It Pays to be a Female Financial Advisor

By Northwestern Mutual

Finance isn’t something that’s usually taught in school, but it’s never too late to learn the basics of finance and investing — and even make a career of it.

It’s often a misconception that you need a degree in finance or economics to work in the financial services field. In fact, there are many people who have joined Northwestern Mutual who have a variety of degrees and backgrounds in other career fields.

Take Sandy Botcher, who started her career as a middle school teacher, then practiced law for 12 years before joining Northwestern Mutual as a lawyer in 2001. Now, as managing partner of Northwestern Mutual Southern Wisconsin, she wants more women advisors to join her to help other women be strategic with their money.

“We have a gap between the talent that’s actually in our firm and in our industry and the women that want to be served by female advisors … having female advisors in our firm is a growth strategy for us,” explains Botcher.

Here, she details how Northwestern Mutual helps female advisors flourish at the company.

Knocking Down Barriers

When Botcher was practicing law years ago, she had a potential employer ask how she was possibly going to do her job when she had just had a baby. It made Botcher think: Shouldn’t he be asking me how they could set me up for success instead?

“Those are the kind of questions we ask ourselves [at Northwestern Mutual] — what are the barriers that get in the way of women being successful here in our industry?”

Botcher points to Northwestern Mutual’s parental program, which includes financial assistance and coaching to guide employees while they step away from their business for a period of time and still keep things running. When they come back to work, the coaching continues.

“It’s this continuous support … I’m not aware of anybody else in the industry that’s taken that approach, and I love what it has delivered for the women who are building advisor businesses at Northwestern Mutual,” says Botcher.

The Power of Connecting Female Advisors

Botcher notes that only 15-20% of advisors in the industry are female. To connect women, Northwestern Mutual implemented a nationwide Women’s Field Association.

“So now you go from an office where maybe you’re one of 10 or 15 [women] to one of thousands. This association gives a sense of belonging, a sense of community and education [specifically for women],” says Botcher.

Internally at her firm, they created a group called Recruiting and Retention, Impacting, Supporting and Empowering women (RISE). RISE focuses on women lifting one another up and supporting each other’s growth.

This intentional strategy has informed the company’s mentoring and coaching options for women as well as recruitment efforts.

Leadership Opportunities

The key to helping women succeed in any business is to get more women into leadership. Botcher says the Northwestern Mutual system takes a proactive approach to identifying female leaders within the organization and championing them. At the national level, the company has an 18-month leadership program that hosts cohorts of women who learn leadership skills, work on strategic projects and network with other female leaders. At the local level, the firm encourages women to think about leadership early, and finds ways to give leadership development opportunities.

“The intentionality of women in leadership is really important to attracting women [as advisors]. You’re making a culture that’s not only great for women, but you’re making a culture great for others as well.”

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