Updated Tuesday, September 2, 2014 as of 2:53 AM ET

Male RIA Execs Draft All-Female Advisory Board

Like many planning firms, CIC Wealth Management has an executive suite that skews male -- and knows it could do a better job of understanding and serving the nearly half of its clients who are women.

So the Washington, D.C.-area firm -- which has about $350 million in AUM, serving clients with $1 million to $5 million in assets -- recently created an advisory board of six professional women from different industries to help it serve clients like them.

“We wanted to create an all-female advisory board so that we could have a better understanding of our female clients and also to improve our service model,” says the firm’s chief investment officer, Andy Goodman.

Goodman says he started thinking about the specific needs that female clients present after one of his friends died. The man’s widow came to him for help, knowing next to nothing about their finances.

“It had a tremendous impact on me because here she was suffering from the loss of her husband and, at the same time, having to deal with this financial situation,” Goodman says. “I wanted to see that this didn’t happen to anyone else in the future.”

After talking with other people in the firm, he found many had similar stories to tell. “We found out that roughly 45% of our clients are single women or women decision-makers,” Goodman says. “We noticed that they are all made up of very different groups ... widows, divorcées, in some cases married women who are decision-makers.”

SEEKING HELP

A sophisticated approach would be needed, he decided -- one that CIC needed help to articulate.

“When I first met Andy and he told me the story about his friend ... alarm bells started going off in my head,” says Rachel Williams, a former strategic partner manager at Google who has become one of the firm’s six advisory board members. “I thought, 'That’s what would happen to my mom.'”

Williams says she’s been asked to scrutinize the way CIC markets itself, including a potential overhaul of its website.

The volunteer board has met once so far, says Goodman, and will continue to meet twice yearly. The board members will begin by working together to understand CIC’s brand, according to Williams.

The idea, she says, is “to create a cohesive working strategy that will be based on a number of our different backgrounds.”

The other five board members include:

  • Renee Finley, vice president of innovation and market research for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida
  • Jennifer Francis, executive director of marketing and communications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Lori Honigman, a partner in the Washington D.C. law firm of Glazer Winston Honigman Ellick
  • Gianna Jackson, a senior counsel in Cigna’s strategic transactions department
  • Jacqueline Martin, director of marketing and business development at National Medical Reviews, a provider of medical reviews to the insurance industry

The firm did not ask any clients to join the board, Goodman says.

“We wanted non-clients because we wanted objective advice,” he says. “A client might tell you they love everything we are doing.”

The firm was also looking beyond professional qualifications, Goodman adds. “In addition to these women all being extremely diverse and well-respected,” he says, “it really came down to the simple fact that these were women that we liked and felt comfortable with and felt it would be easy to work with.”

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