Leadership Development at Edward Jones

The firm’s Leadership Development Center acts as a talent filter, assessing financial advisors and producing a steady stream of leaders.

By Margery Weinstein

Edward Jones relies on organically grown leadership—identifying, developing, and promoting talented associates up the ranks, all the way to the managing partner’s office. This talent often is found far from firm headquarters, among financial advisors who work in 11,500 branches all over the U.S. and Canada. In fact, more than 60 percent of current firm principals have financial advisor experience, and every firm managing partner was a financial advisor first. To meet the challenge of promoting talented employees spread out across North America, the firm developed and operates the Edward Jones Leadership Development Center (LDC), which assesses and develops financial advisor leadership candidates and current leaders. LDC workshops held at Edward Jones’ training facility help financial advisors improve skills for roles they have now and prepare some for greater responsibilities. Here are further details on how this program works, and the success it has enjoyed:

  • With leadership development one of seven key firm strategies, LDC acts as a filter, assessing financial advisors and producing a steady stream of leaders.
  • As a result of effective financial advisor leadership development best practices, 100 percent of Edward Jones’ more than 230 regional leaders—financial advisors responsible for a geographic region’s health, growth, and development—had a succession-ready candidate at the end of 2010. Of 34 new regional leaders appointed, multiple candidates were available to fill each opening, and all those promoted had attended at least one LDC workshop. Nine new home-office principal positions also were easily filled with LDC-vetted financial advisor candidates, except for one 20-year veteran who ascended to leadership prior to LDC’s creation.
  • The LDC has these noteworthy characteristics:

Inclusive. Leaders in each region and area leaders who travel around the regions scour financial advisor ranks for talent. The firm then invites promising financial advisors to one LDC workshop for those not currently in a top leader position, and top field leaders to an Advanced LDC workshop.

Aligned. Professional outside observers—management coaches and other business experts—provide unbiased feedback based on the firm’s success competencies and collaborative culture.

Transformative. A 1.5-day LDC workshop full of role-play, case studies, presentations, and realistic job-preview exercises helps participants learn how to act intentionally rather than intuitively. For example, one financial advisor’s brusque manner offended almost everyone he encountered, a characteristic he was unaware of, but then resolved to change. He started by making individual apologies. All LDC participants get follow-up telephone coaching over about six months, ensuring they put experiential learning into action.

Adaptable. Current firm leadership needs determine the number and type of LDC sessions offered each year. In 2010, nearly 150 participants attended an LDC or Advanced LDC workshop.

Strategic. Business owners get just-in-time feedback and innovative ideas from the Advanced LDC sessions, where each participant spends a month before it on a current firm challenge. During an LDC program, participants collaborate on a single set of recommendations, then present to the business owner and senior management. Significant innovations have resulted, including: a senior regional leader role created to provide an additional field leadership position and guidance for newer regional leaders; new insurance training for veterans that dramatically increased insurance sales; and some features of a new financial advisor practice-management model.

Sustainable. The entire annual LDC budget typically amounts to less than $500,000, yet the LDC populates Edward Jones’ accelerated-development pools with quality talent. Leaders assessed in an LDC session and promoted have an especially high success rate. Of all the firm’s regional leaders, 98 percent were assessed in at least one LDC session, and most of the remainder have long careers that pre-date the LDC. Edward Jones reports that virtually all financial advisors promoted to home-office principal positions spend many years in key firm leadership positions.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to lorri@trainingmag.com with the subject line “Edward Jones,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.