Women may still be under-represented in the financial advisory industry, but “the stereotype of this business being a ‘boys club’ is quickly fading,” says Mary Wong-Young, Vice President of Strategy and Planning, for CUNA Brokerage Services, the leading broker/dealer serving credit unions and their members. She explains why women are uniquely suited to meet the needs of today’s clients and how CUNA Brokerage is creating exciting new opportunities for women interested in joining this fast-growing profession.
Q: Where are the opportunities today for women in the financial advisory industry?
A: With pensions disappearing and financial literacy falling among younger generations, we’re seeing a growing need for financial guidance, and clients today are looking for advisors who are approachable, knowledgeable and can make them feel at ease. Women are particularly good at making people feel comfortable and helping them break through that paralyzing fear that keeps them on the sidelines. When you look at households in the United States, increasingly you find women are the families’ financial managers. In fact, women now control more than half of the wealth in this country, and most of them say they would prefer to work with female advisors. That’s why I think there has never been a greater opportunity for women in this field, particularly in the credit union space.
Q: Does CUNA Brokerage have any initiatives focused on women advisors?
A: Our Women of Distinction program recognizes the top female advisors in the organization. It provides opportunities for networking, sharing best practices, and the women in the program all have a very strong commitment to mentoring other female advisors. And it’s generating results. Many advisors in our mentoring program have raised their production enough to become Women of Distinction themselves. We hosted a conference last year, helping create a community for all women advisors at CUNA Brokerage. Beyond being advisors, though, there are plenty of other opportunities for women throughout our company. We are actively recruiting women in our compliance, broker/dealer and customer services divisions too. In fact, CUNA Brokerage has been ranked among the best independent broker/dealers for women.
Q: What makes the credit union niche special?
A: Credit unions have a unique dynamic that allows advisors to be rewarded both financially and personally. On the personal side, we share the same mission as the credit union, which is breaking down the barriers to financial security for everyone. Our advisors have the time to get to know all of their clients on a much more personal level. We hear over and over again from our advisors that working with CUNA Brokerage has allowed them to fulfill their purpose of doing what’s best for the clients. Financially, about a third of the U.S. population is a member of a credit union, and credit unions now hold more than $1 trillion in assets, so there’s a big market opportunity too. Another advantage is that credit unions offer a smaller, family-friendly atmosphere, and those advisors who have that ability to make clients feel at ease tend to excel in that environment.
Q: What does the career path at CUNA Brokerage Services look like?
A: We have a very flexible career path that varies based on each person’s experience and interest. Some advisors may start as coordinators or working internally with the broker/dealer or as junior advisors. Others come to us more tenured. Wherever they start, and wherever they want to go, we have a great training program to help them get there. In fact, one of our training programs was recently nominated for a national award. Advisor graduates of CUNA Brokerage’s Honors Academy, a year-long program that helps them build their practices, are averaging over 40% increase in production within one year of completing the course.
Q: How do compensation opportunities compare with other broker/dealers?
A: We’re competitive. And, our advisors post higher-than-average production numbers. Beyond compensation, though, it’s really about the total opportunity that we provide. While the earnings potential is very strong, we also offer back-office and marketing support, training, and there is no overhead for office space. Plus, we also have great benefits, including a pension plan, which is very rare in the industry. Then there’s the credit union environment, which is very supportive. Our advisors consistently rank us high in overall broker/dealer satisfaction.
Q: What excites you about your own career?
A: I’ve been in the financial services industry for more than 30 years, and I have never been more excited about my job. Working within a purpose-driven organization is really rewarding. I’m part of the movement to close that gap in financial education and helping find ways to ensure that more people can retire securely. With CUNA Brokerage Services, I get to work across the business allowing me the opportunity and the reward of guiding the business and determining where we go next.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2016 issue of Financial Planning, in the Women’s Summit publication.