Woman Advisor Growth Leader Of The Year Shares Her Mother’s Example, Describes How Women Advisors Can Thrive And How Women Can Aim For Executive Careers
The WSR Pathfinder Awards serve a dual purpose of honoring excellence in wealth management and catalyzing conversations on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry. As we honor the Pathfinder Awards – Top Women Industry Leaders of 2023 during Women’s History Month, we invited the Woman Advisor Growth Leader of the Year, Erinn Ford, to address women’s issues.
Ford is EVP, Advisor Engagement for Advisor Group, responsible for managing the firm’s National Advisory Board, consulting, wealth management marketing and business coaching, as well as leading the firm’s engagement with over 10,000 advisors and professionals across six wealth management subsidiaries, including KMS Financial Services, where she served as President and CEO.
Previously, Ford was President of Cetera Advisors and Chief Marketing Officer of Pacific West Financial Group. She actively promotes empowerment of women in the workplace through speaking at events.
We asked Ford about her inspiration, industry changes for women, advancement of women in wealth management and her advice to women aiming for a career in executive leadership.
WSR: How did you decide to enter the wealth management industry? Was there a particular person or experience that inspired you?
Ford: Frequently, individuals who have been working in our industry for most of their adult lives will say, “I grew up in the wealth management space.”
In my case, that statement applies much more literally. My family owned and ran Pacific West, an independent wealth management firm with both a corporate RIA and IBD.
Many of my earliest childhood memories involve accompanying my mother to the firm’s offices and to financial advisor gatherings.
Without question, seeing my mom as a business owner and senior executive at a time when it was rare to encounter women leaders in most corporate jobs was inspiring.
Equally inspiring was my mother’s approach to doing business, driven by an “actions speak louder than words” mindset.
She was never intimidated when she was the only woman in the room, and always kept her focus on creating great memories for the firm and financial advisors, with an emphasis on celebrating each person’s career journey.
And she did it all with a tremendous level of caring for her colleagues and advisors, combined with a passion for wealth management and our industry’s role in helping people reach their life goals.
WSR: How has the wealth management industry changed regarding women professionals and what areas does the industry need to focus on next to promote women?
Ford: It’s impossible to discuss how wealth management has changed regarding women professionals without referencing the broader industrywide transformations that have happened over the past two decades.
Our industry has gone from being transactionally driven and product focused to emphasizing relationship-based holistic wealth management. The financial advisor increasingly serves as a financial life coach.
Today, EQ is as important as IQ, as the trend of delegating investment management in favor of relationship management continues to intensify.
And this has all happened as women increasingly become primary breadwinners and financial decision-makers in households across the country.
This is a landscape where women advisors can thrive like never before. To make the most of this opportunity, firms need to focus on building a greater sense of community for women professionals, and to create more flexibility in the workplace, as women continue to take the lead in childcare and family care.
For example, I recently spoke with a woman advisor who holds a CFP and has two kids in elementary school. She’s building a strong business and wants more flexibility than her current role at a wirehouse firm provides. She prioritizes being at her kids’ assemblies, sporting events and so forth.
She is attracting female clients, with moms who have kids and are in professional jobs while striving to balance work and family priorities.
Firms that can offer this flexibility, along with the benefits of scale, service and technology, will be able to capture the enormous growth opportunities that financial advisors just like her across the country can deliver.
WSR: What is the most important thing women aiming for executive leadership careers need to know?
Ford: In a word? Intentionality. Women seeking to advance in executive leadership roles in wealth management need to seek out firms that embrace supporting women and innovation, while offering a supportive environment for speaking up, sharing ideas and taking thoughtful risks.
Next, nobody gets to the top on their own. It’s crucial for women to find mentors and sponsors who can see you and your strengths, and help you create opportunities to showcase your skills.
Finally, don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Raise your hand to take on more responsibility, raise your hand to discuss your perspectives and raise your hand to discuss your achievements in the context of how they can serve as a springboard for further helping your organization to reach its strategic goals.
Empowerment comes from the right supportive environment, one’s team and oneself.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Executive Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org