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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Getting '100% of Women' to Make a Financial Plan: BNY Mellon

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Kim Mustin wants “100% of women in America to have a financial plan.”

The co-head of global distribution at BNY Mellon Investment Management admits it’s a lofty goal. That’s why she’s helping BNY Mellon (BK) launch a new initiative – “Knowing Women: Brave Conversations on Women & Retirement” – which has a dual mission: to help advisors speak with female investor prospects and to encourage women to get a financial plan.

“We think our ‘Knowing Women’ program really ties in nicely with what many others in the industry have been doing, which is to help financial advisors focus on the needs of women and understand them,” Mustin told ThinkAdvisor. “But at the same time, to drive these women to be more comfortable to come into those financial advisors’ offices.”

Through this initiative, BNY Mellon will provide advisors with tools that will include ghostwritten articles and social media posts targeted to female clients, training on how to talk to female clients, and guidance for community-centric events focused on female client acquisition.

“We want to get financial advisors centered on the way women become educated and the way that they make decisions. And to get them comfortable with the questions [women] are likely to ask in the interview process,” Mustin said.

BNY Mellon is also hosting a number of outreach events to educate women on why they need a financial plan.

“We think that this is unique among some of the other tools that are being deployed in the marketplace today, which is to help women feel like they’re in the driver’s seat; to engage to get a financial plan,” Mustin told ThinkAdvisor.

BNY Mellon is also working on finalizing a checklist that will help guide women through the process of finding an advisor, which will be out in mid-May.

“We want people to have a clear pathway and an action plan,” Mustin explained. “It’s more than a checklist, it’s a guide to all the things that are your unique challenges as a woman.”

Mustin sees problems in how the industry currently handles women clients and prospects, and she says it’s largely reflected in the data.

“I think there are a number of people in the industry that are doing a really great job at trying to launch sales practice modules [for female clients] but it still doesn’t seem to be taking hold,” Mustin told ThinkAdvisor. “You see that through female-advisor satisfaction data. You see that in the number of women that are engaging with advisors.”

According to a Pershing BNY Mellon survey from Q1 2015 of 808 affluent U.S. adults, only 30% of the roughly 400 women surveyed were happy with their current advisor. The same survey found that only 14% of wealthy women feel the industry serves them well.

“Yet when you look at baby boomers in general, they will tell you they find great satisfaction and benefit from working with a financial advisor,” Mustin reported. “We know that when people have a plan, they have better outcomes.”

Mustin has some tips on how advisors can better serve current – and attract new – female clients.

“When we talk to advisors about how to do things differently, it really is: Take out the products, the jargon. Ask about her goals.” When it comes to goals, Mustin says “women tend to think more in buckets of money than in one giant bucket.” And, she said, they usually have a visualization of that bucket. Mustin uses her mom as an example.

“For her, financial security means being able to live independently and to get up and go feed her horses every day,” Mustin saud. “That’s what financial security looks like for her. It’s not dollars and cents. It’s not a benchmark. It’s not an asset class. It’s that picture.”

Advisors already have the training necessary to help female clients put together the “savings and investments and insurance” components to meet their financial goals, but what they need to do is to match those mathematical goals with a woman’s visual goal.

As Mustin sees it, the industry doesn’t need to “treat women differently than we treat men” and it doesn’t need “more pink products to sell” to women. “Financial advisors have built their whole career on how to help people retire comfortably. We don’t need a new program,” she said. “The way that you do that for a man is the same way that you do it for a woman.” However, she says to do so “you might need different types of tools.”

For example, Mustin says, women might need to invest more heavily in equities than men because they  are going to live longer.

“How are you going to outpace inflation? If you’re going to be an inheritor of a house, which is a huge fixed income asset, you are doubled down in fixed income in your portfolio. That might not be what’s right for you,” she explained. “To say to someone, ‘You should be in more risk assets’ needs a very thorough analysis” that takes into consideration the woman’s investment time horizon, risk tolerance and so forth. “Those,” she says, “are the types of conversations that advisors know how to have.”

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