When I started my career in the financial services industry more than two decades ago, I truly never imagined I’d see such dramatic change. Every aspect of our industry is different today—from the markets, tools and technology to the regulatory environment.
Our own faces have changed too.
When I started out, I was one of only a handful of women in this industry. Being women in a very male-dominated field, we persevered and overcame the wide range of challenges that often come from being the only girl in the room. There were times—at conferences and other industry functions—that it was abundantly clear we were not considered professional peers. But over the years I’ve watched the ranks of women grow, and with it, a shift toward a more professional, accepting environment for women. But considering today’s average advisor is a 58-year-old white male, I would say we still have a long way to go.
Changing Client Demographics
It’s not just the number of women in our field that has changed. Today’s investors are incredibly diverse, not only in race and gender, but also in age and financial background. Clients today have a far different service expectation than those from 20 years ago. Advisor relationships with clients are deeper now. We’re part friend, part advisor, part life-coach. So as more and more of the 58-year-old white males leave the business to enjoy their well-earned retirement, there is an opportunity to cultivate a more diverse advisor force to best serve this changing client demographic.
As a woman, I can unequivocally say that being a financial advisor is a great career choice. We naturally possess many of the qualities and personal skills that make an outstanding advisor. Women tend to listen well and be attentive to others’ needs. Women are also sensitive to the family dynamics that often affect financial decisions. And, while both women and men can be good with numbers—and in this field, they certainly better be—women tend to look more holistically at a client’s life and goals, rather than just the numbers. My clients often tell me that they appreciate these so-called “softer” skills.
The need to connect personally is especially true among female clients or prospects; there are definitely a growing number of women that manage significant personal or family assets. Whether it’s in a one-on-one situation, as part of a couple, or in a group, hardly a day goes by without a woman thanking me for including them in the conversation, making eye contact with them and simply acknowledging their presence.
Realizing this, I established an educational program that specifically serves women clients and their unique concerns, called Flourish: Women and Wealth Management. The program includes events created to combine a fun social activity with the opportunity to discuss financial issues. I find that, in these casual, fun settings where they are encouraged to ask questions, women prove hungry for financial education.
Ironically, many male clients also appreciate the “softer” skills. Rather than presenting myself as the financial expert who knows it all, I emphasize that my focus is on them and on how my expertise can help them achieve their goals. As a result, men often seem more willing to ask me questions than they might a male advisor.
Aside from the emotional traits that help us connect on a deeper level with clients, being a financial advisor is a flexible career option, which makes it well-suited for combining a great career with family.
So while there are still unique obstacles female advisors face in this industry, there are even more possibilities. The potential for young women in this field is immense, and it’s growing by the day as our industry looks to replace retiring talent.
Educating women about the career options that exist as financial advisors is important. But so is ensuring that the industry welcomes these young female advisors who are starting out today. They don’t need special treatment. They just need to be treated with the same respect, courtesy and professionalism afforded their male colleagues.
Carina S. Diamond is managing director of SS&G Wealth Management LLC, one of the nation’s largest independent accounting and business consulting firms, with offices in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina. She has specialized in wealth management and financial planning for more than 25 years, serving both individuals and corporations. She has been the top-producing female advisor for Cetera Advisors since 2008 and is consistently ranked in its top 10 national producers overall. In addition to earning her CFP designation, Diamond also holds an MBA in finance and a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany.