Female executives often have different expectations of themselves, their money and their financial advisors. Most senior executives require a specific set of services from their advisors, but women often require further services to meet their unique demands.
Our extensive interviews with investment advisors across the country revealed several specific ways to help female executives and, simultaneously, reshape your practice to more effectively serve these powerful women. (The interviews were part of research conducted among 20 financial advisors between July 16, 2012 and September 28, 2012, by Excella, an independent third-party marketing firm, on behalf of Fidelity Investments.)
1. UNDERSTAND CAREER & FAMILY CHANGES
Like their male counterparts, female executives still face common financial challenges, such as evaluating stock options and deferred compensation plans. Yet we've seen that lifestyle factors and family responsibilities are often important topics when working with executive women.
One way those often appear is in an interest in career transitions. Page Harty, partner at Atlanta advisory firm SignatureFD, finds that women executives often express a desire to change careers well before the traditional retirement age. Her key to success? Helping women assess the change.
"These women may have grown children or aging parents for whom they have financial responsibilities," she told us. "There are many tradeoffs to consider when developing a plan for transitioning to a new life."
She advises male colleagues who work with executive women not to be afraid to discuss personal issues in detail. "These concerns are important to women -- even if you may cover ground you wouldn't expect with male clientele."
Nan Cohen, founder and CEO of Creekside Financial Advisors in Pepper Pike, Ohio, stresses the importance of customization. "Executive women want help pivoting their careers to [focus on] their passions, like community development or a nonprofit organization."
Cohen finds that women want to know the impact on future flexibility if they move from a power role to a contributory role. She relies on thought-provoking questions:
- "What's most important to you: Getting the biggest bucket of money or giving back as a volunteer?"
- "What's the possibility of finding a paid position in a not-for-profit organization that allows you to still meet your lifestyle needs?"
She will also arrange coffee or lunch meetings with a nonprofit executive director so her clients can see the tradeoffs in advance and are better able to evaluate if they are willing to make them.
Cohen cites "working less to help their aging parents more" as a common theme among executive women. To clarify this issue, Cohen asks further questions: Are the parents healthy and self-sufficient? What is their financial situation? Are there any siblings who can or will help?
- Get started:Consider asking your executive female clients about career plans. Explore any responsibilities they may have to parents, siblings or even grown children. Identifying and discussing these issues with clients can help you build higher degrees of trust, expand relationships and enhance loyalty.
2. OFFER SINGLE POINT OF CONTACT
Time is a precious commodity for all executives, making a single point of contact appealing. That's even more important for professional women, advisors say. Rebecca True, president of True Capital Advisors in central Florida, has spent her career working with executives.
"Men may use several investment providers for different slices of their portfolio, as well as a separate insurance provider," says True. "Women typically want to deal with one person for all their financial needs -- it simply saves them time when they are juggling so much."
She also finds that female executives ask her to focus on such issues as longevity planning and charitable giving.
To address longevity concerns, True uses several tactics: clarifying cash flow, expenses and desired lifestyles for a client; prioritizing future goals and needs; and developing and working through a checklist of various planning activities, such as tax strategy, investment diversification and long-term care planning.
Some advisors address needs that go beyond comprehensive financial services. Harty and her team at SignatureFD offer concierge services, which they believe has helped them grow their market share with female executives. By partnering with a local independent lifestyle management firm, they have gathered an array of vetted resources to assist with essential and non-essential tasks, so that clients can focus on their highest priorities.
"We've added a career coach and have found someone that helps clients buy and sell high-end cars," Harty says.
These services give clients more time to focus on essential financial issues such as investments, tax and estate planning, financial planning, and insurance.
- Get started: Consider offering a comprehensive set of financial services. If your firm lacks the capabilities in house, explore building a strong network of trusted partners to whom you can refer clients as part of your core service. If it makes sense for your practice, explore concierge or other services that may appeal to your clients.
3. RETHINK CENTERS OF INFLUENCE
How do you build a strong clientele of female executives? "I work hard at developing centers-of-influence relationships," says True.
Since they know that her focus is on serving professional and executive women, they can provide referrals that fit her ideal client. In addition to working with traditional divorce, real estate and estate planning attorneys, True has built alliances with women-owned businesses -- including one that provides outsourced CFO services to companies with $5 million to $50 million in revenue.
She focuses on opportunities to meet, collaborate, and get to know each other's clients. The firms host joint events, inviting their respective clients. When events are for her clients only, she'll encourage them to bring a friend.
"Many women like to learn and connect with other women. When you combine these two, then they really like to participate in the activity you invite them to," True says.
- Get started: To help expand your client base of executive women, develop COI relationships with people and firms that actively serve professional women. Plan joint activities that bring female clients together in an educational environment, and focus on events that are small enough to provide a chance to network with all your guests.
Many female executives navigate non-linear career paths and typically juggle more family and childcare demands than male counterparts. Applying the practices and principles from these real-life examples may help you uncover opportunities to more effectively serve executive women clients.
Laura Kogen is vice president, Practice Management & Consulting, at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services is a division of Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC. Member NYSE, SIPC. The content provided herein is general in nature and is for informational purposes only. © 2014 FMR LLC. All rights reserved. 659495.1.0
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