SPECIAL SECTION | WOMEN IN PLANNING
their firms hold on to generational wealth and the wealth of surviving female spouses , White says .
“ We start by asking advisors what their ideal archetype of an advisor or employee is , what they feel they need and then help them hone in on critical characteristics . That often drives building out their female workforce . We focus conversations with firms on the benefits of diversity . The more perspectives and life experiences you can bring into a firm , the more successful you ’ ll be ,” she says .
Myriad also walks the walk when it comes to hiring women themselves . The firm has 62 employees , 34 of them women . “ I think we empower women through example and help illustrate a successful business model that allows advisors we work with today to have that same success … more times than not through the female workforce ,” she says .
But the firm doesn ’ t just place women advisors and support staff at firms . Employees are also trained to ensure that there is a professional path forward for them . “ We put career development in place , then help firms build out their training plan ,” says White , who estimates that the actual number of female advisors will hit the 50 % mark in the next few years .
So far , the industry has been unable to increase the number of female CFP licensees beyond 23 %, according to the CFP Board ( the total number of female CFPs is 22,345 ), but Kate Healy , managing director of the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning , says there are promising signs that ’ s changing .
For the first time , women made up nearly 30 % ( 1,519 ) of the newly minted CFP professionals in 2022 , up from 24.1 % in 2018 . The CFP Board ’ s diversity push and programs to educate women about an advisory career are starting to pay dividends , Healy says , crediting the CFP Board ’ s diversity summits , mentoring programs and push at the 200-plus colleges and universities that now offer a financial planning registered degree program .
“ There is also a growing number of women who are willing to mentor younger women and make it their life ’ s work to make sure we ’ re reaching back down and pulling people up . It ’ s wonderful to see and really starting to have impact ,” Healy says . “ I don ’ t know if we ’ ll get to 50 % women advisors in five years . But in 10 years I think it ’ s possible .”
Women advisors are also finding that as they create greater independence , they can escape some of the pay and work inequities that the financial services industry is infamous for . Advisor Bridget Grimes was told she was too ambitious by her male bosses at an RIA firm , where she discovered she earned half of what her male counterparts were paid .
Women advisors are finding that as they create greater independence , they can escape some of the pay and work inequities that the financial services industry is infamous for .
In response , Grimes launched her own firm , Wealth Choice , in 2016 and within two years , founded Equita Financial Network , a full-service platform for women-led firms just like hers . Her Equita partner , Katie Burke , had also launched her own firm in 2015 . Women who use Equita must be fee-only CFPs .
“ There is no other platform like ours , because if one existed , we would have joined it instead of building our own ,” notes Grimes , who says they set out to provide all the services a woman advisor in her shoes would need to create and grow a successful , independent firm . “ Launching a firm is a huge undertaking , and you need a support network to succeed .”
Equita ’ s offerings include access to a trading desk , personalized portfolio building , funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors , best-in-breed IT , full-service compliance , client billing and even access to PR pros at female-led media relations firm Impact Communications , which Equita advisors can use to brand and build their businesses . For these services , Grimes says , advisors pay $ 1,500 monthly and 20 basis points annually on assets under management . She says some of the services are not even available at Charles Schwab or the XY Planning Network .
“ When Katie and I met , we asked ourselves , ‘ What if we provided all of the solutions you need to run your own business , but without the huge price tag ?’” Grimes says , adding , “ We offer a Bernstein-level experience ,” a reference to the swanky private wealth management firm that exclusively caters to wealthy clients .
So far , six firms have joined the Equita network ; there ’ s a seventh in the pipeline and three more female advisors in talks with the platform , Grimes says .
Among those intrigued by Equita ’ s proposition was Kim Spencer , who contracted with the platform to create her own advisory firm , Next Step Financial , in 2020 because working in a male-dominated firm as an employee was stifling her ability to serve women clients , she says .
“ Never in a million years did I think I ’ d have the courage to step out on my own , but meeting Katie and Bridget — and having the time during Covid to vision what I wanted the next 10 or 15 years to look like — gave me the confidence ,” Spencer says . “ The fact that I could focus on my clients and delegate all the backoffice stuff I handled for years , like compliance , trading and building portfolios , was very attractive to me .”
Easy access to Equita ’ s robust network of women advisors is also priceless . “ This is a first for me , because I never had the opportunity to work with women before . Now I send an email and get feedback from women business owners across the country ,” Spencer says . “ This is a period where we are seeing a shift for women in this industry , and it ’ s great that Equita and all of us are in on the ground floor , benefiting from this .”
34 | FINANCIAL ADVISOR MAGAZINE | MARCH 2023 WWW . FA-MAG . COM