Five top firms will launch tailored internships this fall under a CFP Board pilot program aimed at hiring former professionals from the financial services and other fields.

It's the latest effort to improve what can only be called dismal statistics.

The proportion of women CFPs has remained stagnant at 23% for a decade and only 16% of advisers are women, notes Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, executive director of the CFP Board’s Center for Financial Planning.

“Firms essentially rob from each other and were not expanding the pool,” Mohrman-Gillis says. “We’re not going to expand that number if we just keep shifting mid-level women around from one firm to another and another.”

The CFP Board and re-entry firm iRelaunch, which has led similar programs at large investment firms and in the science and technology space, unveiled the partnership earlier this month. While open to prospective advisers of any gender, the paid program marks a new approach to boosting diversity.

Organizers hope to give firms another means of hiring women besides poaching, Mohrman-Gillis says.

Participating firms include Edelman Financial Services, United Capital, Fairport Asset Management, Yeske Buie and Fidelity Investments. TD Ameritrade Institutional will sponsor the group at Edelman and United, while the Schwab Foundation will sponsor Fairport and Yeske Buie’s classes.

Women who quit their jobs to raise children make great candidates for so-called re-entry internships, according to Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch. She cites Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showing 2.6 million mothers nationwide between 25 and 54 years old with bachelor’s degrees or higher but no job.

“There’s a specific scenario of female professionals that have outstanding education and talent, and they intentionally decided to quit working to become moms,” says Tim Kober, principal of Cedar Financial Advisors in Beaverton, Oregon, and chairman of NAPFA’s national board of directors.

“Personal financial planning is a great opportunity for that specific scenario. I think they’re bringing a lot to the table.”

About 2.2 million of the educated, working-age mothers would be interested in returning to work, and men and women who have taken career breaks for other reasons make the pool even larger, according to iRelaunch’s research. The former professionals boast skills applicable to any industry, Cohen says.

Career re-entry program stats

Out of 5,400 prospective mid-career recruits to all fields who have attended conferences run by iRelaunch since 2008, roughly 70% have graduate degrees and about 70% worked full-time for at least 10 years prior to their career breaks.

“They have great work experience and a more mature perspective. They are not trying to find themselves at their employers’ expense. They are at a stable life stage,” Cohen says.

“One of the greatest attributes is that they bring an energy and enthusiasm to the workplace because they have been away for so long.”

Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and MetLife have all launched “returnship” programs, and Cohen worked with the Society of Women Engineers to start the STEM Re-entry Task Force in 2015. Firms retain more than half of the interns full-time in both financial services and tech, Cohen says.

The advisory program will cull from among former pros of related fields, teachers and a range of other prior careers. Organizers picked large and small RIAs, custodians and a retail brokerage for the pilot, allowing each firm to decide the size, term and scope of their first group of interns, Cohen says.

“We’re really excited about that because we want the experiences to reflect the full range of opportunities that are available in the financial planning sector,” she says. “One of the messages is that you don’t have to be a finance jock to be successful in this field.”

Indeed, many advisers migrated to their practices from other industries. Kober and his business partner, Peggy Kessinger both worked at Intel for more than 15 years before they started the RIA. Hiring mid-career shifters could help the industry add more diversity to both staffs and clientele, Kober says.

“You end up attracting clients that are like you, which I’ve found to be true,” he says. “When you have your own history, life experience, and perspective, it adds to the discussion.”

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