Sallie Krawcheck Decries Industry ‘Becoming Republican Party’

‘Old, white guys talking to other old, white guys’ will miss seismic shift, controversial exec says at Envestnet conference

“It is my intention to be controversial and make us uncomfortable here today,” Sallie Krawcheck said at Envestnet’s 2013 Advisor Summit Friday morning in Chicago.

She didn’t disappoint. The well-known industry executive began by noting she worries “the advisor industry in becoming the Republican Party—old, white guys talking to other old, white guys.”

Krawcheck, former Citigroup CFO who went on to run Bank of America’s financial advisor unit, added that on the surface at least, things appear to be going well for advisors; she claimed the approval rate for advisors is currently 86%, better than that of doctors, but she suggested that below the surface trouble is brewing.

Taking particular aim at the industry’s trade press, she said one publication recently identified women as a niche market.

“It drove me absolutely crazy,” she said. “Women as a niche—seriously? Women are the majority of the population, have higher college enrollment and are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners over men. Women are not a niche.”

With the caveat that “we are not going to mention political persuasions here this morning,” she pointed to Nancy Pelosi, Newsweek editor Tina Brown and Ariana Huffington as examples of women “hitting their stride” later in life.

“Look at Hillary Clinton,” she said by way of example. “She’s just now hitting her peak in her sixties, while Bill hit his peak in his forties. This is the kind of seismic shift I fear the industry will miss.”

Women typically take much longer to make decisions than men, she claimed, and in that time advisors get impatient and don’t wait around. That’s a shame, since once women do make a decision they are more loyal and more likely to give referrals. Oh, women also happen to live longer than men.

She then moved on to a discussion of younger generation and wealth, and in particular the importance of social media.

“Younger generations have been taught that Wall Street is evil. As a result, the current demographic of 35-year-olds are the most risk averse since their grandparents, many of whom were Depression-era babies.”

A well-executed social media strategy is an effective way to communicate and build trust, but that extends to older cohorts as well.

Krawcheck, who is very active on her LinkedIn page, said she was recently going to refer to a colleague a $10 million account, but couldn’t find him online.

“In another case, I made an introduction for someone to meet with a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. They couldn’t find her on LinkedIn, which killed her credibility, and they refused to meet with her.”

At an earlier breakfast meeting with Envestnet executives and the assembled media, Krwacheck referred to herself as a “gal about town,” in reference to what she’s currently doing.

“I’m out there meeting with companies like Envestnet,” she said. “These are companies that are nimble and can adjust quickly. They have an advantage over the entrenched, larger firms going forward.”

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.