Education and mentoring

‘A sense of place:’ WAFA helps support women at RBC Wealth Management


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In workplaces across the country, employee resource groups (ERGs) provide people with support, tools and resources to help them succeed. At RBC Wealth Management-U.S., ERGs are an important part of the firm’s culture and commitment to inclusion and diversity. One such group at the firm has been providing a supportive and inclusive environment for women for more than 26 years, making it one of the longest-standing women-focused ERGs in the country. Called the Women’s Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA), the group aims to support the recruitment and retention of women in financial advisor and branch leadership roles and help women at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. succeed.

WAFA women in the conference audience

WAFA members attend the 2017 WAFA conference.

“What WAFA brings to the firm is a sense of place,” says Wanda Brackins, head of RBC Wealth Management global diversity. “It’s a connection for women advisors, a network of people that can help them through issues – whether with their business or in life.”

And now WAFA is helping RBC look to the future. With the recent release of a new series of documentary-style videos that highlight some of RBC’s successful women financial advisors, RBC and WAFA are sharing their stories to help more women have a view into the firm’s supportive culture.

“We’re excited to share what we have here at the firm with even more women,” Brackins says.

Lending a hand

WAFA’s goal of making the firm a supportive environment for women starts at the very beginning. When a new female advisor joins RBC, they receive a welcome letter from WAFA within their first few weeks, explains Maureen Kerrigan, the group’s outgoing president.

“We want to let them know that WAFA is here for whatever they might need,” she says.

WAFA women listening at conference

WAFA members attend the 2017 WAFA conference.

The group provides a variety of educational and business resources for its members, including a very popular and well-attended annual conference for its members. The conference is an opportunity for female advisors in the firm to connect with each other face to face, and to learn best business practices for the year ahead. Some of the events at this year’s conference included a session with “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed, a presentation on the firm’s technology direction, a discussion of investment solutions for current market conditions, and much more.

Through seminars, discussions and challenges for the upcoming year, the conference has been proven to make a difference. From one year to the next, internal metrics show that those who participate in the conference increase their production levels more than those who didn’t attend.

The conference also includes the presentation of an annual award named in memory of Gail Winslow, an RBC financial advisor who served as a strong mentor throughout her 60-year career, before passing away in 2015. Each year, the award recognizes a woman at RBC who goes above and beyond in attracting, supporting and retaining women clients and financial advisors. This year’s winner was Kirstin Turner, director of the firm’s Florida complex, who was recognized for her efforts to recruit women to the firm, her mentorship of her women colleagues, and her volunteer efforts to teach local women the basics of insurance, estate planning and more.

WAFA conference ballroom

WAFA members listen to “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed at the 2017 WAFA conference.

According to Kerrigan, WAFA is following Winslow’s lead through its programs.

“We’ve made great progress toward letting women know that they have a resource to tap into,” she says. “We provide the networking and support to help women thrive.”

And lending a hand is really what WAFA is all about, Kerrigan says.

“None of us got to where we are today by ourselves,” she says. “I’ve always been one who feels that those of us who have had a bit of success in our lives, we have an obligation to turn around and reach a hand out to someone and say, ‘What can I do for you?’”

As RBC looks ahead to its initiative of adding more women to its ranks, WAFA will continue to be there to provide that supportive network, just as it’s done for the last quarter-century.

“That’s what WAFA does,” says Brackins. “It’s all about what we can do as a firm to help others up.”