Executive women aren't getting advice they need

Divide exists between what successful women expect from advisers and what is provided

Jul 23, 2017 @ 12:01 am

By Marie Dzanis

More American women than ever have advanced to the top of the corporate ladder, becoming an increasingly influential and affluent demographic.

A Newsweek report estimated their spending power to be greater than the entirety of Japan's economy. The Boston Consulting Group indicates that wealth held by women worldwide will grow 7% year over year for the foreseeable future, amounting to $72.1 trillion globally by 2020.

But unfortunately, many women have found that the resources they need to properly manage their wealth haven't caught up with their success. Data from the Family Wealth Advisors Council indicate massive shortfalls between what executive women expect their financial advisers to provide and what advisers are currently providing. The survey showed that 66% of women who have an adviser are dissatisfied with their experience, in comparison to only 10% of men. What causes this gap?


We believe that past trends in financial advice have kept the industry from meeting the demands of executive women. Often, advisers employ similar messaging for all women, regardless of their financial and personal circumstances. For example, advisers would ask if a current or potential female client was a divorcee or had inherited her wealth, ignoring other relevant factors. Services constructed around outdated qualifiers fall far short of the comprehensive suite of services demanded by executive women, whose demographic presents them with unique challenges.

(Watch: Women's retirement needs and the opportunity they present for advisers)

It's time to move past the notion that all women are part of a homogeneous group. Consider an issue as simple as a female executive's comfort level with using technology. A 65-year-old baby boomer who only uses her Blackberry will likely have a different level of comfort consulting her financial data online than a 35-year-old who grew up on iMacs and iPads. Conversely, a baby boomer with ample spending power might be perfectly well versed in technology. The point is, ask. With varying life circumstances and generational influences, effective advisory services for executive women must consider age, occupation, family responsibilities, communication preferences and risk tolerance.

Additionally, advisers looking to engage this market must consider what services they can offer that truly add value. The previously mentioned FWAC survey indicates that while 75% of females who engage an adviser wish their adviser would communicate effectively with their spouse or partner, only 38% say that their adviser does so. Worse, only 15% report effective communication between themselves and their adviser. Similar gaps in satisfaction are apparent in the handling of philanthropy, tax-planning strategies and education funding strategies.


The solution? Shift your thinking. Adjust your language and the level of detail provided in client communications. Establish a baseline understanding of her investment knowledge. Understand your client's priorities, and grow your connections and resources accordingly.

One of the biggest demands we've experienced among executive women is the opportunity to network with other female executives. There's also great demand for legal services, educational finance structuring, philanthropic guidance and capital access establishment.

(More: Retirement planning for women)

Baby-boomer women experience the highest divorce rates in America, the legal proceedings for which require an adept adviser and access to legal counsel. Female executives are a demographic familiar not only with the demands of the "sandwich generation" (caring for both parents and children), but also the recently named "club sandwich generation" (those caring for parents, children and grandchildren). Providing advice on financing elder care and education may be an industry standard, but what about a woman who needs to balance both?

Finally, the expectation to intimately understand an executive woman's holistic and personal financial situation illustrates the most important requirement: trust. For anyone to rely on a single source for this range of services requires a high-trust relationship, and female executives know to expect this. An important requirement for female executives considering an adviser is the confidence that all matters, financial and otherwise, will be handled with the utmost capability, discretion and integrity.

It's time advisers recognize this growing demographic and cultivate the kind of long-lasting relationship necessary to win their business.

Marie Dzanis is head of distribution for FlexShares.


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