How to successfully engage executive female clients

As women achieve new levels of success, advisers who know how to best serve them will reap the rewards

Oct 21, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

By Christine Gaze

A recent research report from Bank of America U.S. Trust highlighted the growing prowess of executive women, who might just be the most exciting emerging wealth segment.

There is a compelling narrative for financial advisers to consider as women are becoming more educated, more confident in business, earn their own fortunes and take an active role in investment decisions.

(Related: Listen to the latest webcast on how advisers can best serve successful female clients.)

• Women are more educated than ever before and hold more than 60% of college degrees.

• Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

• The number of wealthy women in the U.S. is growing twice as fast as men.

• 60% of high-net-worth women have earned their own fortunes.

• 81% are actively involved in investment decision making and one in three are the primary decision maker with regard to their investments.

While it is important not to paint all women with a broad brush, a close look at executive women reveals they are somewhat unique and benefit from a client experience that has been redefined to meet their needs.

(More: How savvy financial advisers work with successful women)

A case in point: I have studied hundreds of advisory practices and recently spent time with a number of firms that focus on executive women.

Many of the firms with the best-run women's segments focused on orchestrating the client experience for executive women to help them manage their time efficiently, sort through difficult emotions that come in to play with spouses and other family members when she “makes more,” and find unique ways to educate women in an engaging way.

Two women offering standout programs for female executives include Page Harty at SignatureFD in Atlanta and Heather Locus at Balasa Dinverno Foltz in Chicago.

Though Ms. Harty and Ms. Locus have never met, the core tenets for their respective programs were almost identical. They are:

Communication: Getting women involved and engaged in the wealth management process.

Education: Delivering education that is on-point and high quality.

Community: Providing an opportunity for women to connect with others who share their circumstance or from whom they can learn.

Both firms have been highly successful and their prowess for serving the women's market has created a circle of devoted clients and new referrals. The firms use similar tactics to engage women, but have slightly different philosophies.

Ms. Harty has been leading SignatureFD's SignatureWomen program for the past three years. The core of Ms. Harty's program is educational events.

SignatureFD employs an advisory board made up of a diverse group of influential female clients. This group generates ideas for educational and networking events that the Signature FD team puts into action.

SignatureFD has created a core curriculum that cover topics that appeal to women such as, “A Man is Not a Financial Plan,” “Top 10 Questions that Every Woman Should Be Able to Answer” and “Suddenly Solo.”

They also organize events that are purely about fun and networking. Some of their recent events included learning to shoot guns, self-defense, and martinis and makeovers.

(Related: Tips for working with couples when she earns more)

Balasa Dinverno Foltz also has a strong focus on educating women. As a busy executive, firm partner and divorced mother of two, Ms. Locus is highly attuned to what her executive women clients want.

Her observation is that many executive women carry a tremendous amount of guilt in their quest to have it all. Their careers can demand a lot of time away from family.

Therefore, in her view, executive women often have “no time for fun social things,” so they won't allow themselves to come out for an event that is purely fun. Female executives are eager to learn. They know they need to network, so if she can wrap those two things into an event and sprinkle in some fun, you have success.

Balasa Dinverno Foltz hosts an annual holiday tea for women at the Drake Hotel in Chicago where they get an update on the economic outlook. It has become a highly anticipated event among clients, so they have had to expand each year.

Ms. Locus's team is highly innovative with their event and educational themes. They recently hosted an event at a high-end consignment shop. Clients donated clothing, shopped and learned about strategic philanthropy all while sipping cocktails.

With the impressive growth both of these firms have seen with their women's programs, those looking to delve in would do well to be creative in their approach to engaging, connecting and educating women — and it can be fun!

Christine Gaze is the president of Purpose Consulting Group, a practice management firm, and the co-founder of Breakthrough Growth.


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