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.