Sallie Krawcheck speaks at the Raymond James Women's Symposium on Friday. (Photo: Bob Thompson)

Sallie Krawcheck received a warm reception on Friday at the Raymond James Women’s Symposium (RJF) and kept her cool discussing Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s recent comment that women shouldn’t ask for a raise and instead should rely on “karma”.

“I’m beside myself,” she said, reflecting on Nadella’s statement, which he later retracted. “That’s what got us where we are, earning 78 cents on the dollar [earned by a man]. There’s the karma.”

Before she spoke to the crowd of 500-plus advisors and other guests, the former head of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney’s brokerage groups said on Twitter, “[Asking for a raise is] the highest return investment she can make.”

This is because, when it comes to “the net present value of your future earnings, your best asset is yourself,” Krawcheck explained in her speech.

Many women retire with just two-thirds the wealth of men, and this means advisors should “talk to them about asking for a raise,” she added. “Advise [them] on finances, not just stocks and bonds … [and get them to] ask, to ask for the money.”

In addition, advisors—both male and female—can best work with female clients by “getting rid of complexity and letting them ask the questions they want to ask,” Krawcheck said.

According to Ellevate Network and Pax Ellevate, which she now chairs, women control about $20 trillion in investment dollars and represent some 9% of the world’s billionaires. They also are expected to inherit 70% of $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth globally over the next 40 years.

“Give clients the opportunity to ask questions, focus on risk management, or downside risk,” Krawcheck said. “Men see money as a river, while women see it as a pond. They think this is all they have, and most fear they could become a bag lady. Be more holistic, a concept I came to accept super late in my career.”

Some 90% of women, studies show, are interested in investing that has a social impact. “If you had talked to me about this at Merrill Lynch, I would have said, ‘Get out of my office,’” she joked. “Women say they are goals-based and invest in their values. They don’t just want to make money now and give it away later.”

With research showing that 60% of women globally wanting to invest in companies with greater gender diversity at the top, PaxEllevate has responded by launching the Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX). It slices and dices members of the MSCI World Index members, investing in firms with a high percentage of women on their corporate boards and senior management.

“Yes, the fund owns Microsoft” shares, Krawcheck said in an interview after her speech. “It’s quantitatively driven.” 

Financial-services firms have room for improvement, when it comes to their female leadership and, hence, their ability to be included in the Global Women’s Index Fund, according to Pax Ellevate.

And Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly acknowledged as much in an interview with the press on Friday. “Our progress at the firm has been good,” Reilly said, “but we know it’s not enough. Bella Allaire is on the executive team, and she is tremendously influential and extremely well respected.”

The firm has two women on its board, he adds, American Water CEO Susan Story and Shelley Broader, CEO of Walmart’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Canada. 

In the Private Client Group, over half of the regional directors are women, according to Reilly. “That is working well, though we’ve got more work to do.” 

Addressing Krawcheck’s challenge for the industry not to view female clients as a “niche,” the CEO says Raymond James’ take is that women represent “an underserved segment.”

“The aggregate numbers indisputably demonstrate what an opportunity serving women [with financial services] is,” Krawcheck explained, in an interview with the press after her speech. “And if we were doing everything right today, it would not be an opportunity but an [existing] business.”

– Check out Raymond James Highlights Women’s Achievements, Tech Updates on ThinkAdvisor.