Not even Sallie Krawcheck believed in a digital investment firm for women when she was told she should start one. She thought it was too condescending to women, and didn't believe they needed one.
"Then I sort of had this insight, which was, 'Wait a minute, if women don't invest as much as men do, it'll cost a woman making $85,000 a year a million dollars, more or less, over the course of her career," said Mrs. Krawcheck at a CB Insights fintech conference on Wednesday. "That's life changing amounts of money."
Today, the former wealth management executive has a second career running Ellevest, a digital financial platform for women. A self-proclaimed financial feminist, she believes that women can make a difference by taking control of their money.
Ellevest, which launched in 2016, boasts the tagline, "Invest like a woman." The platform uses an algorithm that takes into account, among other factors, that women live longer, earn less and take more career breaks than men. It has attracted the support of tennis player Venus Williams and Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz.
"We're always hearing how women need to be empowered. That means to be given power. We've got power," said Mrs. Krawcheck.
Mrs. Krawcheck said encouraging women to invest is the best way to improve society, citing that women are more likely to give money back to their communities, their families and to nonprofits.
To do that, she has had to combat sentiments, from both Wall Street and women, that women are too risk averse to invest, that they need more hand-holding and that they require more of a financial education.
"None of those were true," said Mrs. Krawcheck. "Except they do need more financial education."
Mrs. Krawcheck credits her career success to being able to take risks. She was the CEO for wealth management at Citigroup and at Bank of America Corp.
"I've never been smarter than anybody else, but I've worked harder than most, and I've been risk tolerant," said Mrs. Krawcheck. "Through my career, I've been willing to step out of the pack and do stuff that's different."
When it comes to the gender divide, Mrs. Krawcheck sees the split clearly when it comes to her own children, saying boys are taught to be brave and girls are taught to be perfect. "You're taught to be perfect and then you're not perfect," she said. "It is deeply humiliating and embarrassing."
After two high-profile firings from Citigroup and Bank of America Corp., Mrs. Krawcheck wants women to come back stronger.
"I just refuse to be embarrassed," Mrs. Krawcheck said.