Female advisers: The missed opportunity

May 5, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Frederick P. Gabriel Jr.

Considering that 69% of financial advisers are male, it appears that the profession is not exactly a bastion of gender equality.

The number of financial advisers in the U.S. is on track to grow 32% between 2010 and 2020, and with that growth comes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inspire and recruit more female advisers.

Why do we want more women to become financial advisers?

Forget the fact that studies have shown companies with a higher percentage of women among their senior executive ranks tend to outperform companies with a lower percentage. Forget also that women tend to be more relationship-minded and that the business of delivering financial advice is all about relationships.

Never mind that women control $14 trillion in personal wealth and that by 2020, that figure is expected to reach $22 trillion.

The No. 1 reason for bringing more women on board is so that the industry will look more like the customers it serves. Women make up 51% of the world's population and they should account for a similar percentage of the financial adviser workforce.

If they don't, the financial advice industry forever will be out of touch with the people it professes to serve.

In an effort to raise awareness, InvestmentNews will produce a series of stories and videos throughout the year that looks closely at the lack of female advisers. As part of that series, “Women in Advice,” we also will dig deep into the obstacles women traditionally face in advancing in the profession.

The basic problem

In the first part of the series, InvestmentNews reporter Liz Skinner lays out the problem: Even though demand for female advisers is strong, the job's appeal to women is relatively weak. In her story, we hear from Alexandra Armstrong, a 40-year veteran of the financial services industry.

The fact that female advisers earn less than their male counterparts is not the only reason why fewer women elect to become advisers, said Ms. Armstrong, who founded Armstrong, Fleming & Moore Inc. in 1983.

“We are always surprised by how few women choose to make a lot of money at this business,” Ms. Armstrong said. “Other women have said, "If I can have flexible hours and have a certain number of clients, that makes me happy.'”

As part of Women in Advice, we will profile several female advisers and hear about what it has taken for them to succeed in this male-dominated business. Conversely, we will look at what advisory firms are doing — or not doing — to recruit more women.

In addition, InvestmentNews — in partnership with the Investment Program Association — next month will hold a Women's Forum, a half-day event focused on mentoring and advancing women's issues in the financial services industry. More information about the forum, which will be held June 19 in New York, can be found here.

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