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The Search For Financial Advisors: Bennett College Partners With Wells Fargo

Bennett College for Women, Wells Fargo, Financial Advisors
Bennett College

There’s a national movement to make sure the nation’s financial advisors look like the clients they serve.

But before that can happen, there needs to be a larger number of financial advisors in the pipeline.

A new partnership between Wells Fargo and Bennett College for Women sets out to help solve the problem.

Bennett College, in Greensboro, North Carolina, is known for its formalities. Students often gather in the chapel, and that means singing the alma mater. The historically United Methodist institution began educating mostly African American women 90 years ago.

President Rosalind Fuse-Hall says she’s working to continue the long tradition of learning at this women’s college.  But she wants her Bennett Belles to be more than book smart–she wants them to be pocketbook smart.

“And we always talk about the wealth, the generation wealth passing on, and yet we never talk about how we do that and how we make changes," said Fuse-Hall.

So, when Wells Fargo reached out to the college, Fuse-Hall didn’t hesitate to forge a relationship.

“Well, if I could say I was over the moon about this partnership that wouldn’t be an exaggeration," said Fuse-Hall.

With the help of Wells Fargo Advisors Solutions and the Securities Training Corporation, Bennett College is offering its first General Securities class to introduce students to financial services as a career option.

Diane Gabriel, is President of Wealth Management, Wells Fargo Advisors Solutions based in St. Louis. She says most financial advisors are in their late 50s with thoughts of retirement.

Wells Fargo Advisors, Bennett College, Financial Advisors
Credit Wells Fargo Advisors
Diane Gabriel is President of Wealth Management, Wells Fargo Advisors Solutions.

“If we’re going to ensure that there are enough financial advisors to take those seats, we need to make sure we’re getting to them young, getting to them often, and having them partner with existing teams to show they can be their succession plan," Gabriel.

Gabriel says two-thirds of women have said they would like to work with a female financial advisor, but they can’t find them.

“And so in the 35 years I have been in the industry the percentage of female financial advisors in the early 80s was 10 percent to 11 percent. Today 15 percent to 16 percent," said Gabriel.  "So we haven’t moved the needle enough."

Gabriel says this is their first partnership with a Historically Black College or University, and it won’t be their last.  She says they plan on “moving the needle” by partnering with as many as 10 HBCUs.

David Snyder is the Executive Vice President of the Securities Training Corporation.  Snyder says he constantly hears about the quarter of a million financial advisors retiring in the next decade and he applauds Wells Fargo, Allstate and other companies for starting these new courses at schools like Bennett.

“The corporations recognized it.  Females and minorities are two areas that are totally underserved in our industry, and I think this is a bold statement," said Snyder.

Snyder says in the past two years, 30 colleges and universities now offer a general securities course.  He says hundreds of students will have completed the course this school year.

“Well finance is not my first love," laughed Danae Young.

Danae Young is a graduating senior at Bennett College. Young may not love finance, but the New Jersey native is hoping for a career in Management or Human Resources and signed up for the new General Securities class anyway.

“But when I heard about the opportunity I was like, hum, the opportunity to graduate with a license and to pass the Series 7 Exam.  That would make me really competitive when I graduate," said Young.  "Why wouldn’t I jump on the opportunity?”

Yes, the course prepares students for the infamous General Securities Representative Exam, more commonly known as the “Series 7 Exam.”  The six hour, 250 question test can scare some people away.

If this new General Securities course takes off, financial houses from Charles Schwab to Wells Fargo say they’re on their way to growing advisors and that includes advisors who mirror their customers.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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