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Pay gap begs question: Should planners train clients in negotiation?

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The future of wealth management doesn’t lie in asset allocation or ETF pricing, financial advisor Debra Brennan Tagg says.

“The future of our industry is how we, as humans, help other humans get paid all that they are worth, so that they can use their money to have the lives that they want,” Tagg said in an address to some 400 fellow Advisor Group advisors at the firm’s annual W Forum this month.

Advisors should attack the industry’s massive gender pay gap and that of the country by learning and teaching salary negotiation skills to clients, she argues. Attendees picked Tagg the winner out of four finalists in the network’s first-ever visionary speech contest for charity.


The independent broker-dealer donated $1,200 to organizations of each finalists’ choice after narrowing the group down from 37 applicants, according to Advisor Group Chief Marketing Officer Susan Theder. It also recruited eight women advisors in the first quarter.

Only 23% of CFPs are women — a share which has remained the same for a decade. IBDs like Advisor Group are supporting women advisors with conferences and other programming, but Executive Chairman Valerie Brown is one of only a few women in senior roles in the IBD sector.

Tagg, a 20-year veteran of Advisor Group’s FSC Securities and co-owner of Dallas-based Brennan Financial Services, says she decided to home in on women’s peak earning years. Training to ask for a raise is “a skill that financial advisors should have in their toolkit,” she says.

“We as female financial advisors need to lead this change,” says Tagg, whose practice manages about $500 million in client assets. “If we learn ourselves, and if we teach others, then we're in a place where we can create a significant change.”

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In the speech, she gave the audience five keys to successful negotiation from an attorney, a salary consultant and a human resources executive. It starts with knowing the facts of average industry salaries and an employer’s pay decision process, she says.

The employee then needs to be clear about their goals, control the conversation by broaching the topic first, recognize that “no” could just be the beginning of the conversation and be willing to commit to the increased responsibility if they win the negotiation.

Other finalists included Nina Lloyd of Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Opus Financial Advisors, Kelly Ryan Smith of Kelly Ryan Financial in Charlotte and Pamela Rodriguez of Los Angeles-based Independent Capital Management.

Advisor Group will post a recording of each finalists’ speech on its W Pulse podcast, Theder says. The firm also provided each of them with five hours of training under a coach who works with Ted Talks speakers.

“I was moved to tears by just the level of expertise that they reached in a short period of time,” Theder says. “I honestly thought each of them could be paid speakers.”

The speeches stood out as a highlight to attendees of the May 1-3 event, according to Theder, who said a question on whether Advisor Group will go up for sale was the first she heard of such reports all week. The firm hasn’t commented on any news stories about a potential M&A deal.

Phoenix-based Advisor Group, which has four IBDs with about 6,500 advisors, did unveil women advisors who joined with $330 million in client assets in the first quarter. They came from LPL Financial, Edward Jones, MassMutual’s IBD, Waddell & Reed and Rhodes Securities.

  • Margo Scepaniak of Avon, Minnesota-based Black Financial Services leads a team managing $126 million in client assets. She joined Woodbury Financial Services on March 18.
  • Elsa Agdinaoay-Segal, Kelle Tom, Glennel Jordan Warren and Donna Tso affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates in February at Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii. They manage more than $70 million in combined client assets.
  • Tricia Wood’s Fort Worth, Texas-based Haber Wealth Management brought $70 million in client assets to FSC. She aligned with her new IBD on March 11.
  • Teri White of Santa Maria, California-based Wayfinder Wealth Management manages $53 million in client assets. White came to FSC in January.
  • Taina Gude affiliated with the Las Vegas-based practice AmeriFlex under SagePoint Financial as her new IBD on March 1. She has $10 million in client assets.

However, the industry has a long way to go toward gender parity in jobs and pay. In Financial Planning’s latest annual survey of the IBD sector, only five firms reported a share of representatives who are women that was 25% or higher.

Tagg aims to speed up the timeline ahead of the several decades some predict it will take for women to receive the same level of pay as men. She’s tired of women being told simply that they’ll need to come to grips with living longer than men while being paid less, she says.

“Our industry has the habit of patting women on the head,” Tagg says, citing the increased confidence that comes with financial independence. “If women made as much money as men, we would have the ability to be as financially secure as men are.”

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