Almost 200 female advisors at one of the country's big independent broker-dealers are about to get a new mentoring program.

After a small 10-month trial run that began in July, First Allied Securities says it's set to launch the new program firmwide, connecting more junior female advisors with more experienced mentors. Women make up approximately 16% of First Allied's base of 1,195 advisors.

"It could have really have profound impacts on the success of our advisors," says Marissa Fox-Foley, senior managing director of marketing at First Allied -- which ranked No. 26 in last year's FP50 ranking of independent broker-dealers. "The fundamental reason that we put this program into play is to give our advisors actionable activities they could take away for their businesses."

SMALL TRIAL GROUP

The test group was small -- just four women in two pairs. First Allied selected the small sample out of a group of 16 female advisors who initially expressed interest in taking part in the test run, Fox-Foley says; most dropped out or weren't chosen because the time commitment proved too great, she adds.

Participants were expected to talk by phone at least once a month for an hour, although the program encourages more frequent communication -- as much as an hour a week, says Fox-Foley.

Over the first six months of the trial run, mentee Stacey Stanek-Byars -- one of four advisors with The Thom Group in San Luis Obispo, Calif. -- says her mentor helped her increase production by 15%. She says she is on track to increase it another 30% in the next couple of months if she manages to win the business of a large client.

Stanek-Byars says her mentor gave her strategic advice about her insurance offerings, building up the wealth management side of her practice and dealing with difficult clients. After the two began working together, Stanek-Byars said she let go of two clients who she found difficult to work with.

CHALLENGING CLIENT

One of them was a woman in her 80s who had grown up working only with male doctors and lawyers. "I found that I really had to prove myself," Stanek-Byars says. "When she met with this male advisor, I didn't feel like she was grilling him as much as me."

Her mentor told her the client wasn't worth her time. "She said, 'Work with people who respect your knowledge and expertise -- and if they don't, move on.'"

In this case, the octogenarian left for a few months and then came back, apparently with a new attitude. "She's actually turned out to be a really great client," Stanek-Byars says.

Of the independent broker-dealer's 188 women advisors, Fox-Foley, says First Allied hopes that a total of 20, or 10 pairs, will sign up for a full-scale mentoring program after the firm's annual meeting this summer.

Stanek-Byars says she didn't find the time commitment to the mentoring program to be burdensome. "Anybody who has the opportunity to do this should do this," she says. "It's a win-win, especially for the mentee."

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