As professional women amass greater wealth and power, financial advisors circle them with great interest, swooping down regularly to offer services to women widowed or divorced.

Of those financial advisors not selling products or services for the newly single or bereaved, many have merely offered female prospects their standard menu of seminars on asset allocation, economic forecasting and college savings plans.

While some wealth managers tout what they perceive as female-friendly events featuring fashion shows and wine tastings, the more savvy realize that smart, affluent women with busy calendars gravitate to programs with intellectual heft.

Wells Fargo Private Bank understands this dynamic. Launched in 2011, its annual New York-based “Women Unscripted” conference highlights themes like “Necessary Ambition” and “Real Intelligence.”  This year’s by-invitation event is “The Quest for Perfection: The Myth and the Reality”. Roughly 100 female clients and prospects are expected to attend, including business owners, C-level executives, philanthropists, attorneys and client spouses. Life management topics are on the agenda; discussions of finances are saved for more personal one-on-one settings.

Stephanie Giroux, a Wells Fargo Private Bank regional investment manager, says the topics and speakers are what compel women to attend. “Time is every woman’s most precious asset,” she says, “so they value and appreciate the opportunity to network with other smart women, expand their thinking and learn how others are juggling career, family and life’s responsibilities. These thought-provoking events span both the intellectual and emotional side of issues and have led to the development of new or deeper client relationships.”

Marketing efforts aimed at women are more successful when wealth managers realize that their target audience is not one homogeneous niche. And too few look beyond the obvious—divorce and widowhood—to take into account the special needs and interests of women as they progress through the less dire stages of work and life. 

ZEROING IN

Citi’s Women & Co. CEO Linda Descano agrees that to successfully market to women requires creativity, empathy and the ability to zero in on what they are thinking and feeling at many of life’s pivotal moments.

“On our site we create evergreen content around an evolving and robust set of issues women face as CHOs (chief household officers), CEOs of their careers and CFOs of their family finances. Life today is full of change and opportunity—so any good advisor is thinking about how he or she can help clients anticipate and manage continual change in their personal and professional lives.”

Descano says that Women & Co.’s holistic approach to supporting women through life’s twists and turns is not just good public relations: “By engaging women through different life stage lenses we have seen a lift in brand consideration.”

Even the most strategic and well-intentioned financial advisor cannot anticipate every work and life issue an individual woman will face, but there are many predictable events women experience as they move in and out of the workforce. Broad-thinking financial advisors can open new prospecting channels when they create life stage content and events for women who are:

• Building careers. Though financial advisors often target seasoned executive women, it also makes sense to begin relationships with younger women who need help developing budgets, learning the value of savings, understanding benefit plans and making their first financial investments. You can accomplish this with content and events that focus on career strategy, leadership and professional development. Producing events for daughters and their mothers permits advisors to cultivate younger prospects while also addressing older women with more investible assets.

• Searching for new career opportunities. Women who are engaged in a job search worry much more about finances than those who are happily employed. Can they afford to take a job that offers less money? Should they continue to generate even a small “stop-gap” income through part-time or consulting work? How will any extended period absent earnings affect their retirement planning? To attract mid- to senior-level job seekers—who typically have some assets and will continue to grow them as their careers and earning power progresses—present content and events that will help them widen their professional networks, zero in on their key strengths and develop a compelling “sales package” that will appeal to employers.

• Considering a workforce hiatus. Every year large numbers of women leave the workforce to focus on their families. Central to any decision to back-shelf a career are concerns over substantial income loss for an extended period of time—12 years on average. Women in their 30s and 40s struggle with the push-pull of family and career and seek out content and events that help them “look before they leap” out of the workforce.

• Waffling about a return to work. Women often have one foot in and one foot out of the workforce—and while on hiatus they can deliberate for years about the right time to return to work. For the “1%” of the population that has savings stockpiled from high-paying jobs or independent wealth, a prolonged debate over the pros and cons of work won’t jeopardize long-term financial security. But for most women, adequate retirement savings and planning for life’s “you never knows” is a front-of-mind issue. Content and events focused on work options (part-time, freelance, entrepreneurship) beyond the traditional sell-your-soul, more-than-full-time job will get their attention.

• Itching to work again. Once women decide to return to work, their energy and enthusiasm often wane when they realize they cannot immediately recapture the job and salary they left behind. Often women—and their high-earning husbands—conclude it’s not “worth it” to throw the household into a tailspin for a less than six-figure salary. To address that concern, provide case studies of returning pros who paid their dues and launched successful second careers—and show that savings from an initially smaller back-to-work salary can add significantly to retirement savings over time.

• Ripe for reinvention. Successful women often yearn to leave corporate life for a non-profit job “with more meaning” or to stop working for a “boss” and launch an entrepreneurial venture. But a reality check may be needed before the dreamer walks away from her lucrative corporate salary. Content and events developed in collaboration with non-profit managers and entrepreneurs can help these women sort through the issues: Is non-profit work really for them? Do they fit the entrepreneurial profile? Will a career change jeopardize their finances? 

• Fending off retirement. Whether it’s dictated by finances or because they feel fulfilled by their work, more and more women are contemplating ways to continue working and generating an income well beyond traditional retirement age. Content and events that consider the pros and cons of continuing to work on a part-time, consulting or entrepreneurial basis will connect with these women—and their retirement-age husbands as well.

Though women facing marriage, divorce, widowhood or the prospect of sending children off to college do need financial guidance, these are only a few of the events on the full spectrum of women’s lives. A more holistic approach that takes into account all of their life stages can appeal to a much broader base of women, giving advisors a much bigger entrée to this rapidly growing market.

 

Kathryn Sollmann is the founder of the award-winning blog and consultancy 9 Lives for Women.

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