Women often faced difficult environments as they ventured into new roles in the business world of the 1980s. With tough resolve, they showed up in big-shouldered suits and worked hard to prove they could compete and make a place for themselves. Consequently, they often acquired an “everyone has to earn their own stripes” mentality toward other women. Thanks to their success, today’s women enjoy a more supportive sisterhood with female colleagues.
While today’s business atmosphere is generally more receptive toward women, they are still under-represented in the financial services industry. That’s why Securities America collaborated with our parent company, Ladenburg Thalmann, and our sister broker-dealers to create the Ladenburg Institute of Women and Finance in 2012. LIWF seeks to educate and empower women advisors and women investors to control their financial future. A year later, the Ladenburg Institute of Women and Finance founded the LIFT Mentoring Program to encourage and support the development of women advisors through coaching, networking and sharing experiences.
“LIFT pairs experienced and up-and-coming advisors for a 12-month, structured coaching program,” said Janine Wertheim, president, Securities America Advisors, Inc., and senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Securities America, Inc. “Our inaugural participants completed the program last fall. Our current teams finished this fall, and three more teams started in October. The feedback we’ve received from participants has been incredibly positive.
“Mentees truly appreciate the opportunity to talk with someone outside their practice with an objective view,” Wertheim said. “They ask their mentors to help them focus on what is most important, prioritize their activities, build relationships with successful women, and organize and grow their practice. A strong bond is often formed during their year together. In fact, several mentees have told me, ‘I love my mentor; I have this wonderful lady for a friend.’”
The mentoring pairs meet face-to-face at the annual LIWF symposium, where they receive formal training for their respective roles and agree on three goals the mentees will work toward throughout the year. While monthly discussion topics are provided, individual mentee needs ultimately drive the direction of each pair’s conversations.
Paula Dorion-Gray, CFP® and chief executive officer of Dorion-Gray Retirement Planning in Crystal Lake, Ill., explained why she is serving as a LIFT mentor for the second time.
“I’ve been in the business a very long time and know the statistics; we don’t have enough women in the industry,” Dorion-Gray said. “This was an opportunity to give back to an industry that has been very, very good to me. When I look back on my 33-year career, I think of all the times it would have been so reassuring to have a woman to talk to about emotions and issues that come up in this business that don’t necessarily come up for men.”
Dorion-Gray is currently paired with Gina Van Baren, CFP® of DSB Wealth Management, in DeMotte, Ind. She helped Van Baren organize her business structure within a financial institution and shared hiring insights when Van Baren needed to add a second staff person to her practice.
Describing the benefits she has received through their relationship, Dorion-Gray said, “Gina is delightful to work with. She’s like a sponge, with so much energy and a contagious enthusiasm for the business. Plus, I learn a lot through mentoring. I learn about myself, and I’m reminded of things I’ve learned.”
Sharla Jessop, CFP®, vice president and private wealth management consultant for Smedley Financial Services Inc.®, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Hiedi Hendrickson, CFP® of RiverStone Financial Group and Insurance Services in Buffalo, Minn., were one of the original mentor/mentee pairs. Like Dorion-Gray, Jessop found the experience very rewarding.
“We advise people all day long, but it’s particularly fun to share information with someone in our business and watch the transformation,” she said. “It was exciting to see Hiedi’s self-confidence increase, to watch her develop a greater sense of direction and to witness her success. At the same time, I benefited from sharing things that originally helped our company succeed. Sometimes as businesses grow, we get distracted from doing things that worked in the past. My discussions with Hiedi made me think about why we dropped some of those practices. It led us to re-evaluate things we thought needed to be upgraded and changed.”
At the same time, Hendrickson greatly appreciated the opportunity to bounce ideas off a more experienced advisor.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said. “Sharla helped me in so many ways. She helped me segment my clients, talk through staff issues and pinpoint some marketing initiatives. For instance, I took her advice and started a newsletter, so I could develop a prospect list and market to those individuals. I also started doing workshops for clients and their guests in order to gain new clients.”
Gratified by the impact the program is having on those involved, Wertheim said: “It’s wonderful to see women networking, collaborating and forming deep friendships. The momentum among our women is so incredibly strong; we feel we’ve only just begun to explore ways to encourage this opportunity.”