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Principles, Practices, and Perspectives. NTL Institute. Published by Wiley.

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Ljubomir (“LJ”) Medenica is an assistant professor at the School of Management, University of Alaska Southeast, in Juneau. Prior several engagements in two universities, as a professor and an administrator, Mr. Medenica had 30+ years international career as a management consultant and a business executive. He was also engaged by United Nation Development Program (UNDP) in multiple projects as an expert for organizational development. In addition, Mr. Medenica was conducting numerous corporate training, team building, and leadership development international and national workshops in USA and Europe.

GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 452 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1

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Critical success factor analysis has been used by managers in numerous professions: IT, knowledge sharing, organization development and training, Catholic schools, and the Atlantic Coast Conference to determine those factors that were critical for success. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were approximately 466,000 financial advisors and financial analysts, of whom less than 7% were Black. Successful Black personal financial advisors employ activities that ensure they meet the expectations of both employer and clients. This qualitative study utilized Stroman’s critical success factor category (CSFC) analysis to identify 243 critical success factors in eight areas: global or industry-related, external, internal, temporal or enduring, risk abatement, performance, cultural, and marketing, as defined by 15 successful Black personal financial advisors. A structural interview guide was used to determine the five most critical factors: organizational structure and support, work ethic and business processes, market analysis/target market, communications, and compliance activities. The researcher recommends further application of CSFC analysis on the financial advisor profession, on women financial advisors, and on successful Black women in the banking industry.

JEL : G01, M00 KEY WORDS: Financial Advisors, Critical Success Factor Theory, Qualitative Study, Social Capital Theory


Critical success factors (CSFs) are viewed as those activities that when properly conducted will have a positive impact on the success of a firm in a particular industry (Amberg, Fischl, & Wiener, 2005). The use of critical success factor analysis can also be applied to individuals in order to identify those activities that are necessary for success within a particular occupation. Several methods have been proposed to identify critical success factors. These techniques include “environment scanning, industry structure analysis, industrial expert’s opinions, competitors’ analysis, best practice analysis, assessment of the company’s internal feeling or judgment, and gathered data or profit impact of market strategy” (Eid, Trueman, & Ahmed, 2002, p. 111). This study utilized critical success factor analysis using the industrial expert opinion technique in order to determine critical success factors of successful Black personal financial advisors.

First proposed in 1961, the use of critical success factor analysis, within the information systems arena, was used to determine the information needs of upper management (Daniel, 1961). By 2001, the definition of critical success factor analysis was expanded for broader application to identify skills and resources for an individual to be successful in a given market (Grunert & Ellegaard, 1992). It is this final description in which critical success factors (CSFs) were utilized in this study.

Within the brokerage industry, there are varying criteria for success. However, there are factors that are included by all firms, such as assets under management, length of service, and revenue generated.

Consequently, success as a financial advisor is determined by the accomplishment of several factors:

production, assets under management, and length of service in the industry. The personal financial advisor’s attainment of a combination of these variables determines promotion to the level of vice president or above in the financial services industry. For this study, career success was defined by the achievement of the vice GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 453 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 president title or above. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of personal financial advisors is expected to increase more than any other occupation it is projected the number of financial analysts and advisors from 223,400 in 2012 to 283,700 by 2022. This increase has prompted financial services firms to implement a variety of workforce diversity initiatives, to attract talent.

These firms recognize that clients expect to see individuals who look like them when conducting business with large financial institutions. Consequently, minorities within these institutions must hold more than entry-level positions. Firms with management representation that closely mirrors U.S. demographics send a clear message that anyone can reach leadership ranks (Trebilcock, 2007). However, the number of Black personal financial advisors at major brokerage firms still remains at approximately 2% (McGeehan, 2006).

Paikert (2014) states that at independent advisory firms, the number drops to between 1% and 2%. The majority of literature addressing career success portrays success as being a simple process of linking personal traits/characteristics with workplace requirements (Kahnweiler, 2006b). The problem addressed in this study was the limited research concerning the critical success factors of Black personal financial advisors. The implementation of diversity initiatives continues to experience challenges with regards to recruiting and retaining minorities (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2008). McKay and Avery (2005) found that brokerage firm participation in various forms of diversity recruitment may not be enough to ensure retention of Black personal financial advisors, due to organizational realities such as “poor advancement opportunities, exclusion from key job assignments and general discriminatory treatment” (p.

332). The research questions for this study 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? 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?


A 2008 GAO report stated that the financial services industry plays a key role in the U.S. economy by providing employment (over 3 million persons), credit to individuals and businesses, and protection from certain financial risk. Even with the size of the financial services industry, the percent of minorities employed (15.5%) is significantly lower than Whites (84.5%). To illustrate the role of financial markets in the world’s economy, Bogle (2008) stated that the “world’s GDP is about $60 trillion, while the global financial derivatives is estimated at $600 trillion, approximately 10 times all the net goods and services produced by the entire world” (p. 37). The brokerage industry has typically been described as a Whitemale-dominated industry. In an October 2005 Black Enterprise article, Elton Ndoma-Ogor (one of the founders of MBA JumpStart), stated, “when you walk into an investment bank or trading floor, you can count on one hand the number of minorities” (as cited in T. M. Robinson, p. 1). The dominance of White men in the brokerage industry presents a challenge in that persons of color must conform to organizational norms formed by White men in order to survive (Giscombe & Mattis, 2002). To facilitate the entrance and retention of women and minorities into the financial services industry, companies have implemented diversity programs. Given that the most successful personal financial advisors are employed by major corporations, they can be more specifically defined as corporate entrepreneurs.

Christensen (2004) defined corporate entrepreneurship as a “process whereby an individual or a group creates a new venture within an existing organization, revitalizes and renews an organization or innovates” (p. 305). Brazeal, Schenkel, and Azriel (2008) defined corporate entrepreneurship as “the use of proactive behaviors to stimulate innovation” (p. 10). This definition is appropriate for the personal financial advisor who must conduct business within the confines of a larger organizational context. Career success can be impacted by numerous factors: “organizational culture and structural, attitudinal, and personal barriers” (Palmer & Johnson-Bailey, 2005, p. 11). Green (2003) agreed with this position, but argued that a major impediment from a cultural perspective is subtle discrimination, incorporated into the procedures and GCBF ♦ Vol. 11 ♦ No. 1 ♦ 2016 ♦ ISSN 1941-9589 ONLINE & ISSN 2168-0612 USB Flash Drive 454 Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings ♦ Volume 11 ♦ Number 1 practices of the organization. Discrimination in the Brokerage Industry There have been numerous lawsuits filed against major brokerage firms in the United States. American Express, Gruntal Corp., Lew Lieberman, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Olde Discount Brokerage, Smith Barney, US Bancorp, and Piper Jaffrey all had class-action lawsuits filed against them between 1993 and 2002 (Selmi, 2005). For years the brokerage industry was insulated from litigation regarding discrimination because employees were required by the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers to settle such cases through arbitration (Mulligan, 2001). This requirement was challenged with a class-action lawsuit filed against Smith Barney in 1996 by more than 1,900 women alleging the firm discriminated against women with regards to hiring, assignments, pay, and promotions, and permitted pervasive sexual harassment in some of its branches. The class-action status allowed members of the plaintiff class to avoid mandatory arbitration proceedings. Most of the cases were settled successfully and Smith Barney was required to spend $15 million toward various diversity initiatives (Selmi). In 2000, another lawsuit was brought against Smith Barney, by four ethnic minority employees.

The suit alleged that Smith Barney paid ethnic minority employees desperate wages, denied salary increases and promotions, and created a hostile work environment. Merrill Lynch was sued by female brokers in 1976 for sex discrimination and ordered to implement initiatives to hire more female financial advisors. In 1996, the company was again the focus of a class-action discrimination suit, this time alleging that women were systematically discriminated against with regards to pay and promotions, specifically due to the subjective manner in which business opportunities were funneled to male financial advisors. The merger between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch has once again placed the largest U.S. brokerage firm as the subject of a lawsuit. In 2008, Black and women advisors alleged that the retention package being offered provides a more generous retention package to White men than to women and minorities (Kelly, 2008).

Only a few of the lawsuits levied against brokerage firms have been discussed in this study; however, a consistent factor among them is that minority groups seek equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement. To overcome this, brokerage firms have begun in earnest to implement diversity initiatives and training programs that enable minorities to advance within the organization. Identifying critical success factors for Black personal financial advisors may promote the development of training programs and diversity initiatives, hopefully reducing the number of discrimination lawsuits in the industry.

Critical Success Factor Analysis

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