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Raymond James recently launched a two-year, mentor-type training program for new advisors, and it hopes the program will be more conducive to attracting and retaining women, although the program is not solely targeting women. Raymond James’ entire advisor force is about 17 percent women, but the inaugural class of the Advisor Mastery Program is already 34 percent female.

Bob Patrick, director of education and development for Raymond James, said the industry has become more relationship- and planning-oriented, rather than product-oriented, and this model fits well with how women work. The firm has other initiatives aimed at women, including its annual Women’s Symposium, held in September in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“The smart firms are looking to attract more women,” Patrick said. Cambridge Investment Research, an independent broker/dealer based in Iowa serving 2,000-or so FAs around the country, is also considering launching a formal training program for new FAs based on mentors and internships. Cambridge likely would provide electronic curriculum to advisors and help them connect with interns. The program is scheduled to get off the ground by late 2012. The idea was spurred by one male advisor who had hired two women interns who were going through the CFP program.

Raymond James’ Patrick also believes women will see the new training program as a good alternative to the old one, which involved four total weeks of home-office training and a three-day session four or five months after they start. The old system was also geared more towards stand-alone, sole practitioners, rather than teams. The new program is two years, and is more focused on teaming and succession planning. Trainees are also required to take the CFP exam twice before their program is up, which Raymond James will pay for.

“First, and most important, each new advisor is paired with an experienced advisor mentor,” Patrick said. “Second, the new advisors are placed in a branch and often become part of an existing team, so they get real-world, practical experience from the very start.”

The new program also allows new advisors to build their network in their community without the immediate pressure to produce, Patrick said.

Rachel McNeil, who is currently in the inaugural class, said she was not interested in going through the old program. She wanted to go through a team model where she would be working with an experienced advisor getting hands-on experience, rather than the stand-alone, “sink or swim” approach. McNeil is now a junior partner with St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Mustard Seed Advisors, a four-person team with about $160 million AUM.

Raymond James also expects the new program to help boost its success rate for both men and women. The firm’s success rate is currently at 25 to 30 percent over five years, but they hope the number will rise to 40 percent.

Raymond James is not the firm to roll out new women’s initiatives. Securities America has been hosting a Women’s Summit as part of its national conference since 2008, a two-hour luncheon that features a panel of top women advisors. Cambridge Investment Research held its first Women’s Forum in July, where about 70 women advisors attended. Amy Webber, Cambridge president and chief operating officer, said it’s not only a way for female advisors to network, but it’s also a way to attract young women to the business. For example, Cambridge has a number of licensed women working in branch offices in an administrative capacity. Webber hopes such initiatives can give these women the confidence and support to move into a more consultative role. About 13 percent of Cambridge’s registered FAs are female.

“It’s really not about fewer men,” Webber said. “But it’s about more women.”

Cambridge is also considering launching a formal training program for new FAs based on mentors and internships. Cambridge likely would provide electronic curriculum to advisors and help them connect with interns. Webber expects the program to get off the ground by late 2012. The idea was spurred by one male advisor who had hired two women interns who were going through the CFP program.