Flexibility, the ability to customize one’s practice and the entrepreneurial nature of being an advisor make the financial planning profession a great career for women, said participants of a roundtable discussion held by Guardian Life Insurance.

The roundtable took place Tuesday with Guardian’s Women Producers’ Summit in New York as its backdrop. Guardian has made it a point to recruit more women advisors in recent years and plans to announce on Wednesday its 2013 goal: For 28% of the company’s new representatives to be women. With a total of 630 women financial representatives Guardian has grown this number since 2009 and has hired 150 women financial representatives so far in 2012.

“Women have such a unique and lucrative career opportunity as a financial representative and in fact, it’s the career every woman needs to know about,” said Emily Viner, Guardian’s vice president of agency management and leadership development

Moderated by Viner, the roundtable featured six of Guardian’s top women producers including Karen Jessey of Wealth Strategies Group, Amy Salo of Wealth Advisory Group, Annetter Hammortree of Hammortree Financial Services, Margureite Rangel and Chau Lai of Pacific Advisors and Sandra Scolari of Park Avenue Securities.

Increasing the number of women advisors also represents an opportunity to capitalize on women-controlled household wealth in a male-dominated profession, according to roundtable participants.

Asked why being a financial advisor is a good career for women to consider now, the panelists agreed that the flexibility, in terms of schedule, clients, location, team and business model –to be able to build one’s practice as it suits her and her ever-changing life –is a key benefit when it comes to juggling a career and family responsibilities.

“It’s rare that a woman can be in an entrepreneurial environment and be at every one of her kid's events,” Hammortree said.

Or as Lai noted, she was able to design her practice to prepare for the children she plans to have and the activities she is sure to attend. “I declared that I wanted a business that is location-irrelevant. Now 90% of my client meetings are web based. I can meet my clients remotely anytime,” Lai said.

However, flexibility isn’t the only perk, and it comes with a price they said, whether it’s getting up early, staying up late or both, working long hours for the first years in the business.

“We all had to put in 80 hours a week for years before we said enough is enough,” Jessey said. At which point they were able make their schedules more flexible and on their own terms, from no longer working weekends or refusing to take clients after 4PM to taking Wednesday and Friday afternoons off completely.

But the hard work and long hours didn’t deter any of these women. All said they loved their businesses and don’t view what they do simply as a job.

“You do what it takes to earn people’s trust. You build this business one relationship at a time,” Lai said. “It takes time. Client relationships take time. But women are very good at being able to understand their clients and being able to guide, support and nurture them as only women can.” 

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