I travel to a lot of industry conferences. Many of them have good speakers and content, something of value to bring back to my clients and my team. This year, I’ll be recapping some of what I learn while on the road. I’ll pull back the curtain and share as much as I can about the gatherings that may be off your radar and some that are by-invitation-only. So look for my monthly Conference Conversations articles.
Last year, one of the last industry events I attended was a two-day event that took place in Miami at the Conrad Hotel. Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. along with its principal subsidiaries, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Investacorp, Inc., Triad Advisors, Inc. and Securities America, Inc., hosted a special symposium for women in finance. I was honored to attend as an industry consultant and columnist for Financial Planning.
“The participants in this room are a highly-accomplished group of women,” said Jaime Desmond, chief operating officer at Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management, who served as emcee and spokeswoman for the event planning committee. “Each of you was nominated for this inaugural event by your respective broker/dealer. You represent some of the best and brightest in our industry,” Desmond said.
Richard Lampen, president and chief executive officer at Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, Inc. emphasized the importance of the event during his opening comments: “In the past ten years, we have seen significant growth in the IBD industry due to key demographic trends such as the greying of America and the retirement of the Baby Boomers. The need for independent, unbiased advice has never been greater. There is a steady and unalterable shift of brokers and assets from the wirehouse channel to the IBD channel. But we’d like to see more women advisors within the Ladenburg family of broker/dealers. That’s why we are especially pleased to be hosting this first-ever symposium, the Ladenburg Institute of Women and Finance.”
GROWTH OF WOMEN IN FINANCE
Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president, marketing, for National Financial, said during her luncheon keynote that while women are currently significantly under-represented in the advisory space overall, more women have been entering the field. “According to Fidelity’s sixth annual Broker & Advisor Sentiment Index Study, the advisory profession continues to be male-dominated, with men representing 87 percent of respondents and women representing 13 percent. But female advisors who have fewer than five years of experience have increased by 40 percent since 2010. With women projected to account for over 50 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women may become a stronger force in the industry and the overall percentage of female advisors may grow over time.”
Women have been proving their success as advisors. The Fidelity study showed that female advisors had 5 percent higher assets under management and were generally more satisfied than their male counterparts. Although women earned five percent less than men, they had a higher sentiment score and higher average account size. While both genders were adjusting their strategies in the past year to focus on gaining new clients and increasing their share of wallet, women were focused more on networking to generate new business by attending events and seminars and in expanding the types of services they offer. In addition, more women than men were working with clients on areas outside of traditional investments, including long-term care, health care financing, and trust planning.
“Something big has been happening in the United States and very few have picked up on it,” said Ann Hughes, M. Ed., founder of The Female Affect. “Women have been hard at work acquiring significant wealth and amassing massive spending power. In fact, today approximately 70 percent of women work outside the home. Women control 72 percent of the total spending in America. This creates an affluent force to be reckoned with and the trend is gaining momentum with today’s youth as 140 women are awarded bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men earning the same degree,” Hughes said.
Hughes emphasized that women have unique lifestyle differences. On average women live four to six years longer than their male counterparts and frequently find themselves “smack dab in the middle of a sandwich situation, supporting elderly parents while still raising children. Women are the exact demographic that need the assistance of the financial services industry but instead of flocking to females in droves, the industry seems to shy away from this growing demographic because it has been a traditionally male dominated industry. At the same time, many women feel that financial professionals don’t understand our unique needs and often talk down to us. In a study by MetLife, 32 percent of women left their financial advisor because they did not listen to their needs or because they did not trust them. The financial services’ industry cannot continue on this path – the very demographic that has the largest need, wealth and spending power is being marginalized at best and often just plain ignored,” Hughes said.
Two successful women entrepreneurs shared their thoughts on building a business while balancing other life commitments. Persistence, passion and focus were three of the qualities they embraced. “My mother always told me to have an elephant’s memory,” said one of the consumer panelists. “Forgive, but never forget.”
The two consumer panelists also talked about how they found and why they chose their current financial advisors. Both panelists said they had once worked with brokers but that the incentives were bothersome to them and that they had eventually moved to working with an independent, fee-based advisor.
“I took a lot of time finding my advisor,” said one. “I wasn’t happy with my dad’s financial advisor, who due to the sale of our family business gifted a significant amount of money to me when I was only 25 years old. I interviewed 4-5 individuals, and while knowledge, experience and references were important, I needed someone I could talk to. My dad’s advisor was talking down to me; it was not a respectful relationship.”
On the topic of women in the workplace and women as entrepreneurs, on of the consumer panelists said, “For women to get ahead, we have to help each other.”
WOMEN WINNING IN BUSINESS
Author, professional speaker and sports agent Molly Fletcher, labeled the female “Jerry McGuire” by CNN, echoed many of the sentiments shared by the consumer panel during her speech, “Women Winning in Business.” She emphasized that the women in the room were in the relationship business and encouraged them to add so much value that their clients would enthusiastically refer them, let alone ever think of leaving them.
“Do your clients feel like they owe you or do you feel like you owe them? The goal is this: How could they possibly leave you after all you have given and given and given? Another tip: before people officially sign on with you, show them what is it is like to work with you. Have a sense of fearless urgency. Be intentional about how quickly or slowly you respond to things. We are all cognizant of the messages we send to clients – we tend to execute around things that make us money or don’t make us money. Show that sense of urgency around the work you do for your clients,” Fletcher said.
By the way, Fletcher said that not enough women advisors pitch her on becoming a resource for her professional athlete and celebrity clients. In the middle of that pregnant moment, a Securities America advisor stood up and quickly walked to the front of the room. Holding out her business card, she said, “Hello. I’m Amy Lipsitz. I’m an independent financial advisor. We work with athletes, affluent individuals and business owners at my firm. I’d love to be a resource for you and your clients. Can we have a quick side conversation when you’re done here?” The room erupted into laughter and applause. Fletcher gave Lipsitz a high-five.
PROVIDING A FEMALE-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
During the “Women of the Ages Panel” moderated by Janine Wertheim, chief marketing officer of Securities America, advisors from Triad, Investacorp and Securities America, each representing a decade of life, shared their life and work experiences. All emphasized that building relationships with their employees and strategic partners was as important as building relationships with their clients. All relished the benefits of being an entrepreneur and the support that they received from their respective broker/dealer.
Triad advisor Laura Schilling, who represented the 30’s and 40’s age group on the Women of the Ages panel, has found the best employees are women who want to work part-time so they can be available for their kids. They are paid hourly and can work from home if they want, using a Citrix connection. Some come to the office but being a flexible employer is key. She also asks each of her employees, “What would make you feel appreciated – spas, retreats, time with the team, time for yourself, time with the kids? I look for what motivates them, and not only find but keep incredible women this way. Most of my staff comes from staff. They are extremely loyal and hard-working,” Schilling said.
BUSINESS BUILDING TIPS
When asked how she attracts new business, Kim Kropp, a Securities America advisor in her 50’s, said she does no direct marketing. Everything hinges on the soft sell. She gets all the business she needs through referrals from existing clients. As an example of how she builds relationships, Kropp talked about the holiday open house she’s held at her own home for the past 32 years. 100 people, mostly family and friends, came the first year. 400 people came through in 2011, many of them clients and their friends. She makes all the food, drinks.
But her main marketing initiative is Christmas in July. Sixteen years ago she delivered a special surprise to her top 30 clients, with her kids as delivery helpers. Now her staff goes out and delivers to 400 client homes and offices. The surprises are different every year. Pies. Cinnamon rolls. Magazines. Popcorn. Tortes. She tries to find specialties made in Omaha, where her office is based. She says it’s about getting into their homes. Seeing what their life is like.
“I try to touch everyone I meet in some way,” Kropp said. “They become friends first then find out I’m a financial advisor and come to me for that.”
Violeta Salud, an Investacorp advisor in her 60’s, lives in a small town, Lake Wales, Florida: population 15,000. “If you really want people to know who you are,” said Salud, “you have to get out there and repeatedly say who you are. I try to get free publicity every chance I get. I’ve been the PTA president, the chairman of the board for an organization that serves people with special needs, and so forth. I am very active in civic and community activities. I try to get in the headline as much as possible.”
Salud has held client appreciation events for 15 years but became bored speaking about investments, so started entertaining her clients and their friends. Changing from education to entertainment works for her gregarious personality and brings more clients to the fold. Examples: she brought in a dance troupe from Tampa; she collaborates with local colleges and the music departments to help them fundraise.
Like Salud, Kropp has also held women’s events—one where everyone gets a mani/pedi; and family events such as a ball game that’s open to family and friends. Kropp holds five educational events a year; for instance, she brought in a motivational speaker to talk about dealing with stress and sent everyone home with a long-stemmed rose. She hosted a Medicare event and asked clients to bring friends.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
“The steering committee and I thought long and hard about the agenda for this conference,” said Desmond in her closing comments. “The feedback we received from the advisors attending was been overwhelmingly positive. Some of you are asking for an annual in-person forum, much like this one, and have given us your wish list of sessions for next year. In addition, many of you have expressed a strong interest in using digital communications such as webinars, teleconferences, a community discussion board and video, to keep the conversations and connections alive between institute meetings. We are extremely pleased with this response and will, as a steering committee, be discussing next steps,” Desmond said.
As I was finishing up this article for Financial Planning (some 34,000 feet high as I wing my way to another conference), I received an invitation from the committee. I’m happy to report that I’ll be one of the first webinar guest speakers for the Ladenburg Women and Finance Institute in 2013. My topic on the February 12th webinar will be “Demystifying Social Media and the Digital Reality.”
As always, if you’ll be attending any of the conferences below, tackle me and let’s chat. Otherwise, you can post your comments on the discussion thread below or interact with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
- Jan. 28-30: FSI One Voice in San Diego
- Jan. 30 - Feb. 2: TD Ameritrade conference in San Diego
- Feb. 6: Sourcemedia private client event in New York City
- Feb. 11-13: T3 Technology Tools for Today conference in Miami (use code T32013IC to save $50)
- March 27: FPA Kansas City social media workshop in Overland Park, Kansas
- April 9-10: Tiburon CEO Summit XIV in Manhattan, New York
- May 14: National Trust Company of America conference in Las Vegas
- May 19-21: Investacorp national conference in Puerto Rico
- June 9-12: Securities America national conference in Washington, D.C.
Marie Swift is a communications consultant in the financial services industry. Learn more at www.ImpactCommunications.org. Follow @marieswift on Twitter, “like” ImpactCommunicationsInc on Facebook, or search for Marie Swift on LinkedIn.