There was plenty to take away from the 21st-annual Raymond James (RJF) Women’s Symposium, which was held last week in St. Petersburg, Florida, according to both hosts and attendees, which numbered about 500.

The group heard from company executives, as well as from Shelley Broader, a Raymond James board member who leads Walmart’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Participants also attended breakout sessions and talks from top-producing advisors.

The event’s popularity has been growing, so next year it will be held in Orlando, where the firm can accommodate more guests from its independent, employee and other advisor channels.

The event included several general sessions and a client panel, which highlighted what women in transition are looking for in a financial advisor.

Read on to see what conference attendees discussed and learned about trends in the business from industry experts, advisors and others.

Help Clients in Transition 

1. Help Clients in Transition

The advisor business “is about attracting and retaining clients – and assets – with our heart through relationships,” says Jan Holman, head of advisor education for Thornburg Investment Management.

Women 50 and older, who are likely to lose a spouse or go through other significant life changes as the age, have about $19 trillion in assets, she explains.

“Women are interested in [financial] education” on a broad basis, Holman explained, and are less motivate to learn about the details concerning asset allocation, for instance, or fluctuations in interest rates.

“They are long-term investors,” she said, and they refer their advisors to others 26 times on average vs. 11 times for a male client.

As they go through changes, they face complex situations and are in need of guidance. To best help them, ask these three questions:

  • How can I help you feel comfortable and productive in our meetings?
  • How would you like to receive information and recommendations from me?
  • How can I best support you in making decisions?

“This is what it’s all about, helping them understand why they should trust you and co-creating solutions and blueprints of how you will work together, and sticking to these agreements,” Holman explained.

Don’t Be a Robo

2. Don’t Be a Robo

Industry surveys find that ultra-high-net-worth investors, those with at least $30 million in assets, are more concerned about their personal health and financial security than about the latest performance of the S&P 500 index.

“Know what matters to your clients,” Holman said. “Get in there and get deep.”

This means planning for the second half of your clients’ lives. “Ask what they are living for,” she explained. “Help them understand that this could be about simple things like spending more time with family.”

A wirehouse advisor told Holman about the importance of building models and providing great service. “But that’s meaningless. If I’m a client or prospect, I would you to tell me about yourself. What’s your story?”

This is the type of thing that, of course, robo-advisors can’t do, she pointed out to a crowd of several hundred advisors. “They are one-dimensional. You all are three-dimensional,”

Plus, some robo-advisor platforms may less able to restrict a client’s family members from accessing account information and holdings compared to full-service brokerage accounts.

“As the poet Maya Angelou said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ”

Don’t Overthink

3. Don’t Overthink

Katty Kay, a TV news anchor with BBC America, co-wrote the book “The Confidence Code” with Claire Shipman. Kay, who spoke at the Women’s Symposium, explained why women struggle with ruminating or worrying and how that prevents them from acting on bigger goals and life dreams.

The talk went over well with the Raymond James audience, and the word ruminating – i.e., overthinking – became a buzzword at the event.

Kay and Shipman’s book highlights research in genetics, behavior and cognition. Rather than urge women to “lean in,” they emphasize how women can close the “confidence gap” with men to achieve their desired careers and other aspirations.

The research they discuss finds that women are 20% more prone to being perfectionists than men, for instance, and perfectionism is a “confidence killer.”

“To expand our confidence, we have to do new things and go outside of our comfort zone by trying things that are difficult and take a certain amount of risk and preparedness to fail,” Kay explained. “This is critical for women. We need to really start examining what we so scared of in terms of failure and risk and why this is holding us back.”

Keep Things in Perspective

4. Keep Things in Perspective

Cindy David, a Raymond James advisor in Canada, described her views on work-life balance: “There’s no such thing … It’s not about cleaning up at home or clearing space in your calendar.”

David said she came to grips with how to best balance work and other aspects of life while doing a bike ride in support of cancer research about a month ago.

“We knew that heavy winds and rain were coming,” David said at the Raymond James Women’s Symposium. “We were trying to beat the winds, and I was riding for my life. We expected them to be tough, but they were 80 miles per hour.”

On the first day of the event, the advisor said she was encouraged by her Raymond James teammates.

The second day, the winds were “down to only 25 miles per hour … but it was so hard.”

As she struggled to maintain her strength, the urge to stop became intense. “It was so hard,” David said.

In the depth of misery, the advisor found a way to turn the pain into persistence. “I was overwhelmed by my supporters and family. I felt I had so much to be grateful for and realized that I had so much to give – there were no limits.”

By finding a voice in her “heart of despair,” she explains, “the life-work-play balance can take care of itself. I invite and challenge you to stretch yourself. Balancing is not about scheduling, it’s about connecting with others and with yourself.”

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