Edward Jones Targets Metro Growth with a Twist
For 95 years, St. Louis-based Edward Jones has grown in America’s heartland by knocking on doors and cold-calling local homeowners and entrepreneurs.
But with $1.1 trillion in assets under management in November, the broker-dealer says it’s putting greater emphasis on recruiting advisors and signing up clients in major metropolitan areas. It’s also revising training programs and developing platforms to promote greater use of new technologies to help reach clients in urban markets, from videoconferencing and social media to texting.
“In the past we’ve had our veteran advisor presence largely in more suburban and rural areas,” says Dalton Schumacher, head of U.S. talent acquisition at Edward Jones. “But that’s changing dramatically where some of our most seasoned and successful advisors are coming from urban markets.”
The firm has identified 50 metro markets with the “greatest opportunities” for growth, he adds. Those range in size from Albany, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C., to Columbus, Ohio. On the larger side, some of those metropolitan areas include Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle and New York.
“We know that 60% of our growth in the future is going to come from metro populations,” Schumacher says.
To figure out markets primed for growth, the national broker-dealer is taking a closer look at how underserved an area might be in the Edward Jones world, according to company officials. Within such a scope, they’re refining their lists according to asset movements and liquidity levels within each region.
“We’re not trying to identify areas of opportunities by a raw figure like net assets – we don’t want to lump everyone into one big bucket,” Schumacher says. “We’re trying to highlight areas where a greater presence will lead to more interaction with families who value face-to-face meetings and deeper relationships with an advisor.”
For example, he points to Seattle. The northwestern U.S. city has about 557,000 families that the firm’s demographics research has uncovered as “strong” prospects who could benefit from professional planning advice. Of that total, Schumacher estimates only about 42,000 are currently working with an Edward Jones advisor.
At the same time around 200 FAs are working in that area for the firm. “We think we can get to about 500 advisors in Seattle alone just to meet that growing demand,” Schumacher says.
Other Edward Jones executives point out that of 15,895 advisors in the U.S. and Canada, nearly 75% of their offices – typically one or two-FA operations – are now located in metro settings. In fact, they’ve developed a series of websites devoted to attracting more metro-focused advisors.
“There is a much higher concentration of business professionals in a metro area, which can really feed into our efforts to get out and meet with different centers of influence,” says Helen Rice, an Edward Jones advisor in Atlanta.
The former estate planning attorney adds she’s finding “tons” of organizations within the city’s financial hub to help build her practice. Rice says she’s active with local alumni groups, volunteering her time to nonprofits and getting involved with networking events designed for women professionals.
Rice advocates other Edward Jones advisors do much the same. In particular, she’s finding that joining two national groups – Business Network International and American Business Women’s Association – are good resources to gain new clients. Rice also is remaining active within her former trade through a state association of women lawyers.
As a single mother, she is also active in local youth sports programs and various school functions. “I like the variety in my workday of meeting different types of people,” Rice says. “I’ve personally found all of these networking opportunities presented by living and working in such a major metropolitan area to be enjoyable and highly productive.”
Rice is also a big fan of LinkedIn to keep in touch with existing contacts and build referrals. She regularly posts relevant Edward Jones content and articles that might be interesting to prospects on Facebook.
Rice is also taking advantage of the company’s texting services and support she’s getting from the home office in tying mobile devices, cell phones and laptops into her daily routine. “No question about it – I’m being trained and being given a greater amount of resources now to effectively use technology in a metropolitan setting,” she says.
Geoff Meno, an Edward Jones advisor in Seattle, muses that he doesn’t knock on doors of local residents to drum up business. “That might be something this company has been known for in the past,” he says, “but it’s not a marketing strategy I’ve found to be successful.”
Like Rice, he networks around events and activities of personal interest. The ex-Marine volunteers helping other former military members transitioning into the civilian workforce. He’s also active in his local church and teaches classes designed around his longtime focus on physical fitness.
In his seven years at Edward Jones, Meno has also sought to learn about the intricacies of sophisticated employee benefits programs at major employers in the area such as Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft.
“The focus I’ve found at this company is not on how you choose to meet people,” Meno says. “It’s more about making sure that you carve out plenty of face-to-face time to meet new people and grow your business.”
As to Edward Jones’ plans to hire more advisors around his home turf, he doesn’t see any problems. “This is a company that has built its brand through word-of-mouth,” Meno says. “A bigger foothold in a growing metro market like Seattle can only help me to build my own presence – there’s plenty of enough business to go around for everybody.”