Practice Management

Inclusion, Diversity and the Noble Purpose of Advisers

The principal of financial adviser inclusion and diversity at Edward Jones reflects on her job leading the advisory company’s revamped diversity efforts—informed by her own first career as an adviser in the field.

By John Manganaro editors@strategic-i.com | September 13, 2017
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During a recent conversation with PLANADVISER, Monica Giuseffi, principal of financial adviser inclusion and diversity at Edward Jones, offered a refreshingly candid take about the problem of a lack of diversity in the financial advisory marketplace.

Right now just 19% of advisers in the U.S. are women, she observed. When one considers the professional fields that intersect with the financial and retirement advisory space the problem is thrown into sharper relief; fully 52% of accountants are women and 32% of attorneys are women. So it does seem that there are specific characteristics of the financial advisory marketplace that have prevented women from full enjoying fuller participation.

Speaking directly to the issue, Giuseffi speculations that for a long time there has been a perception that taking on the job of a financial adviser will mean you are working on the set of the movie “Wolf of Wall Street,” in reference to the recent film’s infamous depiction of a rather-less-than-ethical culture existing among successful advisers and brokers. Of course that kind of dramatized perception is far from the reality, particularly in the institutional retirement advice market, where trust and reputation are crucially important for long-term success, but it has been enduring enough to cause a real gender diversity challenge.

Other more tangible hurdles to entering the advice field, both for women and men, include uncertainty about the work-life balance of advisers and the natural difficulty of first entering a business where sales cycles and client relationship develop quite slowly. This is part of the reason why younger people have also been slow to enter the advisory marketplace—although there is some evidence that this trend is easing.

Giuseffi’s own background offers direct insight into the challenge at hand. She was a field adviser for 13 years before being invited to serve as a regional leader, overseeing a new but sizable territory of advisers in the Atlanta area. After several years in that role she has taken on a senior leadership job in the home office, leading the effort to boost adviser diversity in the firm and at large. She loved her career as a field adviser and met with success as a regional leader, but she did face her share of challenges through the years.

NEXT: Grasping the long-term problem