“Consider Firing Your Male Broker.” That was the bold headline The New York Times gave a candid opinion piece penned by Blair DuQuesnay, investment advisor with Ritholtz Wealth Management, in January of this year.
She argued that since an abundance of research found that women’s investment accounts outperform those of men, “the future of finance should be female.” The CFP and CFA discusses that angle of vision in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
While the percentage of women in other fields, like medicine and law, has substantially increased, when it comes to financial advisors, the needle has barely moved in the last two decades, says DuQuesnay, who writes the popular investing blog The Belle Curve.
The financial planner, 37, who joined Ritholtz in 2018 and is a member of its five-person investment management team, serves a high-net-worth clientele from her one-person office in New Orleans.
The scarcity of female advisors is an issue she clearly takes seriously, particularly when it comes to her own firm, which is actively seeking them — but with scant success. Indeed, industrywide, “it’s an uphill battle,” she says.
DuQuesnay started out as a sales assistant supporting a broker partnership at UBS PaineWebber in New York City, one of whose clients happened to be Barry Ritholtz.
Laid off as a result of the financial crisis, she nonetheless quickly moved up, when she was hired by WealthStream Advisors, where she became a certified financial planner. In 2011, she relocated to New Orleans and soon opened her own RIA, then joined ThirtyNorth Investments as chief investment officer. Five years later she became a member of the team at Ritholtz, which at present manages $1 billion in client assets.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the Montgomery, Alabama-born-and-bred DuQuesnay, on the phone from her office in “the Big Easy” (“I still have a lot of New York in my personality, but it’s an easier pace of life here.”). She has a knack for developing client relationships and fits right in with the Ritholtz business-building strategy of gaining publicity and prominence through social media, blogging, podcasting and writing articles for high-profile publications. Her Times op-ed triggered 340 reader comments.
The advisor is also part of the new Ritholtz charge into producing voice content for smart speakers — aka voice assistants — and every Thursday can be heard with a voice-activated Flash Briefing on Alexa as part of her firm’s daily “Market Moment” series spotlighting impactful historic events.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
THINKADVISOR: Did The New York Times approach you to write the op-ed piece, “Consider Firing Your Male Broker,” or did you propose it to them?
BLAIR DuQUESNAY: They came to me. I had written something similar on my blog, and they reached out and asked if I’d like to take another stab at it in the form of an op-ed. I said, absolutely.
I assume they wrote the headline, not you?
Right, but I did know all along that was the working headline. I knew the purpose of the opinion piece was to get eyeballs. So that title wasn’t a shocker to me.
What reaction did you get when it ran?
The overwhelming majority was positive, both from people within the industry and investors. I [accepted] offers to appear on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, the “Jill on Money” podcast and [public radio] WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” to discuss it. Of course, there were anonymous naysayers commenting on the internet, but they were a fraction of the responses I received or read.
In the piece, you wrote: “… whatever the paths taken, the future of finance should be female.” Please elaborate.
Characteristics of women as investors [indicate] a need for more women, if not a majority of women, in financial services. For example, women tend to exhibit less overconfidence [than men] — and overconfidence is what leads to more risk-taking, more pursuit of profits without considering the potential downside.
We know from academic research that groups tasked with difficult decision-making tend to perform better when they have diverse types of thinkers around the table. The easiest way to get cognitive diversity is to have both genders represented.
Some firms have been trying for decades to attract more women to be brokers or advisors. So this idea is nothing brand-new, right?
There have always been a small minority of amazing women serving as advisors. We’re just not moving the needle. We’re not seeing an increase in the percentage of women as advisors. That’s disheartening because we’re seen it in other fields — medicine, law and other STEM fields. But [the solution] isn’t as easy as simply stating that you want to hire more female advisors. It’s an uphill battle.
Why don’t more women want to be FAs?