We All Win When We Think Bigger Than Ourselves

Drawn to the industry by the desire to build a business and do meaningful work for clients, I started as a financial professional in the late 1990s. I was in a training class of 32 people who all started at the same time. I was the only female — and only one of three people in our class who survived and moved on to have a career in financial services.

As I progressed in my career, joining Principal® in 2013 as a field leader with responsibilities to recruit, develop, and retrain financial advisors, two things became clear to me: 1) The industry has a challenge attracting and retaining women, and 2) I wanted to do something about it.

I’ve always felt that the way the industry was designed to attract, train and retain a diverse candidate pool was severely broken. Companies, I believe, care about adding more diversity but don’t truly understand how. I think that sometimes, we must disrupt our traditional ways of thinking and challenge ourselves to not only think differently, but to act and behave differently. Now as the national vice president of the Principal Financial Network, overseeing recruiting of 200-400 financial professionals a year, I can directly impact the way we attract, train and retain diverse candidates.

One way that impact has come to life is through the Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship, which was a collaborative effort born from feedback from the field. The Fellowship is designed to create an additional runway for diverse candidates. We found one piece that detoured diverse candidates was the requirement to become fully licensed and registered prior to starting as a financial professional. This program removes this barrier to entry and intentionally challenges us to recruit diverse candidates.

An added bonus was that we reallocated existing recruiting budget dollars to accommodate this program (zero addition to the budget — we just needed to do things differently). We collaborated with Miriam Lewis, chief inclusion officer, and the Global Inclusion team at Principal to make sure we were on the right track (a great example of intersectionality in action). And we’ll continue to learn from the program, as it’s not perfect, but we won’t let perfection get in the way of progress!

We’re proud to say that we are now in the process of onboarding five diverse candidates, four of whom are women. We believe these candidates would not have joined if not for this program.

And the results won’t stop there. Not only are these graduating individuals becoming financial professionals, but they may also be a great fit for the enterprise. Some people enter this program and decide becoming a financial professional isn’t for them — but by getting their foot in the door at Principal, providing them a positive experience, and helping them through licensing and registration, we can retain these talented individuals at Principal through another role. We all win when we think bigger than ourselves, and I challenge other teams and business functions to consider this in their own talent practices.

Whether you’re a woman in financial services or have a different experience in financial services, I’d love to hear from you\. What attracted you to financial services? What (or who) has kept you here?

Kimberly Etchings is National Vice President of the Principal Financial Network.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Company (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®, [and the companies available through the Preferred Product Network, Inc.] Securities and advisory products offered through Principal Securities, Inc., Member SIPC. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

Originally posted on WIF website on  May 17, 2023

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