Financial Services: Women at the Top: A WIFS Research Study

Financial Services: Women at the Top: A WIFS Research Study

by Arthea Reed, Diane Dixon


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The financial services industry can be personally and financially rewarding, so why is it that so few women are in the field?

Arthea Reed and Diane Dixon draw upon the results of a Women in Insurance & Financial Services research study and their own extensive knowledge to explain the shortage as well as to inspire more women to enter or remain in the field.

Some of the most successful women in financial services have overcome great personal tragedy, professional ridicule, and failure to reach the pinnacle of success. By studying their moves, you can:

follow in the footsteps of successful female financial services professionals;

train up-and-coming female professionals so they have the knowledge and tools to succeed; and

promote a workplace that's inclusive, inspirational, and encouraging for everyone.

Walk down the path to a successful and rewarding career in financial services and help others do the same by learning from amazingly successful women. Whether you're already in the industry or considering it as a career, you'll get a roadmap to overcome challenges with Financial Services: Women at the Top.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491770597
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/31/2015
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

Financial Services: Women at the Top

A WIFS Research Study

By Arthea Reed, Diane Dixon


Copyright © 2015 Arthea Reed and Diane Dixon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-7061-0



Long ago, when I wanted to be the first female agent of the year for Lincoln, my husband advised me that to do so I would have to change. I'd have to stop much of the community service and do less with our children's activities. I determined then, and have never regretted, that this was too high a price to pay. So I have been content with being in the top fifty of five thousand planners most years, but never number one.

Betty Harris Custer, CFP®, CRPC®, Founding Managing Partner, Custer Financial Services, Lincoln Financial Advisors

Women in the financial services industry measure success internally. Success. What is it? How do I know when I have reached it? How do I measure it? Is it the same for everyone?

In 2012, 794 female financial services professionals completed a survey, conducted by Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS). In this survey and subsequent interviews with some of the most successful women in the industry, as measured by income, industry-wide recognition, and company recommendations, we have begun to focus on a clear picture of how these women measure success and how they have achieved it.

The women who completed the 2012 survey had many different definitions of success. However, the most highly compensated women (50 percent of survey respondents with annual gross incomes between $200,000 and more than $1,000,000) were less likely to be motivated by extrinsic rewards such as income or recognition. Instead, the intrinsic, internal motivators of achieving their own goals and helping others succeed were significantly more important to them than income or recognition from their companies and the industry.

Does this mean that highly compensated female financial professionals are not interested in what they earn or the recognition they receive? No. These high-achieving women, successful by every measure, consider their income to be important because it provides them with the financial and personal independence and flexibility to live their lives as they choose.


The recognition they receive from their companies and the industry, based most often on what they earn and the amount of business they do, is also important. However, it is not for the recognition itself. Recognition from their companies and from the industry provides admission to peer groups of the most successful financial services professionals of both genders. As members, these women can participate in think tanks and study groups with the most intelligent and creative minds in the industry. Being a part of such a peer group may also provide these women with additional services and privileges from their companies. What they learn from their peers and the additional assistance they get from the best and brightest in their companies and throughout the industry provides them with knowledge, skills, and ideas that directly benefit their businesses and the sophisticated work they do with their clients. And at the end of the day, this is what these highly successful women say is most important to them.

Nicole Holland-Hong (CFP®, CLU, ChFC, CASL, Wealth Management Advisor, Northwestern Mutual) tells financial representatives in her company, "Whether it's your first or fifteenth year, you can make Forum (the Northwestern leaders' group) a goal."

Barbara Brazda Dietze (CLU, ChFC, Financial Adviser, Eagle Strategies LLC, Agent, New York Life) explains why setting a goal for yourself is incredibly important to your success. Barbara learned early in her career while analyzing Earl Nightingale's tape The Strangest Secret with a study group of young agents in her agency that "you become what you think about." If what you think about is achieving the goal of membership in the leaders' group of your company, you will do it, no matter the barriers in front of you. Nicole achieved this important benchmark at age forty while she was pregnant with her first child. In the same year, she took a two-month leave of absence after the birth of her son.

One highly compensated female financial services professional in the 2012 survey said, "Doing what I love with those I love — earning a good income and being able to travel and meet some of the most successful people in America (my clientele) ... It doesn't get any better."

Over and over again in the survey and interviews, very successful female financial services professionals talked about their passion for helping others. "Most days I feel as though I am helping my friends (clients) achieve financial security and freedom. So it never feels like work." For these women, the most important measure of their success is loving what they do and for whom they do it and, as one woman said, "having my clients say: 'My life is better for having known you.'"


In this chapter, we will highlight the success stories of four highly compensated, caring female financial services professionals. Of the twenty-three women who were selected and agreed to participate in in-depth interviews for this book, we chose four to help illustrate how different career paths, geographic locations, types of companies and services provided, and personal life stories can all lead to success within the wonderful, diverse world of financial services. The stories of the nineteen other women, all of whom are equally compelling, will be featured throughout the subsequent chapters of this book.


Robelynn H. Abadie (CAP®, RFC, LUTCF; CHRS®, CSA, Founder and CEO Abadie Financial Services, LLC) reports that she has been "like a sponge" throughout her incredibly successful career in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has never stopped learning or seeking mentors. Today, Robelynn is the sole proprietor of her own company (Abadie Financial Services, LLC) with a support staff of three. Robelynn's company is "highly concentrated in corporate/employee benefits." She works primarily with companies with one hundred or more high-net-worth employees (largest group has 1,200 employees). For these companies and employers, her company does "all retirement planning (401k, etc.), health, dental, life, and disability coverage (both group and individual through payroll); key man, buy-sell arrangement; ERISA support; ancillary benefits (critical care, cancer, accidental, etc.)."

She plans to sell the benefits portion of her business within the next three to five years so that she can concentrate on the other, more fulfilling component of her business: life insurance for individuals and business owners, charitable gifts of life insurance, individual disability, annuities, variable products, and mutual funds. Robelynn reports that she has "a lot of personal involvement in the charitable space." She serves on numerous boards and volunteers for many charities. "My hope is that, through the use of planning tools and life insurance, I can assist charities in their fund-development programs." She has recently completed a CAP (Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy) designation from the American College to distinguish herself in this field. While she was working on this designation, she was a part of a study group of twelve men and women who met every other week. In addition to herself, the group included two other insurance professionals, three financial planners, a CPA, and five nonprofit leaders. "It was a lofty crew representing most of the largest charities in the area." Although she has been in the business for more than thirty-six years, she has never stopped learning or providing more knowledgeable information and service to her clients. She is not afraid to allow her business to evolve as her life introduces her to new passions.

Robelynn's early years in the business were lonely and difficult (this will be explored in more depth in chapter 2), but through continuously seeking new mentors, coaches, professional designations, and her commitment to volunteerism, she has grown her business to the highest levels. For the past five years, she has qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table's "Top of the Table," a recognition given to the top 2 percent of insurance professionals worldwide. Membership in MDRT is only available to insurance and financial services professionals who earn at least $156,000 (2014) per year from financial services products. TOT membership requires earning at least $936,000 (2014) annually. Although we will not address juggling career and family until later in the book (chapter 4), it is important to note that Robelynn, with the assistance of her husband Wayne, has achieved all of this while nurturing five children.

Here is how Robelynn evaluates her own success and the advice she gives to other women in the financial services industry:

You can work hard, study, be a mom, a wife, a significant other, a woman who wields much power and influence, but at the end of the day, the key to it all is ... are you happy, are you loved and are you making a difference in the life of others?


Monica A. Jones (FIC, Life Insurance and Annuity Specialist, ACSCAAA Life Insurance Company) is unusual among the financial services industry's highly compensated women. She came to financial services rather late in her career and has only been in the industry for nine years. A decade ago she would have never expected to be a life insurance and annuities specialist for ACSC-AAA Life in Chula Vista, California.

Monica had been teaching high school for eighteen years; she loved her job and planned to continue to teach indefinitely. But all of that changed in 2000 when her husband of twenty years suffered a fatal heart attack at age fifty-two. He died without life insurance. He had been a business consultant who charged his clients a part of his fee upfront and the rest when the work was completed. When he died unexpectedly, his clients who had paid the initial fee wanted money refunded for work that had not been done — money the family had already spent. Suddenly Monica was a young widow with a thirteen-year-old daughter, only her teacher's salary, and lots of bills and debts. Her teaching salary could not meet all the unplanned expenses and provide the day-by-day and long-term support for her daughter and herself. And teaching did not have the scheduling flexibility she needed to care for her daughter as a single parent. Leaving a classroom full of high school students to pick up her sick daughter at school simply would not work. She had to find another career.

Her newfound passion for the importance of life insurance, as well as the high-income potential and flexible schedule of a career in insurance made it the ideal choice for her. She joined ACSC-AAA Life Insurance Company, and with the help of her manager and mentor who taught her the products and how to succeed in the business, she quickly rose to the top. Monica writes approximately 200 life insurance policies each year and has more than fifteen-hundred clients. She has qualified for Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) for nine years. She was ACSC-AAA Life "Rookie of the Year" in her first year in the business. She continues to earn top honors in her company, placing in the top four producers in the Auto Club Enterprises (ACE) from 2006 to 2014 and in the top five producers nationwide every year since she started in the business. In 2009, she was the first female life insurance and annuity specialist named ACSC-AAA Life "Life Agent of the Year" and top producer in the nation; she accomplished this again in 2013.

Monica, named Woman of the Year in 2012 by WIFS, attributes her success to her work ethic, organizational skills, attitude, and morals. She is an excellent teacher who is able to simply explain the complexities of life insurance and annuities. Monica surrounds herself with successful people. By doing so, she quickly becomes a part of their group and learns from them. She is active in her company, in professional organizations, and in her community. Lifelong learning and constantly improving what she does is part of her being. She believes that through hard work, both she and her clients are rewarded. She has been so successful that her company made a video about how she conducts her business. A Day in Monica's Life is presented to every new ACSC-AAA agent during her or his initial training.

Monica believes that her woman's personal touch makes her a better insurance agent and more appreciated by her clients. Each of her clients has his or her own customized plan. After she develops the plan with her clients, Monica stays in touch with them, not using social media or technology, but by sending handwritten personal notes to each of them about four times a year. She admits that this is a big task with more than one thousand clients, but it is well worth it. Her clients do not forget her; they return to do more business with her. They also feed her new business by referring new clients without her even asking. They call her to thank her for her thoughtfulness. She does all of this as the only life insurance professional in her office and with no assistant.

Most importantly, Monica believes in doing what is right for her clients. She is a good listener and does a lot of fact-finding, asking each client difficult questions. And she is committed to the importance of owning life insurance, no matter a client's age. "The best part of this business," says Monica, "is that at the end of the day, you protected another man, woman, child, or family, and you go to sleep knowing their financial future will be secure."


Delynn Dolan Alexander (CLTC, Wealth Management Advisor, Founder and Chief Business Development Officer, Alexander Financial Services, Northwestern Mutual) is a second-generation Northwestern Mutual financial representative. Her mother Elaine Dolan was a single mom and an insurance agent in Dallas when there were almost no women at either company or professional organization meetings. Today, the number of female financial services professionals is still small, less than 20 percent of the industry. However, when Elaine was an active agent, there were no lines at the women's restroom, and some places didn't even have a restroom for women. In spite of the lack of female role models, Elaine was a successful agent and a very successful mom. Delynn knew she wanted to follow in her mom's footsteps by the time she was twelve.

My mother raised me as a single parent who found herself in the insurance business after meeting with a financial representative to purchase some for herself. She had a work ethic like no one I've ever seen before or after, and she was determined this career would make a difference in our lives by making a difference in her clients' lives. She was right. I have always looked up to her, her strength, her disciplined studious nature, and her unbelievable belief that I could be successful in whatever I choose to do in life.

Indeed, Delynn is successful in her chosen career as a wealth manager and financial planner. However, like most beginning insurance agents, the start of her career was a bit rocky. In her first year, when she was struggling to make her first sale, her mother taught her a very important lesson about confidence. Elaine took Delynn to lunch and then across the street to a car dealership. Delynn was excited, thinking her mother was about to help her purchase her first car. Delynn was feeling very good and relieved during the sales process until she and Elaine sat down with the finance guy. Elaine made it clear that Delynn would be purchasing this car on her own. Delynn said, "No cosign, no help with the down payment, nothing! I loved that first car, but mainly I was proud. Proud that I made enough sales every month (barely in some months) to pay my payments and proud to learn that sometimes if you want something bad enough or have to do something strong enough, you will make it happen." Delynn never forgot those lessons.

Today, Alexander Financial Services, a firm Delynn founded with her business partner and good friend Reena Bland, is one of the top wealth management practices in Northwestern Mutual. Delynn serves as the chief business development officer, and Reena — who previously had been a financial representative and field director with Northwestern Mutual — is the chief financial officer. They have a professional team of five associates: director of investment services, director of investment operations, director of insurance operations and client service, director of operations, and director of planning. In addition, they have one other employee.


Excerpted from Financial Services: Women at the Top by Arthea Reed, Diane Dixon. Copyright © 2015 Arthea Reed and Diane Dixon. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, ix,
Introduction, xv,
Research Methodology, xxvii,
CHAPTER 1 Success Stories, 1,
CHAPTER 2 Getting Started, 17,
CHAPTER 3 Transcendent Moments, 41,
CHAPTER 4 Juggling, Balancing, and Blending, 61,
CHAPTER 5 Becoming a Financial Professional, 85,
CHAPTER 6 Business Models and Plans, 115,
CHAPTER 7 Paying It Forward and Giving Back, 139,
CHAPTER 8 Transitions and Succession, 157,
CHAPTER 9 A Roadmap to Success for Financial Services Professionals, 187,
CHAPTER 10 Learning from Amazing Women, 219,
Appendix A Survey Instrument — Without Responses, 231,
Appendix B Women in Financial Services: How to Succeed in Business, 235,
Appendix C Initial Interview Questions for Women Selected to Appear in Book, 241,
Appendix D Professional Designations and Organizations: Acronyms, Descriptions, and Websites, 245,
Bibliography, 249,
About the Authors, 251,
Endnotes, 253,

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