‘This can be done. Go do it.': XYPN hires 2, hits 56% women on leadership

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Thanks to two new hires, XY Planning Network’s 17-person leadership team is now 56% women and the firm plans to further diversify its top executive ranks, full team and network of about 1,110 affiliated advisors.

So how did XYPN hit this new mark and how does it plan to do more? By continuing to be explicit, loud and public about its intentions, says firm co-founder Alan Moore.

“That will bring people in,” Moore says. “It is important, if firms have a stance on these issues, that they make them known. It helps to attract the right people, and repel the wrong people, so that you continue to hire and work with people that are aligned to your values.”

Kasia Kulbacka (left), XY Planning Network's new chief of operations and Lisa Asher, new managing director of XY Investment Solutions.

The firm went public with its aim of hiring 50% women two years ago.

Since then, it has taken a strikingly public stance in promoting policies designed to create a safe workplace for women in an industry notorious for its poor treatment of them. A third of women in a broad-based SourceMedia survey in 2018 reported a high prevalence of sexual misconduct in the wealth management industry. Moore recently supported his wife Mary as she chose to speak publicly about her account of having been sexually assaulted at an industry event. She works at AdvicePay, the advisor bill pay service Moore co-founded.

This kind of leadership helped persuade Lisa Asher, a CFA and former director of advisor success of Clearnomics, to join the firm as its managing director of XY Investment Solutions, the firm’s new TAMP.

“Having been personally affected by a lot of the bad stuff in wealth management, I really wanted to know I was going to a place where I would be engaged, where I would feel valued,” Asher says. “That was super, super important to me and such a relief, too. You felt like, man, I could finally relax and do the work.”

In her new position, she says, “I am a relieved person.”

Asher moved to the firm’s headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, from Pittsburgh with her husband, a geologist, in September. He has found a job in his field in their new hometown.

In May, XYPN hired Kasia Kulbacka, an electrical engineer and utilities company veteran, as its new COO. Kulbacka, who was unavailable for comment following a death in the family, moved from Boston to join her husband, who is a fireman in Bozeman.

Asher cited Sonya Dreizler’s #MeToo-inspired “Do Better” blog, which shares anonymous accounts of sexual harassment and gender discrimination from women in the financial services industry, as evidence of the kind of problems women commonly face in wealth management.

“I’ve read almost all of [the accounts],” Asher says. “Nothing came as a shock to me. I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds that’s about right.’” She declined to be more specific .

It’s worth noting that XYPN’s choice to be upfront and explicit about its intention to close its own gender hiring gap has borne fruit — especially in a state like Montana, which is off the beaten track for financial services, Dreizler says.

“I suspect that many women and people of color and folks that don’t feel included or welcome in many financial services settings would welcome more companies explicitly talking about — and really walking the walk of — inclusion,” Dreizler says.

By next year, XYPN plans to make another executive level hire to bring the percentage of its top leaders to 50% women, Moore says. Its executives now include Moore, co-founder Michael Kitces and Kulacka.

Seventy percent of the firm’s 52 team members are women. It also plans to keep or exceed that level as it adds 25 to 30 new team members this year, on the way to its goal of growing to 250, Moore says.

The percentage of women among XYPN’s affiliated advisors — 25% — is only slightly higher than the 23% of CFPs nationwide who are women.

Another XYPN goal is to hire more minorities. The goalpost on that front is to hit 20% by the end of 2021. The current percentage of minority employees at XYPN stands at 10%.

Achieving racial diversity can be tough in Bozeman, which is largely white, says Moore. But he nonetheless believes that as XYPN succeeds at hiring people of color, those hires will attract still more racial diversity, along with people with different gender identities.

“If we have visible diversity,” he says, “we will attract invisible diversity.”

By breaking down its diversification strategy, XYPN is providing a model for others to follow, says Rachel Robasciotti, who owns her own woman-led RIA in San Francisco and advocates for public companies to take a stronger stance against sexual harassment at their firms.

“I believe that people don’t really go after something that seems difficult when it seems impossible,” Robasciotti says. XYPN’s success in hiring women, she says, “is sending the message that this is possible. This can be done. Go do it.”

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Gender issues Diversity and equality Practice management RIAs Michael Kitces Alan Moore XY Planning Network Practice Management Resource Center