businessTop 100

At Top 100 Places to Work winner Edward Jones, the bosses are volunteers

Financial recruits learn from experienced advisers who take on supervisory roles pro bono.



When it comes to leadership, Edward Jones is a pay-it-forward nation.

Although the financial services giant is based in St. Louis, its regions run fairly autonomously — like the one in Dallas-Fort Worth with 413 locations and 959 employees. And the regional field leaders, including Kelli Poremba in Dallas, are volunteers who don’t get anything extra in their paychecks for management duties or mentoring the less experienced.

At Edward Jones, which oversees more than $1 trillion in assets, training is handled nationwide by veteran financial advisers and managers who’ve been invited to take on these added duties pro bono.

They do it, Poremba says, because someone did it for them.

“The spirit of helping each other is one of the most beautiful and unique things about my 18 years at Edward Jones,” says the 51-year-old certified planner and the growth/recruiting leader for the Dallas region.

“When you help others, it helps you, too.”

This philosophy helped propel Edward Jones into the top spot among our largest competitors in its first outing.

“When you have advisers leading other advisers, you know that when you look up, that person has done what you do and is someone who gets it,” Poremba says. “There’s cohesiveness in what we’re all doing. We’re a Fortune 500 firm that feels like we’re the small firm that we were almost 100 years ago. That doesn’t happen by accident. You have to do it on purpose.”

Kelli Poremba, left, meets with Sharby Hunt-Hart at Edward Jones Investments. Poremba, the...
Kelli Poremba, left, meets with Sharby Hunt-Hart at Edward Jones Investments. Poremba, the Dallas area field leader, doesn't get anything extra in her paycheck for those added duties.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

When a firm is growing as fast as Edward Jones is, it’s important to spot young talent, she says.

“I’m so grateful that there were leaders who saw things in me before I saw them in myself,” she says. “I’m always thinking about who’s next. This lets me pave the way for somebody else.”

As one employee put it: “Most companies throw you in the water to see if you can swim when you’re brand new. Edward Jones provides you swimming lessons, a lifeguard and a yacht to make sure you know how to swim before you are on your own.”

The statement that rang truest with employees was: This company operates by strong values.

Edward Jones shares 24% of net profits annually — $229 million in 2018 — with associates employed six months or more and who work at least 20 hours a week.

“We attract people with an entrepreneurial spirit who don’t want a boss breathing down their necks every day,” Poremba says.

Benefits also include adoption assistance of up to $5,000 per child, domestic partner benefits, $5,000 in annual tuition reimbursement, annual profit sharing, and 401(k) and Roth accounts with company matching. Edward Jones self-funds medical care so that it can override provider decisions, order coverage or pay for expensive treatments.

“Leaders are authorized to do the right thing to help associates navigate challenges, whether that means time off, extra pay or health benefits exceptions, or trained associates who can fill in while they take personal time,” Poremba says.

Full-timers can take 16 weeks of parental leave if they are the primary caregivers, two as secondary caregivers. Branch associates enjoy options such as compressed workweeks, telecommuting, job sharing, voluntary unpaid leave and sick leave to care for ill family members.

“Flexibility to accommodate family matters is built into our two-person branches. Our financial advisers open branch locations that are situated near their homes, and so they live and work in their communities. And they can set their own hours for their branch.”

What’s the Jones secret sauce?

“Our employees own the firm,” she says.

Everyone — branch office administrators, financial advisers and headquarters office associates — eventually gets the chance to own a piece of the action. Nearly half of the 45,000 Edward Jones associates in the United States are limited partners.

“We are all rowing the boat in the same direction. Everyone knows that our first job is to put the client first,” Poremba says. “We get accused of drinking the Edward Jones Kool-Aid. But I always tell everybody that I also ate the straw and the cup that came with it.”

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