Thinking holistically, helping collectively
“If you can see it, you can be it.” That’s why Jenny Johnson, president and CEO of Franklin Templeton, believes a purpose-driven approach coupled with visible role models are essential in ensuring the future of finance doesn’t look like the past for women.
We all bear a responsibility to help the next generation succeed. Having held leadership roles in all major divisions at Franklin Templeton before becoming CEO in early 2020, as well as being named to Barron’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance, Jenny Johnson is a clear embodiment of women’s progress and industry change. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has long been a part of Franklin Templeton’s growth story as a global investment management organisation, and that, according to Jenny, is because thinking more holistically and with diverse perspectives has proven time and again to be a key contributor of company growth. “But, while a focus on diversity is important, inclusion also needs to be a part of the conversation,” she said.
“You can’t achieve what you can’t measure.”
Diversity is our metric, inclusivity is our goal
Despite undisputable progress around DEI in recent years, Jenny is under no illusion of the work still to be done across financial services.
Increasing the number of women advisers and executives entering the financial services profession begins when organisations build a strong pipeline of qualified, talented women. Jenny explains, “This pipeline needs to begin with girls in high school, or even earlier, to show young women that this is an industry they can see themselves thriving in.”
Getting women in the door is only the first major step. It takes ongoing, top-down accountability in advancing and promoting solid female talent to directly address the “broken rung” that all too often overlooks the potential of women as managers and leaders. “We must acknowledge that newly promoted female leaders serve as role models for younger women considering this industry,” she said.
Resonating better with women
As a mother of five, who also happens to have a highly demanding career, Jenny is no stranger to the delicate balance between work and home life.
During a conversation one evening with her daughters, Jenny asked if any of them would be interested in pursuing a career in asset management. One of her daughters responded, “I’d rather have a career in an industry that helps people.” Initially stunned, Jenny felt this was a glaring realisation about how we, as an industry, have a missed opportunity when it comes to describing our work in a way that truly resonates – especially with women.
Despite the fact that financial professionals do help people achieve important milestones in their lives – sending children to university, preparing for a secure retirement, saving for a first home and leaving a legacy – the wider perception doesn’t always reflect this reality.
“I can think of few things more important in life than having a financial plan that helps secure your financial future,” Jenny said. “And doing that with the help and guidance of a financial adviser is invaluable.”
However, Jenny adds, “We, as asset managers, sometimes tend to get so caught up in ‘beating benchmarks’ or ‘having strong relative performance versus peers’ that we forget to explain the why. We help people reach the goals that they hold dear, so we need to lead with that because women, in particular, are attracted to purpose-driven, value-adding work.”
Allyship through mentorship
Beyond recasting the perception of the industry, Jenny is a huge advocate for mentorship as a vehicle to help more women enter the financial services profession.
“This transcends industries, but men can be better allies to women by being available to mentor,” she said. “Men in the mid-to-late phases of their careers have a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge and culture they have the power to pass down.”
And according to the global non-profit think tank, Coqual, it’s not just mentees that stand to benefit either. Mentors report higher job satisfaction and a better understanding of their customers and often improve their own skill sets in the process as well.
“As allies, we can help women build the skills for the next job while helping master their current job.”
“But I want to make a point about being a mentor because women who seek mentors are generally able to find someone who will. But it’s sponsorship – advocating on their behalf for development and promotion opportunities – that will truly help them get to the next level. Men, in their roles as sponsors and in their roles as mentors, can help provide women with access to the resources they need to get them ready for the next phase of their career journey.”
There’s also something that male leaders can do, which Jenny encourages the men who report directly to her to do. There’s a stigma that’s traditionally been placed on men taking time off work to do things like take their son to the dentist, pick up their kids from school or coach their daughter’s football team.
In her view, “that’s antiquated thinking that needs to end. We need to change the stereotypes and embrace the ‘juggle.’ My ask of male leaders is that when they do these things, they be visible and let people know that it’s okay. It’s little signals like that, that help ease the burden on women – and increases the opportunity for female career advancement – while also allowing men to bond with their family. A win-win.”
Jenny asserts that once we’ve attracted more women into our profession and shown our work in a purpose-driven way that truly helps people, the duty then is to follow up by fostering a culture of inclusivity and innovation.
Innovation and action
“There is a powerful confluence of events that make this an amazing time to be a woman in the wealth management business.”
A culture of innovation at Franklin Templeton “is most visible to our clients through our products and services, but it extends to how we are developing our talent pipeline. We can’t be afraid to pilot different, more innovative ways of approaching the gender gap in the industry. And, over time, we’ll assess these pilots and the results they deliver,” Jenny explained.
Technological innovation is also playing a significant role. Personalisation through technology is quickly becoming the next evolution in financial services – creating individualised solutions to not only assist the wealthy but also all retirement savers and especially those who have not saved enough and are marginalised.
Jenny says her father always told her, “You take care of your clients, and the business will take care of itself.” Since then, she’s believed that access to a diverse team of financial advisers can help a broader range of clients to offer them the solutions that they want.
“I think diverse adviser teams will be the teams that grow their business the most over the coming decades. That’s why it’s important that we as a firm need to constantly be looking around the corner for the next innovation and opportunity to change for the better. Women at the forefront of purpose-driven work in financial services today have the power to lead to more incredible and rewarding careers for others down the line.”
“Exposure makes a difference. Be visible. Be a role model. Be a mentor.”