In January 2019, Penny Pennington broke new ground by becoming the first woman to take the helm at a leading American brokerage. Her appointment to the position of managing partner at Edward Jones not only represents a step forward for workplace gender equality, it also represents a giant leap forward in her career. After 20 years of working in various senior positions at the company, Pennington has already proved her capabilities… but her new task is a big one. Over the next few years, Edward Jones intends to shed its public image as a stodgy, outmoded business once and for all… and the job of doing that rest’s squarely on their new partner’s shoulders. To find out if she’s up to the challenge, let’s look in a little more detail at the life and career of Edward Jones’ Penny Pennington.
1. She’s the first managing partner of Edward Jones without a connection to the founder
Pennington represents the first managing partner of Edward Jones who didn’t know the firm’s founding family. The company was established in 1922 by founder Edward D. Jones. Jones’ son, Edward D. “Ted” Jones was subsequently responsible for developing the company by branching out across rural communities in the US and Canada. Since then, each of the managing partners who’ve taken the helm have had a personal connection to the Jones family… until Pennington that is.
2. She’s one to watch
In November 2018, Wealth Management recognized Pennington’s accomplishments (and potential to achieve even greater success) by naming her as one of 2019’s “Ten to Watch”. The annual list compromises of the 10 individuals poised and ready to “shake up the industry’. Other names to watch out for include Hanh Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of compliance marketplace startup Complect, Peter Krause, chairman and CEO of Apeture Investors, and Scott Huff, CEO of Yourefolio.
3. She’s active in worthy causes
Pennington is as active in the community as she is in Edward Jones. Her list of worthy endeavors includes serving on the boards of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (an annual festival in which thespians take to the streets to perform topically relevant content), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis Fashion Fund and Whitaker Foundation. Since joining Edward Jones, Pennington has also taken an active role in championing the company’s sponsorship of the Alzheimer’s Association.
4. Her partnership came with a massive pay hike
According to Advisorhub.com, not only did Pennington receive a hefty pay hike with her appointment as managing partner, she also received a pretty substantial cash pay-out. Her annual pay went up by a lofty 10% (taking it to $11.67M) while she also received $11.5 million in cash payments. Pennington’s pay represents a jump on her predecessor’s, James D. Weddle, who received a reported $11 million in compensation in 2018.
5. She’s worked at Edward Jones for nearly 20 years
Pennington joined Edward Jones in 2000. After serving as a financial advisor at the company’s Livonia, Michigan, branch, she relocated to the firm’s headquarters in St Louis, securing a position as principle in the process. She subsequently took on several senior leadership roles in new financial advisor training, branch office administrator development, branch and region development and client strategies. Her advancement reached its conclusion with her ascension to managing partner in January 2019.
6. She’s the first female head to lead a major brokerage firm
Pennington is not only breaking ground as the only managing partner of Edward Jones not to have a personal connection to the founding family, she’s also pioneering change when it comes to gender equality. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Pennington’s most recent appointment has seen her become the first ever female head of Edward Jones, and the first woman to take the helm of a major U.S. brokerage firm. Whether or not her selection marks the start of a permanent shift away from the traditional male bias of the industry, only time will tell.
7. She has expansion plans
Pennington plans to continue the transformation of the brokerage that her predecessor James Weddle began. As well as rolling out more new branches in urban areas and looking to acquire new talent from outside the company (rather than relying on developing new recruits from within, as has traditionally been the case), Pennington has been tasked with increasing Edward Jones’ workforce to 20000 over the next 3 years, with the goal of tapping into the 40 million new, potential clients the company has identified as likely targets.
In November 2018, Pennington shared the lessons she’s learned throughout her career with Investment News. Among her nuggets of wisdom were the suggestions to “boldly and bravely proclaim your passions”, “never disqualify yourself from opportunities based on technicalities or subject-matter expertise”, and “never say no (to the things that terrify you)”. Pennington believes that by following these suggestions, women can empower themselves to expand their boundaries… something she’s clearly more than capable of doing herself.
9. She’s a keen cyclist
Pennington currently resides in St Louis with her husband, Mike Fidler, with whom she share’s two grown daughters. In her free time, Pennington like to get out and about in nature, citing her favorite activities as hiking (especially in the Grand Canyon), cycling, and enjoying the many parks and recreational resources St Louis has to offer. She’s also a keen lover of all forms of art.
10. She started her career in investment banking
After graduating with a BA in commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Pennington initially worked in corporate investment banking. Despite showing early promise in the sector, she quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit for her:- “I started my career in corporate investment banking, but I felt like something was missing,” she’s shared. “I was successful but didn’t feel a sense of significance about what I was doing. I found what I was looking for when I joined Edward Jones as a financial advisor in Livonia, MI, in 2000’. Given her recent appointment, it’s pretty clear the decision to change the course of her career was the right one.