Edward Jones is known not only for its unique business model, but for having one of the top recruiting and training programs of the large financial services firms.
Throughout the firm's nearly 90-year history, Edward Jones has stayed committed to its core principles of building face-to-face relationships and investing for the long-term. The firm's business model is to have conveniently located branch offices in communities where its clients live and work. Typically, there's one financial advisor and one branch office administrator per branch.
Edward Jones is one of the few firms today that continues to aggressively hire new and experienced financial advisors while others downsize and lay off employees. In early 2009, the firm implemented plans to increase its financial advisor force by nearly 8 percent over the year, or 950 new advisors, and add another 1,100 advisors in 2010.
Interestingly, 85 percent of new financial advisor recruits are new to the financial services industry while only 15 percent of new recruits have industry experience. Thus, the majority of Edward Jones' training resources are committed to those recruits who are new to the industry.
Edward Jones has built an extensive training program to help financial advisors prepare for their new career as investment professionals. It consists of a two-month home-study course designed to help financial advisors pass the Series 7 and 66 exams as well as insurance and state exams.
Once exams are passed, trainees spend another two months of on-the-job training in a branch office of a successful financial advisor. Field trainers and mentors then provide in-the-field training, mentoring and evaluation, and help new advisors continue to build their knowledge throughout the first few years in the business. Edward Jones looks for people who understand and can embrace its conservative approach to investing. They also look for 'self managers' who have an entrepreneurial mindset and who want to live in the community where they build a business. How does Edward Jones find the best people for the job? The firm has undertaken several recruiting initiatives to bring on new talent to meet the financial needs of individual investors.
One recruiting technique Edward Jones has had success with is known as Location Rich Markets, which identifies regions across the U.S. with high potential to recruit more talent and open more branch offices. For example, Phoenix and Toronto are two markets with few veteran financial advisors but a significant number of individual investors. Though Edward Jones is headquartered in St. Louis, the firm employs roughly 670 associates at its Tempe campus in Arizona, where it conducts broker training and mutual-fund processing while maintaining data-storage and information-technology functions. The firm has about 130 branch offices in the Phoenix area but plans to add about 250 more over the next five years. Phoenix is considered an attractive place to retire and individual investors need help now more than ever, so the region is full of opportunity.
In this economy, where companies are being forced to consolidate and downsize, Edward Jones' recruiting efforts are alive and well. While some financial firms have had to scale back their training programs to cut costs, Edward Jones continues to prepare for tomorrow by actively looking for college grads, career changers, and existing financial advisors. The most recent sign of Edward Jones' continued commitment to recruiting and growing the firm is the completion of a brand new state-of-the-art training facility in St. Louis.
Edward Jones also actively recruits from the military. Currently, more than 1,600 men and women with military backgrounds work as Edward Jones financial advisors. The firm hopes to increase this number by focusing recruiting and training efforts in military bases across the U.S. such as Fort Hood, TX. There are interesting synergies between the service and dedication of the military and what it takes to be a financial advisor.
In January 2008, Edward Jones established the Women's Initiative for New Growth Strategies (WINGS) which focuses on the recruitment, retention, and leadership development of female financial advisors. Edward Jones attracts people who are high achievers and who value the freedom of managing their own businesses. For women who have an entrepreneurial bent, the opportunity to run their own offices can be especially appealing.
Currently, Edward Jones has more than 2,000 female financial advisors in the U.S., which is just under 18 percent of the firm's 11,700 U.S. financial advisors. Edward Jones' current goal is for 25 percent of all new financial advisor recruits to be women. The firm offers a comprehensive training program which makes previous experience in financial services unnecessary. The WINGS program is designed to create a sense of community among women financial advisors through volunteer programs and formal and informal mentoring. WINGS gets most of its referrals for new female financial advisors from the firm's own associates. The firm also attracts women interested in a career as a financial advisor through seminars and job fairs. The program promotes the opportunities available to financial advisors at Edward Jones: flexible hours, unlimited income potential, building relationships with clients, and maintaining a work/life balance.
Unprecedented growth at Edward Jones over the past several decades is a direct result of firm-wide recruiting and training initiatives. As we've witnessed during this most recent market downturn, it's essential for companies to have a solid recruiting strategy in place in order to continue expanding and, of course, achieve the highest level of client satisfaction.
Price Woodward is principal of Financial Advisor Recruiting and Hiring at Edward Jones.