Financial advisers need to help their female clients reduce individual money shame and to empower them personally and professionally when it comes to finances, a leading wealth psychology expert said.
"We live in a society that is plagued by money taboos — the idea that it's not nice or necessary to talk about money, and I call that 'money silence,'" said Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit in Boston on Tuesday.
Losing that discomfort and shame that many women have when it comes to talking about personal finance can help close the gender wage gap and propel more women toward financial fitness, she said. And financial advisers have an important role in making that happen.
"It's a great time with the #Me Too movement to be looking at how taking care of ourselves and standing up against abuse in a variety of different ways also transfers to our field of finance," Ms. Kingsbury said. "The reality is that we have power and our clients have power."
(More: What is 'money silence'?)
Women have $11.2 trillion in investable assets, receive 70% of wealth transfers and account for 44% of primary earners, a statistic that keeps trending upward, she said.
"'Times up' for money silence," Ms. Kingsbury said referencing the Hollywood-inspired movement against sexual harassment. "My hope is that you will join the breaking money silence revolution with me, being a role model, empowering your clients to talk more openly, honestly about money, and maybe about their ambivalent feelings about being powerful or taking a lead role or even a collaborative role in their financial lives."
While the financial services industry historically focuses on the technical aspects of finance and transactions, there has been a shift of late toward behavioral finance and exploring the human side of it, Ms. Kingsbury said.
"I want to encourage you to facilitate money conversations that are about more than dollars and cents," she said. "I do believe this is your competitive advantage not only as a female, but going forward in this field when we're talking about more and more technology. A robo adviser cannot have a meaningful conversation with a client."
Empowering female financial advisers was one of the prevalent themes at the summit, which attracted nearly 250 female financial advisers.
"While these women are typically younger and at smaller firms, both their revenues and assets are growing at a faster relative rate than men," said Suzanne Siracuse, publisher of InvestmentNews.
Women advisers tend to take a more proactive approach to marketing, technology, outsourcing and the positioning of their services, she said. They also tend to describe themselves as holistic planners, which positions them to serve a population of investors and clients with broad needs, while men still lean toward investment management when describing their services, a much narrower field for current and future prospects.
"This is just a fantastic message to share with young women who are looking to come into the profession," Ms. Siracuse said.
More colleges and universities are offering wealth management programs for business and financial planning than ever before, she said.
Leadership empowerment coach Finka Jerkovic urged advisers to determine their strongest attributes and embrace their "brilliant difference" to improve their branding and marketing to prospective clients. Women sometimes are kept back because they're held to a higher standard, believe they have to be perfect and have a need to berate or punish themselves, she said.
Ms. Jerkovic urged female advisers to redefine confidence.
"Confidence is not determined by your competence, rather by the belief in the capabilities and resourcefulness you have about yourself and your ability to figure it out," she said.
Wendy Benson, head of wealth management at MassMutual Financial Advisors, said women advisers need to believe in themselves when it comes to job advancement in an industry with few female senior managers and they have to recognize that it's acceptable to trip and fall along the way.
"If you wait until you think you're completely ready, you're going to wait a long time," Ms. Benson said. "I don't think our male counterparts are always ready."
She tells them: "Start thinking you are a professional woman, you're not a woman professional. Just do the best job, believe in what you do and just go for it."
Donna Goodison is a freelance writer.