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Dwyer, Hill, and Martin (2000) defined critical success factors as the “skills, tasks and/or behaviors that influence an employee’s performance” (p. 151). Critical success factor analysis has been used in numerous industries to determine those areas in which management must concentrate or identify as areas that should be isolated in order to move the organization forward. Prior to the development of CSF methods, Rockart (1979) identified four possible means of disseminating information to top executives: total study, null approach, key indicators, and by-product. Rockart (1979) stated that “critical success factors are the limited number of areas in which if results are satisfactory will ensure successful competitive performance for the organization” (p. 85) and must be tied to the goals of the organization (Cherian et al., 2008). Critical success factors require constant monitoring and changes due to the changes in the organization. There are four prime sources of CSFs: structure, competitive, environment, and temporal (Rockart, 1979). Structure factors are those things that are determined by the characteristics of the industry. Competitive strategy refers to such things as market niche, location, distribution of key resources, and managerial support.

Environmental factors refer to areas associated with the economy, political factors, and demographic issues.

Temporal factors are those items that are critical for a period of time (i.e., staffing issues, loss of management, etc.; Stein & Voehl, 1997). Work conducted by Amberg et al. (2005) extended previous research regarding CSFs by determining that CSFs have different dimensions. Critical success factors can be hierarchal versus group, temporary versus ongoing, internal versus external, building versus monitoring, strategic versus tactical, or perceived versus actual (Amberg et al.).

GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 455 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 Social Capital Theory Social capital theory is “the ability of actors to secure benefits by virtue of membership in social networks or other social structures” (Portes, as cited in Akdere, 2005, p. 1). Social capital provides individuals access to resources that can enhance the probability of success. From a business perspective, social capital refers to “resources such as information, ideas, business opportunities, financial capital, power, emotional support, goodwill, trust and cooperation” (Baker, as cited in Akdere, p. 3). Access to social capital provides individuals with a competitive advantage only if information is not readily available (Burt, 2007). Harris et al. found that workplace social capital support through mentoring, collegial support, and task support predicted job tenure. Social capital theory links employees with information. Viewing social capital from a structural perspective focuses on relationships and connections between actors, such as friendship and trust. Per Kase and Zupan (2007), the structural lens results in “opportunities for access to diverse resources and information, and to enjoying greater autonomy due to less strict normative control” (p. 217).

According to Kase and Zupan, organizations that are knowledge-intensive provide an informational environment that helps employees solve complex and often ambiguous problems that significantly contribute to job performance. The access to knowledge was highlighted in lawsuits as being critical to opportunities for success in the brokerage industry. However, within the financial services sector, competition for fewer positions has eroded the traditional model of social capital (Tempest, McKinlay, & Starkey, 2004). Tempest et al. determined that there exists a limited number of studies that evaluate how individual careers can benefit from social capital. The researchers argued that the “traditional financial services career is associated with ‘strong and unified’ organizational social capital that encourages cooperation at the expense of innovation” (p. 1524).

Implications of the Literature

A review of the literature indicated that EEO laws and diversity initiatives alone are ineffective for eliminating disparities in the workplace. Organizations and individuals must work in conjunction to facilitate career success. The brokerage industry is just one of many that have experienced financial assessments due to the lack of advancement of women and minorities. The literature indicated that there is a definite need for additional information with regards to critical success factors within the personal financial services industry. Additional career factor analysis could be instrumental in resolving retention issues that are prevalent in the brokerage industry. Although there have been numerous diversity initiatives, there remain areas in which scholarly research may have a valuable impact. The literature review indicated that an evaluation of factors affecting career success can be determined through the use of critical success factor research.


The sample for this study consisted of 15 Black personal financial advisors who have obtained the position of vice president or above in the brokerage industry. These personal financial advisors were considered highly successful based on assets under management, revenue generated, and length of service in the industry. In order to obtain the desired number of participants, the researcher employed a nonprobability sampling technique, collecting names from the public documents that list the corporate officers. The study was conducted using theoretical sampling, which allows for the selecting and studying of a homogeneous sample of individuals (Creswell, 2007) such as Black personal financial advisors. The introduction to the study was accomplished through an invitation to participate. Each respondent was given the opportunity to express his or her understanding and role in the study. Once participants had signed and returned the Informed Consent letter, the researcher made arrangements to interview each individual respondent using the structured interview guide, for data collection. To protect participants, the researcher assigned identification numbers to all documents regarding participants. The interview guide was designed as an GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 456 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 expansion of the literature from Pinto and Slevin (as cited in Stroman, 2007), Dobbins (2002), Warriner (2005), and Stroman. The resulting CSFC categories extended Rockart’s (1979) research, and addressed external factors such as political, environmental, cultural, and external relationships. The researcher modified Stroman’s (2007) structured interview guide for the study of personal financial advisors. The modifications included specific language that defines success, eliminated categories that were unrelated to being a personal financial advisor, and added categories that are relevant to investigating the personal financial services industry. The new categories were cultural and marketing influences. The CSFCs for this

study of personal financial advisors were as follows:

Global or Industry-Related External Influences Internal Influences Temporal and Enduring Risk Abatement Performance Cultural Influences Marketing Influences Data Collection and Analysis The population for this case study consisted of 15 Black personal financial advisors at the vice president level (or above), employed or previously employed at a major U.S. brokerage firms. The group consisted of 2 women and 13 men. Respondents represented seven different major brokerage firms and capital management companies. All persons interviewed were practicing on the East Coast of the United States.

The purpose of the structured interview was to request potential CSFs from each of the 15 Black personal financial advisors. After the data collection interviews, the information was transcribed to an electronic word processing format for accuracy, coding, and analysis. Then each interview was analyzed to determine the CSFs. The analysis was a four-part process administered to each respondent’s category data. The researcher: (1) Compiled a list of all the factors for each category; (2) Determined whether the factors were used in the proper context related to the particular category: (3) Counted the number of times a factor appeared for each category and (4) Sorted and ranked the factors in descending order for each category.

Conversations with participants were recorded and transcribed for accuracy. Consent of the participants was obtained prior to tape recording of the interview. A professional stenographer was hired to transcribe the information for analysis.

The researcher sought to identify critical success factors of Black personal financial advisors at major brokerage firms. The data were coded by category and analyzed. Analysis for this study was accomplished by counting the factors named by the 15-person sample. The researcher compiled a list of all the factors for each category, determined whether the factors were used in the proper context related to the particular study, counted the number of times a factor appeared for a category, sorted, and ranked in descending order the factors for each category. This study utilized a cross-referral, indexing, abstraction, and pagination (Miles & Huberman, 1994) to ensure the proper presentation of data. The determination of the CSF for each category was completed by contextual examination of the statements. Each interview resulted in potential CSFs in each of the eight CSFCs. Applying CSFC analysis, the filtration process resulted in the reduction of factors to indicate the relative importance, or criticalness, of the stated activity.


The answers to the research questions were obtained by gathering data from 15 successful Black personal financial advisors. The researcher developed an eight-category model, designed from Stroman’s critical success factor category analysis, and utilized a structured interview guide to solicit feedback. The GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 457 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 participants provided 243 responses. Due to the fact that each interview provided appropriate responses, it supports the position that CSFCs can be applied to the personal financial advisor profession. This research appears to be the first in which critical success factor category analysis was applied to successful Black personal financial advisors. The five most frequently identified critical success factors in the eight CSFCs were Organization structure and support Work ethic and business processes Market analysis/target market Communications Compliance activities


The main research questions were “What are the critical success factors within the critical success factor categories (CSFCs) as defined by Black personal financial advisors in the financial services industry?” and “What are the five most frequently identified critical success factors within the eight critical success factor categories (CSFCs) as defined by Black personal financial advisors?” These questions were answered by applying CSFC theory and analysis to the responses provided by 15 successful Black personal financial advisors. The research resulted in five critical success factors, which supports using CSFC analysis as a method to determine success strategies in the personal financial advisor profession. The results suggest that the essential factors to success as a Black personal financial advisor are dependent upon the resources and support provided by the advisor’s firm and having a personal work ethic that produces business processes that lead to consistent results. The results of this study support the arguments presented in discrimination cases that have been filed by women and minorities in the financial services and brokerage industries stating that organizational support is essential for success. Access to resources and support from the organization in such areas as management, clerical, training, funding, and product availability are critical to being successful. Time spent handling administrative issues distract the Black personal financial advisor from essential business development activities. Given the results of this study, financial institutions must continue to evaluate resource allocation and implement measures to ensure that employees are receiving the necessary resources to be successful.


Akdere, M. (2005). Social capital theory and implications for human resource development. Singapore Management Review, 27(2), 1–24.

Amberg, M., Fischl, F., & Wiener, M. (2005). Background of critical success factor research (Working Paper No. 2/2005).

Avery, D. R., McKay, P. F., Wilson, D. C., & Tonidandel, S. (2007). Unequal attendance: The relationships between race, organizational diversity cues, and absenteeism. Personnel Psychology, 60(4), 875–902.

Bogle, J. C. (2008). Black Monday and black swans. Financial Analyst Journal, 64(2), 30–40.

Boynton, A. C., & Zmud, R. W. (1984). An assessment of critical success factors. Sloan Management Review (pre-1986), 25(4), 17–27.

GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 458 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 Brazeal, D. V., Schenkel, M. T., & Azriel, J. A. (2008). Awakening the entrepreneurial spirit: Exploring the relationship between organizational factors and perceptions of entrepreneurial self-efficacy and desirability in a corporate setting. New England Journal of Entrepreneurship, 11(1), 9–25.

Breland, J. W., Treadway, D. C., Duke, A. B., & Adams, G. L. (2007). The interactive effect of leader– member exchange and political skill on subjective career success. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 13, 1–14.

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