This past May more than 1,500 advisors from across the nation gathered in Las Vegas for the Institute’s 2019 Annual Conference Experience. The conference was packed with investment and wealth management thought leaders and numerous industry experts and innovators. New this year to ACE was the Women in Wealth luncheon, which included a panel discussion led by Kelly Walsh, CIMA®, RCC® National Director, Advisor Coaching and Director, Wealth Management Advisory Services, Coast Capital Wealth Management, Chair of the Investments & Wealth Institute's Canadian Advisory Council, and current Board of Director for the Investments & Wealth Institute.
More than 175 ACE attendees packed the room to hear the discussion with Colleen Bell, EVP Operations, Cambridge Investment Research; Alexandra Cole, Co-Founder, The Purpose Generation; Shanna Weber, V.P. Head of Strategy and Product Development, Charles Schwab Investment Management; and Marguerita Cheng, Wealth Advisor, Blue Ocean Wealth.
Walsh opened the luncheon with a personal story, relaying how she was at first reluctant to lead the panel discussion due to her fear that she may not be the best candidate for the opportunity and drawing parallels to how sometimes women are reluctant to step forward for bigger opportunities in their careers. Sometimes women pause when opportunities are presented to them because they ask “Why me?” instead of “Why not me?” She challenged all present to embrace their “tribe” and know that the support of others can empower their success. “You can’t do this thing called life alone….so find your tribe! The Investments and Wealth Institute has been my tribe for many years now, and I will never be able to give back to them all that they have given to me. The more you get involved with this organization, the more you get in return.”
Bell, Cole, Weber and Cheng then discussed three major questions, interspersed with participation from luncheon attendees:
- How to get more women in the C-Suite and other management /compensation issues;
- How to appeal to women advisors and build a pipeline for the future;
- How to better attract and support women investors.
Getting Women into the C-Suite
"Statistically women are under-represented in the c-suite. Only 5% of S&P 500 companies have female CEOs, that’s only 24 out of 500 companies," began Walsh. She also cited a new study, conducted earlier this year by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, that examined the percentage of women in top jobs by title and by industry. The study found that across the most prominent C-suite titles, an average of 25 percent of the top leaders are women. Additionally, the study interviewed dozens of current and former female CEOs, and the majority of them said they hadn’t even considered vying for the top spot until they had a sponsor tell them they were well-suited for the role.
The discussion led to some great takeaways but what made this luncheon unique was the fact that Walsh not only asked the panelists to discuss some key issues facing women in the industry today but those in attendance were also asked to discuss the questions and to submit their key suggestions for actionable takeaways from each table.
Action Item #1
How to get more women in the C-Suite and other management /compensation issues
- Women on top need to reach back & help others move up (like men do)
- More men advocate and mentor women - Involve the guys in the process
- Hire more females at all levels
- Have forums for women for coaching and assessment
- Promote and educate on the benefits of diversity
- Identify the specific problem or obstacle that’s preventing advancement of women (retention, recruiting, etc.) and address that specific problem or obstacle
- Advance senior women, relocation/compensation => move the “unit” support
- Propose things that will allow them to achieve the next level without making assumptions
- Education, build credential through IWI type programs
- Encourage younger women (at an earlier age) to take a leadership role
Getting more women into the Investments & Wealth Industry
"As an advisor I find great satisfaction in helping families plan for their future. What we do really impacts people’s financial lives across multiple generations – very few industries can do that. In fact, our work even transcends death and continues to have a meaningful impact on the families involved." said Walsh, continuing, "I think that is maybe one of the biggest misconceptions about our industry, that advisors are out for themselves but this truly is an incredibly noble industry that really does (for the most part) improve the financial well-being of their clients."
This industry has a reputation of being a cut-throat, competitive environment but the reality is that this industry is full of individuals who love to connect with people, and not just their clients, but they also want to connect and learn from each other. This is where conferences and associations add tremendous value. These tight-knit communities of like-minded professionals make it a much less daunting task for women (and men for that matter) to not only enter but to thrive in this business.
Finally, "some people have the perception that this industry is a better fit for men, and I would argue the opposite - that this industry is the perfect fit for women,” Walsh said. “Women have the natural tendency to be nurturing, compassionate and active listeners who tend to go deep and ask a lot of questions – ironically, these are all qualities of top advisors and key drivers of high client engagement. Finally, this industry also offers women a tremendous amount of flexibility for them to be able juggle the many facets of their career, personal and family life. It’s actually the perfect fit for those women who want it all!”
How to appeal to women advisors and build a pipeline for the future
- Use team approach
- More opportunities to connect vs “the cocktail party”/ a lot comes down to how we are perceived
- Strong mentorship programs within the firms
- Forum within IWI to allow women to communicate more
- Early education of women advisors, support for designations and certifications
- More proactive at college level about the profession
- What a career can be in financial services
- Reach out to ops & admin women & see if they have an interest in doing other things, i.e. consulting
- Compensation structure must change (longer runway, better initial support)
- Language and marketing is female friendly, a human being business
How to Better support Women Investors
The final question turned to women investors, Walsh began by pointing out that “the makeup of the industry isn’t the only thing we need to actively change, women investors are underserved, by and large marketing materials target men.”
Walsh also spoke to the upcoming transfer of wealth. “Today 42% of US breadwinners are women and over the next 11 years, women will control over 67% of the nation’s wealth. The reality is that women live longer than men by about 5 years, and nearly 20% of married couples in America have at least a six-year age spread between them, according to the Census Bureau.”
$42T and $110T is projected to transfer over the next 30 years to women, and there needs to be major strides in the industry to serve these investors. Those who start to tailor to these clients will be at a great advantage when the transfer of wealth takes place.
Again, the participants had great suggestions for how to tackle this issue.
Action Item #3: How to better attract and support women investors
- Change the language – break down stereotypes
- Tailor support, advice, delivery, etc. to specific clients & situations, recognize bias
- Invite the women to the table
- Office design – create a safe environment to ask questions
- Education on investment “mini-sessions”
- Risk profile completed separately, healthy communication
- Offer to have a separate meeting for women (Invest like a Girl) and why you should too
- Make sure marketing materials have women as focus pictures and the supporting employees are women as well
- Having more females at the firm would make female investors more comfortable
- Determine approach to women, goals-based, tailored topics to be more of a holistic, balanced approach to wealth & financial well-being
The financial services industry is not the only industry to struggle with gender imbalances, other industries have, and many continue to see a gender imbalance for a variety of reasons. These issues stem from a society that is continuing to evolve. The investments and wealth industry still has a long way to go, however, the Investments and Wealth Institute hopes to continue the conversation throughout the year.
View full list of participant action items/takeaways here.