Stifel’s Growth Secret? Inclusion

Stifel’s Women’s Initiative Network.

Brand Story – How one financial firm’s open approach strengthens its teams, client portfolios, and business.

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As new technologies emerge and trends shift, many financial service providers race to reinvent, pivot, or disrupt their way to the front of the pack.

This can mean consolidating services, cutting client segments or automating business lines. As a result, individuals often feel forced to choose between the high fees and impersonal call centers of established wirehouses and the gamified platforms of new fintechs.

Between these investment monoliths of yesteryear and the robo-advisors of tomorrow lies Stifel, a wealth management and investment banking firm that has chosen a different path: growth through inclusion.

Committing to inclusion may sound simple, but it sets Stifel apart. When much of the financial world veered toward contraction – homing in on a small selection of lucrative services or client segments – Stifel opted to stay accessible to everyone.
Instead of focusing solely on high-net-worth individuals or transferring smaller clients to robo-advisors, the firm continues to welcome everyone, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status.

“We deal with everybody. No quotas. No call centers. No minimums. Anyone can walk into our office and get needed financial advice,” explains Stifel Branch Manager of Portland, Jim McCulley. “I want people to feel comfortable here.
It’s not cold and corporate; everyone is friendly and easy to talk to.”

20190322 JEK 2397Jim McCulley, Branch Manager.

Stifel’s inclusive ethos comes across in its commitment to improving racial and gender diversity in the traditionally male-dominated world of finance. Its Women’s Initiative Network supports the firm’s women through networking, mentorship, and educational opportunities – with the hope of bolstering the growing trend of women in finance.

The Women’s Initiative Network sprouted organically when Stifel’s top female advisors came together to support and share ideas with one another, soon receiving official backing from top management and the board of directors.

“There’s definitely been a changing trend the past 10 years and we’re welcoming it by hiring more women,” adds McCulley.

Today, women earn increasingly higher wages, maintain their careers and continue to outlive men. When they feel welcome to engage in wealth planning and investing, the gender investment gap decreases – a win for society and the economy as a whole.

joan Joan Fisher, Founding Member of WIN.

Similarly, Stifel’s come-as-you-are approach encourages people of all ages and wealth levels to take charge of their finances. Its total wealth planning services mirror each phase in a client’s life and beyond, extending to their beneficiaries.

To baby boomers without a financial plan in place, McCulley says, “It’s never too late. We have a full department dedicated to wealth planning. We help folks figure out how to invest their money, pay off debt, define their goals, and create a financial plan detailing how to get there. We frequently hear people say ‘Hey, I’m 60 and I don’t know what I’m doing’ and I say ‘Let’s get that figured out’.”

For some, just thinking about money triggers complex emotions that can cause anxiety, preventing them from facing their finances head on. “Anyone who comes in to talk to us should walk out feeling better. Period. If they don’t, then I haven’t done my job,” he adds.

The firm’s continued success in serving and attracting diverse clients – from millennials to retirees – boils down to the environment it creates for its financial advisors.

Stifel is a brokerage firm that owns a bank, not the other way around. Banks must sell their own products to stay in business, forcing financial advisors to hit quotas and choose suboptimal options that prioritize shareholders over customers.

20190322 JEK 2570

Stifel’s pricing structure ensures that its financial advisors are never incentivized to sell certain products. Free from any conflict of interest or ulterior motives, Stifel advisors can truly act in the clients’ interests, selecting the best investments on the market.

With the support of Stifel’s award-winning research team, advisors can get back to the career that attracted them in the first place and apply their talents to build creative, effective solutions tailored to each individual.

“There are advisors out there who still want to be advisors, not just product pushers. They want to help people without the pressure,” McCulley elaborates. “Those are exactly the types of individuals we want on our team.”

Launched in 2009 with two financial advisors and one customer service associate, Stifel’s Portland branch has grown to 16 advisors, a bank analyst, an institutional bond specialist and 12 support staff members. With satellite offices in Vancouver, WA, Bend, OR, and Eugene, OR, the firm shows no signs of slowing down.

Across Oregon, it seeks to hire 20 additional advisors who want to get back to the heart of financial services: helping everyday individuals make optimal financial decisions that improve their lives.

“At Stifel, we want our clients to feel like they can interact with us at any time and ask whatever they wish. We are a simple phone call or email away,” McCulley says. “They know and trust us to the point that they’ll even ask us to recommend the best doctor or lawyer in town.”

Stifel prioritizes one-on-one, personal service without sacrificing the advantages of new technology, allocating an annual technology budget to secure tools and platforms that enhance the experience of both employees and clients – who are based around the globe.

073 Bianca Urdes with client.

“Investing has evolved and continues to do so,” McCulley explains. “It is not just the technology that has changed. The business has adopted a more holistic, improved approach that looks at who you are as a person.”

With 23 consecutive years of revenue growth, Stifel will continue to welcome any individual who walks through its doors, support diversity among its professionals and let its advisors leverage the full range of financial products on the market. It is for the financial advisors and their clients, not the firm, to decide what is best for the client.

Whatever the circumstances – regardless of today’s fast-paced, modern landscape – Stifel’s financial services will always start at the beginning: with your name and your story.


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.