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Lorna Kapusta of Fidelity

Practice Management > Building Your Business > Leadership

Meeting Female Investors Where They Are Now: In the Driver's Seat

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Younger women are more confident about managing and investing their money than those of prior generations. The reason isn’t complicated.

“They’ve taken on a greater role in making money and determining how they want that money to fund their lives,” argues Lorna Kapusta, head of women and customer engagement at Fidelity Investments, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor. “Women have not always taken the front seat in these decisions, but that’s changing rapidly.”

In her role as an advocate and public speaker encouraging women to take a more active role in their finances, her aim is to inspire them to grow their money for the immediate future and long term by making it work for them.

“Sometimes I think of that as ‘making money while you sleep,’” says the marketing expert, who has been with Fidelity for seven years following executive posts at American Express and Primedia.

Just as younger women are taking greater control of their finances, more women are becoming financial advisors, she says. Only 31% of financial advisors are female, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To speed up the hiring pace, Kapusta suggests that, for clarification, firms make sure job postings clearly state a financial advisor’s responsibilities.

Being an advisor is “much more than just about the numbers,” she says. “It’s about connecting with people, understanding what they’re trying to achieve and helping them figure out how to achieve it.”

ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Kapusta, who was speaking from Boston, her base.

She has some advice for advisors about working with female clients: “First,” she says, “they need to realize that men and women approach money differently.”

For men, their “proudest money moment is getting that big win from investing,” Kapusta notes. “Women say it’s about how they’ve used their money to achieve a goal.”

Here are excerpts from our interview:

THINKADVISOR: Fidelity did a 2021 study that showed only 33% of women feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions, and just 14% said they know a lot about saving and investing. Your thoughts?

LORNA KAPUSTA: Over [the years], we’ve seen that women are less confident when it comes to investing. But that’s very much changing across generations. We’ve observed that change most with young women.

On average, the next generation of women — in the 18 to 35 range — is even starting to invest in a brokerage account that’s outside their workplace retirement plan.

We see retirement accounts now that women have started at age 20, whereas their older peers didn’t open that first workplace retirement account until they were 27, 30 or older.

Why have these women, and others, assumed more control of their money?

Because they’ve taken on a greater role in making money. They’re determining how they want that money to fund their lives. There’s an opportunity for them to have full control and make decisions to help them achieve what’s important to them.

Women have not always taken the front seat in these decisions, but that’s changing rapidly.

It’s about, “How is my money working hard to achieve what’s important to me by developing a plan for it to have the greatest [returns] potential?”

Sometimes I think of this as “making money while you sleep.”

What else has prompted the younger generation of women to take charge of their money?

They’re hearing from older generations, as well as social media and their male counterparts, that there are opportunities for them to make their money do more for them. That’s what we’re so focused on.

Meeting with a client couple, many financial advisors address the husband only. Then, with the husband’s death, the wife most often fires that advisor and gets a new one. Please comment.

Yes, in fact, seventy percent of women leave their advisor once they become a widow.

It’s important for advisors to know what’s important to [the wife], especially what her worries and goals are.

We need to shift from a “he is the client, or the customer,” to “she and he” or “she and she” or “he and he” are the customer that the advisor is serving.

Advisors have to build a relationship with [both partners], and anyone else in the family that’s important, to help develop a money road map — a financial plan — to achieve the goals of that partnership.

But why aren’t more women investors?

Historically, it was always thought that investing was for people with lots and lots of money.

Today, women still feel they don’t have enough to invest, whereas the reality is that has changed significantly over the past several years.

You can invest with as little as a dollar, get comfortable with it and work your way up to investing more.

What can financial advisors do to engage women who aren’t taking those steps and help inspire them to manage their money and to invest?

First, they need to realize that men and women approach money differently. Men have told us that their “proudest money moment” is getting that big win from investing.

Women say it’s about how they’ve used their money to achieve a goal. It’s more about her goals, her loved ones, her family — what she’s helping to achieve for everybody.

Why has it been so challenging to attract women to become financial advisors?

It’s been a slow change, but I think it’s now changing more rapidly. It all dates back to when the financial industry started; it was created heavily by men.

Fidelity recognizes that [the advisor’s job] is much more about helping people plan to achieve what’s important to them [vs. the big win].

It’s critical to bring more women — greater diversity — to financial services, understanding that who we [firms] are has to reflect who we serve and how to better serve them.

What does that involve?

Part of it is thinking about the language we use in our job postings. We want to make sure that women understand all the attributes of what the role [of advisor, for example] is.

We’re focused on creating roles with flexibility that allow women — who make up two-thirds of caretakers — to come back into the workforce [after taking a career break] to get the skills and training necessary to be successful.

What should firms stress to attract women to become financial advisors?

An advisor is much more than just about the numbers. It’s about connecting with people, understanding what they’re trying to achieve and helping them figure out how to achieve it.

In the past, the job has been described very differently from what it is today.

That’s what we’re working on changing. People initially think it’s about numbers and getting the big wins. It isn’t at all.

Money is simply a foundational element to help you do the things in life you want for yourself and your family.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

How do we accelerate the pace of women joining the financial industry and becoming advisors, as well as more women taking control of their finances?

How do we collectively raise our voice?

How do we make sure that the right programs and support are in place for women to choose the best career path as advisors, as well as all women having access to the financial help they’re looking for in the way that’s best for them?


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