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Some women want to connect with a mentor not just professionally but personally as well, says an expert.fizkes/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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With studies showing that women advisors are less likely to have mentors than their male counterparts, more wealth management firms have recently introduced by-women-for-women programs that they hope will quash that statistic.

Solid mentorship can benefit advisors greatly with growing their books of business. With the number of women advisors hovering at just 15 per cent, more targeted mentoring initiatives may ultimately attract and retain more women to the industry long term, says Lara Zink, president and chief executive officer of Women in Capital Markets (WCM).

“Representation matters because if women can’t see it, they can’t be it,” Ms. Zink says of the importance of women mentors.

One of WCM’s own mentoring efforts is the Return to Bay Street Program, which aims to bring experienced women professionals back to mid-to-senior roles after an extended leave. Ms. Zink notes that in the past three years, 18 per cent of the candidates returning to careers in finance were hired into the wealth management industry.

TD Wealth also recently launched an internal mentorship pilot program, stemming from its Women Advisor Strategy, which has the goal of increasing the representation of female advisors within the firm, says Franceen Bernstein, vice-president, wealth operations at TD Wealth in Toronto.

The pilot mentorship program paired 20 female mentors with female mentees interested in wealth management. TD Wealth is now reviewing the feedback from those who participated before expanding the program.

“The program gave the mentees an opportunity to establish a clear articulation of their goals, expand their network and learn about the investment advisor role,” Ms. Bernstein says.

“The hope is they benefit from the mentorship, invest in their career development and possibly find a way into a client-facing role within our wealth [management] division.”

The program’s mentors encouraged candid conversations about issues relevant to women advisors such as managing work/life balance, family commitments, and day-to-day practice management.

A ‘personal’ experience

Cindy Crean, executive director, practice management at CIBC Private Wealth in Toronto, notes that more women advisors want more meaningful connections with their mentors, something not always easy to find.

“Some women want to connect with a mentor not just professionally but personally,” she explains. “For example, some may find it helpful to connect with other women also trying to balance family outside of work. They may want to bounce ideas or challenges with someone in that same situation.”

The firm rolled out its offering, Private Wealth Women’s Network, in April 2020, which immediately attracted around 200 members, says Ms. Crean, the network’s co-founder. She says more than 20 groups of eight to 10 women meet monthly to share ideas, best practices, challenges, and career aspirations. Within those groups, the women often break into smaller groups for more pointed, meaningful discussions.

“The mission is to create a supportive and inclusive environment for women and help them to connect,” Ms. Crean says. “It’s not one-on-one mentorship but out of those groups, we have had people mentoring each other.”

Raymond James Ltd. has its Women Canadian Advisors Network, which features workshops and coaching for its 140 members, and various networking events to create community and connection. During the firm’s annual women’s symposium, where U.S. and U.K. delegates also attend, younger female advisors are paired with senior advisors over three days, which may develop into a mentorship, says Andrea Linger, vice-president, practice management and head of the network.

“There are different types of mentorship but we don’t necessarily have a formal structure,” she says. “It’s more at the grassroots level where women put up their hand offering to mentor and create that connection.”

Paying it forward

Brianne Gardner, wealth manager and financial advisor with Velocity Investment Partners at Raymond James in Vancouver, didn’t hesitate to raise her hand because she benefited personally from having a mentor. After graduating from university and earning her MBA, Ms. Gardner had the occasional lunch with a female wholesaler, who would dispel the various financial career possibilities.

“She’s in the U.S. now but she’s someone who I just kept in touch with,” she says. “It’s always good to have someone who can give you unbiased opinions and wants to see you succeed.”

Ms. Gardner is now paying it forward by giving speeches and engaging with finance and business students at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

“The students know all about investment banking but generally don’t hear about wealth management opportunities or becoming a financial advisor,” she says.

“I talk about my background, finishing my MBA, and the importance of identifying your strengths. For example, I’m a people person and I love helping people. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, liked marketing and sales and finance. Becoming an advisor meant I could do all of those things together.”

She also mentors junior female advisors at Raymond James on prospecting and networking techniques as they encounter challenges building their books of business.

“I ]give my mentees hands-on experience whether it’s on public speaking, connecting or introductions,” she says. “A lot of them have grown up behind a computer and are used to texting and sending e-mails, but being confident to go up to people and meet with them face to face may be harder.”

Ms. Gardner says mentoring is a rewarding process because she’s passionate about the business and wants to see other women succeed, too.

“Whether we’ve been in the industry five years or 25 years, it’s important for us to give back. What better way to give back to the next up-and-coming generation of female advisors?” she asks.

“The world is changing and we can make that change to support and elevate them and open those doors.”

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