No is enough

No is enough

The other day, a friend asked me to host an event at my home to promote her business. I didn’t want to. Why? Because it’s not good timing; it’s a lot of work; I’m busy; I have a lot going on in my world…all the reasons! But I didn’t want to tell her all of this, not any of it. I just wanted to say no. But of course, what I ended up saying was, “Let me think about it.”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

This issue is not only common, but specifically prevalent with women. What’s perhaps even more
astonishing is its commonality amongst busy women. Why do we think we always have to say yes to
everything? And on the off chance we do say no, why do we think we need a laundry list of justifications to make it “okay?”

Somewhere along the line, we’ve learned that if our answer is no, there has to be a good reason. In fact, there must be many of these good reasons. And we must share all of them.

Does this challenge our respect for ourselves, the perceived respect toward others, or is it just an inability to set our own time as a priority? We are starting to hear more about how difficult yet
necessary it is to enforce our boundaries- to trust our gut. Brené Brown reminds us that “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” Compassion does not require you to sacrifice your freedom to choose. In so many cases, we put our true feelings on the back burner because they seem like the wrong answer. That’s exactly what I had done.

Upset with myself and caught in my own uncertainty, I called another friend of mine. The next step in this unfortunate cycle was to seek validation. And she told me what a true friend would say: “Anita, you don’t need me to tell you that you can simply say no and have that be enough.”

“No” is enough. Wow. So powerful in its simplicity that you would assume it’s common sense. And now
that I thought about it, it really was. When I ask for a favor, I understand the possibility of a “no.” Why
wouldn’t I grant myself the same option?

Mediocre Parenting and Other Lofty Goals

Mediocre Parenting and Other Lofty Goals

I was recently at a graduation party where I was involved in a conversation with a few other mothers
about what they were planning to do for their own kids’ parties. Ideas included creating and displaying quilts made from their child’s sports team jerseys, gathering yearbook photos dating back to kindergarten for a scrapbook, and playing video montages of all their child’s shenanigans over the years. My wine had suddenly lost its appeal.

Now, to be honest, I have never had a shred of guilt over being the “corporate working” mom. Seriously, never. It is part of who I am. My kids have never suffered from having a dual-working-parents household. If anything, they’ve had a pretty darn good life. But during this party, I must admit I felt a smidge of self-doubt. I am the least artsy, crafty, quilt-making mom you can find. If I bake cookies, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll burn at least 4 of them. I was not very good at taking videos of my kids when they were young, either. Regrets? Perhaps. But until this graduation party, not a ton.

On my walk the next morning, I was listening to a podcast interviewing Sallie Krawcheck. As a pioneer and trailblazer in financial services, it was not long before she faced the typical bullshit question that follows just about every woman with children. Disguised as a compliment by the interviewer, he asked how she managed to have a successful career while also being a mom. Her answer resonated with me on a level I never expected. Sallie said something to the effect of “I strived to be the best at my job, and I strived to be the best mediocre mom.”

Wow. Did she just say her goal was to be the most “mediocre” mom? You mean it was okay not to chase this idea of perfection that simply does not exist? Here was this successful woman with a successful career who seemed to have raised successful kids, and she was voicing what I think so many of us feel. I have never felt like a supermom. I do not claim to wear the big “S” on my chest. And for the first time, someone was telling me that was okay.

I have always felt fortunate because I have two areas of fulfillment in my life: my career and my role as a parent. These coexist in my world. My best, my “mediocre” will always look entirely different than
others’. No two are the same, and while we may have concocted some image of a perfect mother, she is not real. We are what is real- in all our mediocre glory.

Getting Ken Fisher off the stage is good. Getting more women at the helm of wealth management is even better.

Getting Ken Fisher off the stage is good. Getting more women at the helm of wealth management is even better.

The recent public outing of celebrity investor Ken Fisher at a financial industry conference for ugly and sexist behavior is a sad irony, especially given the emphasis such conferences place on developing more female advisors and reaching and serving female clients. This was a crisis moment. The industry has responded reasonably well, in my view. Getting a badly behaved conference speaker off a stage is like getting a bad driver off the road. That’s important. But when the roads are bad, you have to fix the roads, too.

Fortunately, the avalanche of media attention—not to mention asset outflows at Fisher Investments—underlines progress beyond the male-centric industry of 20 years ago. Bad behavior was normal enough that the conventional advice to women was to keep our heads down and get our work done despite it.

It’s a positive sign that the financial advisor who raised the curtain on Fisher’s ugly behavior was a man. In my view, he rightly recognized the moment as a crisis of conscience for the wealth management industry. I believe, too, that his actions will directly and positively affect industry conferences going forward.

But conferences are, of course, just one narrow component of how women experience this industry.
Female professionals work on its front lines as financial advisors every day—but not enough. According to the CFP Board, only twenty-three percent of Certified Financial Professionals are women.

Problems run deeper than just “bad behavior”

Here’s a thought experiment. Think of a talented woman who left your firm. Someone you know who had great potential and you were sorry to see leave. Do you actually know the reason why she left? In my experience, the reasons often boil down to lack of career opportunity and professional nurturing.

Note that these reasons are rarely ever overtly stated as women walk out the door. They come up in conversation later—at lunch, say, or at an industry event. Because of my personal focus on mentoring, I’ve heard more of those stories from around the industry than many people have.

My anecdotal experience lines up with conclusions from a recent McKinsey / study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. The study found that women are disproportionately shut out from opportunities to climb onto the very first rung in the managerial ladder. If fewer make it to that first rung, then fewer still are climbing six or seven rungs later.

Therefore, to combat the “broken rung” problem, the most important way to increase female executive leadership in the wealth management industry is to encourage and support the many talented women who are not yet near the top but have aspirations to get there.

This is a good business practice, as well. Women now control more than half of all personal wealth in
the United States. To better mirror the clients it serves, the wealth management industry must recruit and develop more women financial advisors.

More women will change the industry dynamic – at conferences and in the boardroom

In my mind, the biggest long-term impact will come from increasing the number of women who hold
influential leadership roles within this industry. In my case, I became content as a client-facing financial advisor. But an executive saw something in me that led him to ask if I’d ever thought about leading a team. This planted the seed within me that I could be something more. And, I wanted it. First, it was a team of client-support personnel. Later, it was a team of advisors—many older than I was at that time. Then, onto an even broader team and the chance to help define the strategic vision and culture of the firm.

The road to opportunity must be paved with the good intentions and willingness of others to do what is right. My job now is to pay it forward and help young women understand how their talents are desperately needed in the wealth management industry. And, to help both women and men know how much the industry—and its clients—need to focus on supporting their career growth.

To Serve Its Clients, The Wealth Management Industry Must Recruit And Develop More Women

To Serve Its Clients, The Wealth Management Industry Must Recruit And Develop More Women

Women now control more than half of all personal wealth in the United States. If we are going to successfully encourage those women to become more active in managing that wealth, we need financial advisors who understand women’s unique needs, goals and views towards money.

One way to do that more effectively: recruit and develop more women in the financial advisory industry. It’s time to dismantle the remaining misperceptions that keep women from pursuing careers in financial services.

It is time for advisory firms to recognize they need to put extra effort into finding and mentoring talented women — because if they don’t, they risk failing to meet the needs and expectations of a quickly expanding female client base.

Women and Wealth

According to Pew Research, nine out of ten women are expected to be the sole financial decision-maker at some point during their lives. Furthermore, women are expected to inherit 70% of the wealth that will be passed down over the next two generations, according to the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

As women take more responsibility for wealth and seek professional assistance, they tilt strongly toward a goals-based approach. In my experience, the average financial-planning conversation with a female client is quite different from one with a male client. Instead of focusing on returns and industry benchmarks, with women, the dialogue is frequently structured around key questions: “Am I going to be financially okay?” “Will I be able to retire at the time I have selected?” “Can I help my children if they need it?” “Am I doing everything I should be doing now to ensure I’m financially secure in 20 years?”

These are complex questions. They are harder to answer than questions about products, strategies or investment risk and performance. They require a holistic approach. They require a financial advisor who listens, empathizes, teaches and coaches.

My work, both as an advisor and as a senior leader at my firm, has always been about educating and engaging, and I’ve seen first-hand how female wealth advisors can naturally gravitate towards these methods. Advisors who embrace these principles can help a client move forward by understanding what that individual wants to take away from a financial conversation, and consequentially being able to tailor their dialogue and approach to accomplish those needs.

Wealth management needs more women on the front lines

According to the CFP Board, only twenty-three percent of Certified Financial Professionals are women. That’s not enough.

Without talents such as reading social cues, paying more attention to the pace and tone of clients’ speech and the ability to form a sincere relationship, a financial advisor simply cannot deliver holistic planning and advice to clients. Financial decisions usually include an emotional component, and in my experience, female advisors tend to address this component with the empathy and directness that can set female clients on the right track.

Of course, women do not have a monopoly on these skills. Men have them, too. And to some extent, these skills can be developed — by both women and men — through training.

But from a business perspective, there’s an obvious first step wealth management firms can take to obtain and enhance the advisor skillsets needed to serve female clients: hire more women.

Younger women entering the field need mentors to help them develop their careers, and supporters to recognize their achievements. They need to see other women in senior leadership roles and recognize a career path ahead of them. They need to better understand that a career as a wealth advisor provides flexibility—one of the most-desired characteristics professional women seek out — and opportunities for meaningful connections with clients and colleagues. They also need to understand that the talents they bring — including their aptitudes for empathy and communication — are recognized and rewarded by their colleagues, both male and female.

This work is not about numbers and spreadsheets. It is about connecting with people, helping them through some of life’s most complex challenges, and enjoying the satisfaction of seeing clients meet their goals.

Bottom line

The control of wealth has changed, and a growing percentage of wealth management clients are women. Wealth management executives who recognize this need to create programs to attract and nurture the absolute best people to serve this expanding audience. It is imperative that the financial industry make its own changes to keep pace with this evolution.