Edward Jones veteran Penny Pennington will replace retiring managing partner Jim Weddle, following a long period of growth for the St. Louis brokerage.

Weddle led the company for 13 years, growing its brokerage force to more than 16,000 advisors at the end of 2017, from 9,000 when he took the helm, according to Edward Jones. That puts the company's headcount above its wirehouse competitors; Morgan Stanley has more than 15,000 advisors while Merrill Lynch has about 14,500.

Pennington, who will take over leadership from Weddle on Jan. 1, is faced with challenges similar to those at other firms, including an aging advisor force, disruptive technologies and an evolving regulatory landscape. The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule was recently vacated, but it's not clear what will replace it. Meanwhile, the SEC is proposing new standards of conduct for broker-dealers and advisors.

Edward Jones, which has over $1 trillion in assets, has also recently embarked on new efforts to bring more women into the financial advisory profession.

Pennington will be the only woman to lead one of the major employee brokerages in the U.S.

Edward Jones veteran Penny Pennington will replace managing partner Jim Weddle, following his retirement on January 1, 2019.

Like other Edward Jones leaders, Pennington started her career at the firm in 2000 as a financial advisor in Livonia, Michigan. She transitioned into leadership roles at the firm's St. Louis headquarters beginning in 2006, according to Edward Jones. She is 54-years-old, according to a recent company SEC filing.

During her time at the company, she’s been responsible for the client strategies group as well as new financial advisor training.

"Penny is an excellent choice to serve as our firm’s sixth managing partner. Our Executive Committee is confident that she is immersed in our values, culture and partnership, with broad leadership experience in the field, at our headquarters and within our industry," Weddle said in a statement. "Having served as a financial advisor, she has first-hand understanding of what our clients value and our mission to grow and serve more individual investors."

Pennington is a member of the firm's executive, management and audit committees as well as a board member of the Edward Jones Trust Co.

Her compensation for 2017 was listed as approximately $10.5 million, according to SEC filings. Weddle's compensation was approximately $11.4 million.