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.
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.
Anita Knotts is a highly accomplished senior financial executive, TEDx speaker, and founder/CEO of Lotus Women’s Institute, a company working passionately to bring more women into the wealth management industry.