March 28, 2013

Attracting Women: Pershing, Fidelity Help Advisors Give Female Clients What They Want

Women now control 51% of U.S. wealth and will control two-thirds by 2020, so it's time for advisors to start listening to them

When advisors make a genuine effort to connect with women, the rewards can be astonishing.

So says Sacha Millstone, a principal with the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James, an investment advisory practice with $300 million under management and clients in 42 states, in Pax World’s Women & Wealth newsletter for winter 2013.

Asked whether she had found a difference in referral rates between men and women, Millstone said women were “far and away more proactive” in making referrals for potential clients.

“Some of my female clients have truly been advocates, talking extensively within their networks about the services that we provide and how valuable they have found these services,” Millstone, a member of the Raymond James Women's Advisory Council, told Pax World, a sustainable investment management firm. “Within women’s networks we are always looking for quality providers, and when we find them we tend to tell everyone we know. I deeply appreciate the support that I have received from my clients in this regard.”

‘The Hard-Sell, Cold-Calling Brokerage Business Is Changing’

Pax World recently launched its “Women & Wealth” initiative to provide women and their advisors with the knowledge and tools needed to face financial challenges unique to them. These include overcoming the wage gap, suddenly becoming single or widowed, serving in the dual roles of earner and caregiver and planning for retirement. The program includes workshops, written materials and other planning tools.

“The hard-sell, cold-calling brokerage business is changing. For advisors that have moved more toward the fee-based business model, buying and selling stocks has moved to a more holistic wealth management process,” said Women & Wealth’s manager Kathleen McQuiggan, Pax World’s Senior Adviser of Gender Diversity Initiatives, in a phone interview this week. “And research since the 2008 crisis shows women are now more involved in their own finances and never want to be uninformed again. For advisors, a lot of it comes down to listening and asking questions.”

Pax World isn’t alone in its efforts to connect women with advisors. Indeed, to judge from the wealth of recently launched programs and workshops such as Pax World’s, Millstone is on the cutting edge of a new trend that focuses on helping advisors connect to women and bringing more women into the advisor fold as professionals. In just the last month, Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company, and Fidelity Investments have joined the trend.

Pershing Calls for More Female Advisors

On March 8, Pershing released the results of a new study, “The 30% Solution: Growing Your Business by Winning and Keeping Women Advisors,” that says female advisors are woefully underrepresented across the industry and urges firms to make greater efforts to attract women employees. The study lists reasons for the low numbers—including the large number of aging males in the industry, the pay gap and cultural barriers at the executive level—before noting that advisors as a whole are in demand, particularly with female clients.

“Women investors are significantly more likely to engage advisors than men (46% vs. 34%),” according to a Pershing release. “Additionally, nearly two-thirds of female millionaire investors and 82% of female ultrahigh-net-worth investors prefer working with an advisor. Yet, women investors are not a one-size-fits-all category—and female advisors seem to be ahead of the curve in understanding and seizing these differences.”

Fidelity Looks to Help Advisors Engage With Female Clients

On Wednesday, Fidelity unveiled new tools in its “Engaging Female Clients” program designed to help advisors “more effectively attract, engage and retain female investors.” The tools include a guidebook, white papers and workshops, all launched to address the fact that women control 51% of wealth in the U.S. today, and are projected to control two-thirds by 2020.

“There’s a wealth shift occurring in the U.S., which will change the client bases of advisors and challenge the conventional methods of client engagement,” said Jylanne Dunne, senior vice president, practice management and consulting, of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, in a statement. “We know advisors want to create greater balance among their male and female clients but for many, the question is ‘how do I get started?’ Our comprehensive program gives advisors tools to help create and commit to their own individual action plans.”

Give Women What They Want

While the materials sometimes read like the advice offered in the book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” they nevertheless serve as a reminder to advisors, the majority of whom are male, that women communicate differently from men.

For example, the Fidelity materials suggest that advisors should implement four strategies to enhance their prospect and client meetings by giving women what they want:

1) Time, especially during the first meeting. Women tend to outlive men, and it is estimated that 70% of women change their financial advisor within a year of their spouse’s death.

2) Multiple perspectives. Offering ongoing education can help empower female clients. So, for example, give your women clients a recommended reading list.

3) Proper attention. Women typically want an advisor who is a good listener, who understands her unique financial concerns.

4) The opportunity to talk. Listening and evaluating their relationships with their female clients can help advisors ensure that they fully involve women in the client relationship.

The payoff, according to Fidelity’s research, is that women are more willing to receive financial advice than men and are more interested in holistic financial guidance and planning to meet a specific lifestyle or goal. And more good news for men is that women are apparently just as happy to work with them as they are with their own gender.

“While most women do not have a gender preference in working with a financial advisor, research shows that many women have a strong preference in the way they receive financial advice,” said Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president, National Financial, a Fidelity Investments company, in a statement. “Advisors who recognize this and hone their engagement strategies with both their male and female clients may have a significant opportunity to grow their businesses.”

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Read What Do Wealthy Women Want? at AdvisorOne.

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