There are many reasons why financial advisors should want to attract more female clients, including the facts that women live longer and are expected to inherit more wealth than men; women control more than half of the nation’s personal wealth; and they usually share in or lead the financial decisions in households. But communicating with female clients can represent a challenge to financial advisory firms, especially firms that haven’t focused on female clients.
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“Women are different,” said Jean Chatzky in her keynote speech at this week’s Financial Planning Association conference. They’re consensus builders and they don’t want to be rushed making decisions; they care more about financial peace of mind than accumulating wealth; and they prefer to learn about how best to handle their money and finances from a person rather than a technology platform, said Chatzky, author and NBC "Today" show financial editor.
“Acknowledge these differences,” Chatzky instructed her audience of financial planners. “Take the lead.”
Hiring more female financial advisors may help advisory firms attract and retain female clients, but it’s not a slam dunk.
“More times than not, female clients are more comfortable working with a woman,” said Susan Bruno, managing director of Capital Wealth Advisors, who led a panel at the conference on “Women at the Forefront of Financial Planning.“
“They don’t feel dumb asking questions” of another woman, but she advised against assuming that all female clients want to work with a woman, said Bruno. Older women especially may prefer working with a male advisor because they’re used to that, said Bruno. “The cue has to come from the client.”
To help that along, her firm talks with husbands and wives separately. Meeting with women alone “helps to solidity the relationship with women,” said Bruno.
There were four other female wealth managers on her panel, including three who had started their own firms. Here are some of the highlights of what they said about the differences between female and male advisors and clients, which firms may want to keep in mind if they want to attract more of both.
“Most women want a salary; they don’t want a commission-based job,” said Stacy Francis, founder, president and CEO of Francis Financial, a New York-based fee-only firm, about female advisors. “And they want flexibility to take care of their kids and parents.”
Her woman-centric firm offers three weeks’ vacation, many opportunities to work remotely out of the office, monthly massages and 15 minutes a day for workouts. These benefits help to retain and attract advisors, said Francis.
“Women have negotiating skills developed as mothers and wives and they teach their children about finances,” said Nicole Perkins, a managing executive at Hawthorn, PNC Family Wealth, who’s based in the firm’s Philadelphia office. “We share a personal story.”
But as a female African-American advisor she “finds it hard … to separate women and diversity issues. I’m both. Perkins says it’s important for advisory firms to reach out to minority organizations in order to attract a more diversified staff. “That’s what we need to do, to bring others in.”
Cheryl Holland, founder and president of Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, South Carolina, said it’s important for firms to “set an intention around diversity.” She noted that female advisors have the “skill of empathy and are well organized,” and, in "the war for human capital, why would you cut off any group?”
In the brief Q&A period that followed the discussion, one member of the audience reminded the panel that almost half of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 do not have children, so advisors should not assume that all women are focused on issues involving children. "Woman and mother should not be used interchangeably," she said.
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