What started in 1994 as an idea to bring together a small group of female financial advisors at Raymond James has expanded two decades later into a large force leading the industry forward for women.

The Raymond James Network for Women Advisors, which consists of 850 women across the firm, will hold its 20th annual women’s symposium this month and feature some of the nation’s top women in financial services providing inspiration on what has been accomplished and what work still lies ahead.

The event, whose theme this year is “Breaking Through,” will take place Oct. 8-10 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be headlined by a keynote speech from Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck.

“This event recognizes the benefits of being successful and helping your clients and also what it means to be a woman advisor, since there still are so few in the industry,” says Nicole Spinelli, director of the network and organizer of the symposium.

Spinelli has seen the growth of the network’s symposium first hand. When she arrived at Raymond James in 2001, attendance at the annual conference was 70, and when she took over as director in 2009, it was 96. This year, Spinelli is anticipating 250 registrants.

“We want to recognize where we are and where are going,” says Spinelli of plans for the 20th anniversary conference. “It’s a celebration and reflection of how far we have come.” 

This year’s event is getting increased attention due to the anniversary and Krawcheck, its high-profile keynote speaker, Spinelli says. Krawcheck, who previously held executive posts at Bank of America and Citigroup, now chairs the Ellevate Network, which in June teamed up with Pax World Management to offer an index fund focused on companies where women hold a large portion of officer and director positions. Spinelli says the network has developed a positive relationship with Pax that helped land Krawcheck for the symposium.

“It’s a huge, huge step to get Sallie,” says Spinelli, who majored in women’s studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “She is an engaging speaker.”

Krawcheck is just one of many women who have shined in an industry long dominated by men who will be speaking at the three-day event.

Other speakers include Susan Bradley, a CFP who  founded the Sudden Money Institute; Anastasia Amoroso, global market strategist for J.P. Morgan Funds; and Bella Allaire, Raymond James’ executive vice president of technology and operations.

Speeches will also be delivered by businesswomen who are successful outside of financial services, including the acclaimed sports agent Molly Fletcher and the CEO of American Water, Susan Story.

The symposium will also offer study groups and breakout sessions that address practice management, business development, best practices, technology and succession planning. Awards of distinction will also be given to women advisors in Raymond James’ 13 regions.

“The value of getting so many successful women together for three days is amazing,” Spinelli says. “We have come so far.”  

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