Women account for a full third of Canada’s high-net-worth individuals and are increasingly the prime earners and money managers in households. Susan Misner, a 20-year industry veteran, has tips for advisors looking to better serve this client base.
June brought some bright news for those tracking the progress of women: a BMO Harris Bank survey found women now account for a full third of Canada’s high-net-worth individuals, those with $1 million in investible assets. And according to the Pew Forum women are now the prime earners in 40% of US households.
Misner has tips for advisors looking to better serve this client base. She served as a wealth management consultant to some 200 of Manitoba’s most prominent and wealthiest families, was an early partner and shareholder of Wellington West Capital and her advisory practice oversaw more than $100 million in client assets.
With the sale of Wellington West to National Bank Financial, she cashed in, and started a new career as an entrepreneur and an advocate for women in finance. Together with partner Laura McDonald, Susan created Golden Girl Finance, a digital media property that aims to bring financial information to women.
WP: There has been a significant demographic shift, with more and more families being headed by ‘breadwinner moms’ and women being a higher proportion of high-net-worth individuals. How should the financial planning sector deal with this shift and how, specifically, should advisors do so?
Susan: Looking at the data as we have, you recognize how women operate in their daily lives and how they communicate. You have to realize that their most valuable commodity is time. You want to tailor the way that you work with women to make the products and services that you are offering easy to consume from the aspect that it respects their time. There was a study done a few years ago, called the “Women Want More” study, that showed that the industry that women were the most dissatisfied with was the financial services industry. They don’t want complex money-manipulation methods, they want straightforward advice that gets the job done. Time is scarce, they are busy managing priorities and you have to recognize that.
There is a lot of really great information out there. From working in the industry for a long time, I have read a lot of material that has come from the advisor community that was good, but just really didn’t trickle down to the general public. We can write all of the information that we want, but if no one reads it, it has no value.
WP: You were with Wellington West for a long time and were very senior there. Were there any challenges you faced from being a woman in a very male-dominated industry?
Susan: I always look at the positive, I think many women face challenges, but always thought of it as an opportunity. There was a demographic that needed to be served. I looked at the earning power of women, an increasing number of women rising up in corporations, and really saw that as an opportunity. Part of the reason we launched Golden Girls Finance was because we saw this market that no one was serving that we could own.
I’m now seeing more and more women being attracted to the business, which I think is exciting because it’s a really great business. You have seen women attracted to things like being a real estate agent or mortgage broker; but I think being a financial advisor is so much more of an opportunity because you’re building a business that you can eventually sell. That’s not the case for those other businesses. I think it’s really exciting to have more women in finance, and it’s great for females in general that when
they walk in the door of a financial institution they see themselves there. If women don’t see themselves in the industry, they are less likely to become clients.
WP: Are there differences in the investing style of women compared to men, in terms of preferred product or risk appetite?
Susan: I found that the communication aspect different in the way men and women look at their money overall. Although I would start meetings in the same way, they would go in different directions depending on the individual client and their objective. Personal finance and investing are not gender-specific, but communications are. Typically when speaking with women it is very goal oriented and legacy oriented; it was never just about the money, it was about what money could do for themselves, and their lives and their family. These sort of conversations were also more frequent on the female side than on the male side. Not that it doesn’t happen with men, but generally men are more spreadsheet driven and return driven.
It goes without saying that women want a good return but our discussions are framed differently. Return is an important aspect of any portfolio, but with women conversations are often framed in terms of what the money could do for them.
WP: Your site is to get women educated about and interested in finance. Why is this a particular issue for women, given that many males are not particularly savvy either?
Susan: What we found, with both Laura and I coming from different backgrounds, is that while the basics are the same the way to communicate those principals are different. For so long finance was always spoken in one voice to try to appeal to both genders, and a lot of the information out there wasn’t resonating with women. We took a look at the types of sites that women were going to and the types of media that they were consuming and we really tailored our messaging and our look around what is the most appealing to women in order to make finance more real, relevant and relatable to them.
Laura: A lot of what we do appeals to the male demographic as well, but what we do is take a more casual conversational voice when discussing finance. There is a wealth of information out there, but what we find is that people are not consuming it. We take a conversational voice and take what’s happening in pop culture and merge it with finance. For women, when the Prada IPO launched that was a good opportunity to discuss the stock market; we did an article on it “The Stock Market Wears Prada” and it was an extremely effective we to talk about “what is an IPO” and give information. When Starbucks was having issues with speculators [who were driving coffee futures higher] we were able to talk about this was effecting the price of your morning coffee. If you make it relevant to their everyday lives, products they use on a daily basis, or news stories that they are engaged with you make finance more interesting and relevant.