“If we don’t make a one-on-one connection with all our female and diverse potential leaders, then we’re doing them a disservice.”
- Andrea Andersen, General Partner and Financial Advisor, Western Canada Area Leader, Edward Jones Canada
Andrea Andersen is a Calgary-based Financial Advisor and Western Canada Leader at Edward Jones. She sees a great opportunity for women in the financial advisory field, as money transitions to women from partners and parents, and the inheritors seek out advisors with whom they can relate. Furthermore, she says, appreciation is growing for female leaders and the qualities they bring to the table – qualities, she feels, can help firms become even more successful.
What qualities do women bring to leadership roles and corporate decision-making?
Empathy and building trustworthy relationships are the two qualities that come to mind. Both come from a place of seeking to understand and the desire to create a place of belonging. The time of being a know-it-all is gone and now we must be learn-it-alls. Women tend to engage in meaningful conversations to gain the full picture before making decisions. They try to see all sides of the opportunity. I know men who do this as well, but taking the time to be present in conversation comes a little more naturally to women.
Why did you decide to pursue a career as a financial advisor?
There were two reasons why I changed careers – time and opportunity. As a high school music teacher, I thought that education was going to be a good fit for family, but quickly discovered it was limiting. I had little control of my day. My son was six years old when I joined Edward Jones, and one of the key factors to move was the flexibility it gave and the power over my daily activities. I also wanted an opportunity to grow as a leader, and what makes our firm unique is that I can be a practicing financial advisor and stretch myself as a strategic thinker as I sit at the table where the decisions are made at a firm level. The voice of the client and branch teams are represented by people closest to the work – and that makes a difference.
What helped you succeed when you were starting out?
The support at Edward Jones is outstanding. Both the training and the people gave me the support I needed when I started out with the firm. I find there are three key aspects that successful people have: a positive attitude, a good support system and a sense of control. I brought the positive attitude but Edward Jones provided the other two ingredients – incredible support, through technology and head office support, and the ability to control my day and my future. It was the recipe for success, and I just had to follow it.
What do you enjoy most about your two roles?
As a financial advisor, I love working with clients, of course. I know who they are, I know their family life, I know their fears, and I know their goals. It is very gratifying to help my client families build a more stable future and it’s humbling to have their trust in my abilities to do so. My favourite part of being a leader is seeing the people I lead become the best version of themselves as they grow and develop.
What makes a workplace “women-friendly”?
There are signs of a firm making an effort – roles specifically developed to support the unique needs of women, an intentional decision to ensure diverse voices are at the table. But you can really tell if a firm is women-friendly by what’s happening at the grass roots. Women support other women in their business building and their personal development. Male leaders provide opportunities and speak up against language that is not inclusive. Ultimately, culture and connection are foundational needs for many women. It’s not all about what comes from the top.
Female role models are important, too. At Edward Jones, our Managing Partner, Penny Pennington, is the first and only woman leading a major brokerage firm in the United States, and our top financial advisor is also a woman and has over a billion dollars in assets under management. We are proud to have a balanced senior leadership team at our headquarters in Canada, where 42 per cent of our leaders are women. I believe that has shifted the conversation, with more openness to challenging ideas that move our firm forward, supported by good communication and empathy. And, because those women are there, I never even considered that there wouldn’t be opportunities for me.
What do you think has made the difference between firms that have struggled and firms that have thrived through the pandemic?
The companies that have thrived are purpose-driven with a growth mindset. We understand that we have a role to play in our communities and need to make a difference and grow the impact that we have. At Edward Jones, being purpose-driven has allowed us to make sound decisions about how we use our resources to serve our clients.
In addition, firms have had to be agile. As part of the leadership team, I’ve seen the energy and effort invested to ensure our technology meets the needs of the field. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, we quickly set up for most of our employees to be able to work from home. We’ve also spent a lot of time over the past year and a half on wellness for our advisors and for our assistants to make sure they are well taken care of, with extra time off if necessary. Edward Jones has survived and even grown through every crisis for the past 50 years and has not downsized.
What can firms do to promote more inclusive workplaces?
Companies need to move past one-time events and instead be part of a program designed for continuous improvement. They should make a real commitment to inclusion and diversity in the workplace on an on-going basis. We have made a call to each of the leaders in our firm to find an emerging leader and walk the path of leadership with them. If we don’t make a one-on-one connection with all our female and diverse potential leaders, then we’re doing them a disservice. It’s about being more intentional with our connections and our support.
March 30, 2021