the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try, a lot of the lead­ers of the firms are still from that past gen­er­a­tion of think­ing,” she said. “And so that un­con­scious bias comes into play when young women are mov­ing into the work­force.”

STARK DIS­PAR­I­TIES

Data dis­play stark gen­der and racial dis­par­i­ties. Only 8% of ad­vis­ers at 18 large fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms are peo­ple of color, ac­cord­ing to a SIFMA de­mo­graph­ics study.

And just 48,631 ad­vis­ers out of 310,504 over­all — about 16% — are women, ac­cord­ing to a study ear­lier this year by Cerulli As­so­ciates. Fe­male ad­vis­ers earned 80% less in weekly me­dian pay in 2016 than their male col­leagues, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics.

For­ward-look­ing firms cre­ate ca­reer paths to­ward lead­er­ship roles for their ad­vis­ers, Tibergien said. They also need to al­ter the tone of their re­cruit­ing pitches, specif­i­cally to cor­rect the idea that ad­vis­ers are just sales­peo­ple, to ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als and other young peo­ple, he ar­gued.

Yet a com­mon mis­per­cep­tion among hir­ing ex­ec­u­tives re­mains that not enough women are qual­i­fied or want to be ad­vis­ers, ac­cord­ing to Man­isha Thakor, the Hous­ton-based direc­tor of wealth strate­gies for women at Buck­ing­ham Strate­gic Wealth and the BAM Al­liance.

The grow­ing wealth of women world­wide could force changes at all firms, how­ever. Firms should take a close look at their lead­er­ship teams, said Eileen O’con­nor, CEO of Hem­ing­ton Wealth Man­age­ment in Falls Church, Vir­ginia.

“There are not enough women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions,” O’con­nor said. “You can do a lot of talk­ing about cul­ture, but I think hav­ing women in those po­si­tions is what’s go­ing to at­tract women to the firm.”

To­bias Salinger is an as­so­ciate edi­tor of Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning, On Wall Street and Bank In­vest­ment Con­sul­tant. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @Tobysalfp.

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