Advice firm carves out unit for women investors

New Fairport division seeks to help widows and other wealthy women feel supported

Jun 26, 2017 @ 8:00 am

By Liz Skinner

Fairport Asset Management has been so successful attracting widows and female executives that it's created a new division within the firm to focus solely on serving wealthy women.

Under the Luma Wealth Advisors brand, the firm will target women with net worths of $2 million to $25 million who are widows, divorcees, women of inherited means, female breadwinners and female business owners. It will provide wealth planning and investment management, as well as social and educational events aimed at connecting women who have faced similar situations.

Cleveland-based Fairport, which manages about $1.5 billion in client assets, will continue to focus on attracting owners of family businesses, executives in transition, and other professionals like doctors and lawyers, said Heather Ettinger, managing partner of Fairport and founder of Luma Wealth Advisors.

"The idea is to preserve the Fairport brand because our women client group is growing so quickly," she said.

(More: Adviser's Consultant: Boosting female advisers inside and outside the firm)

Existing female clients will be given the option to be serviced by Fairport or Luma, although the marketing effort is really about attracting new female clients, Ms. Ettinger said. All clients will have the same access to investments, but Luma is spearheading the addition of investments later this year for the firm that will take into consideration environmental, social and governance policies, she said.

Investing that accounts for ESG factors is especially popular with women, according to many investor surveys.

The move to focus on women may make good business sense, too.

Women value planning more than men, and they are more concerned about maintaining their current financial position and providing a stable financial situation for the next generation, according to a recent Spectrem Group survey of women with $1 million or more of investable assets.

Fairport, a firm of 27 people, was formed in 2001 through the union of two financial advice firms, Roulston & Co. and The Hickory Group. Ms. Ettinger, who is one of 14 advisers at the firm, has been a part of Fairport since its inception.

She frequently speaks to the wealth management industry about the unique needs of female clients and about the lack of women working in the male-dominated financial services industry.

The wealth management business has historically ignored women and treated them with less regard than men, with wives complaining about advisers talking down to them as if they are less able to understand investing concepts than their husbands, Ms. Ettinger said.

(More: 10 things advises should never say to female clients)

Luma will seek to make its clients feel connected and supported as they go through difficult life transitions, she said.

"We've seen a lot of firms who change the font to pink and call it for women, but that doesn't make their services for women," Ms. Ettinger said. "We want to empower women around their money and connect them with those who have gone through a similar journey and come out on the other side."

Luma's marketing efforts will initially be aimed at Cleveland women, but Ms. Ettinger believes there is a national need for an advisory firm aimed specifically at wealthy women. She envisions the firm one day acquiring advisers in different regions of the country who are serving women in these niches.

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