With high-profile women in the spotlight this election season, there's a change in attitudes and politics that female-focused investing and entrepreneurs can build upon, analysts say.

"We've got a woman running for president and great female fintech entrepreneurs," says Laura Varas, CEO of data and consulting firm Hearts & Wallets. "We are on the cusp of a generation of women leaders who don’t remember the term, 'liberated women.'"

For example, Sallie Krawcheck recently announced a lineup of prominent women investors, including tennis great Venus Williams, in Ellevest’s second round of funding since launching mid-year.

The heated rhetoric of this year’s election cycle brings up the communication gap some women investors feel when they seek financial advice, says one fintech chief executive. (Bloomberg News)
The heated rhetoric of this year’s election cycle brings up the communication gap some women investors feel when they seek financial advice, says one fintech chief executive. (Bloomberg News)

Krawcheck’s vision of the female-centric robo adviser has been to “build it by women” and “run it by women,” Ellevest noted in a statement.

It is being majority funded by women too. The company announced a $9 million round of investments, following a $10 million Series A round of funding last September.

“What’s exciting about the Ellevest team is they play to win,” Varas says. “Men have been holding the chips for so long. Now, Ellevest has some chips.”

TRILLIONS AT PLAY

The heated rhetoric of this year’s election cycle reminds Amanda Steinberg of the communication gap some women investors feel when they seek financial advice.

"What is hard for most people to understand is that there is a cognitive dissonance women experience around all aspects of ambition, of which finance is one of them," says Steinberg, CEO Founder of Worth FM, a female-focused robo still in beta testing. "We don’t want to invest differently, but we do want advice delivered differently."

"The industry has to take into account that we have been not been taken seriously in the past," she says, adding her platform has a garnered a waiting list of over 40,000 interested users. “This is an incredibly unique time for women and there’s trillions of dollars at play."

Ellevest won't judge its female clients investing performance against the S&P, says CEO Sallie Krawcheck. (Bloomberg News)
Ellevest won't judge its female clients investing performance against the S&P, says CEO Sallie Krawcheck. (Bloomberg News)

Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a marketing company for financial services firms, doubts female-focused robos will benefit from an increase of women leaders in public office.

He says that Ellevest has done a good job so far in tailoring its platform for women with an investment model that takes into account women's longevity, creating a website with a design and feel more focused on women users, and providing investor education tailored to women.

"While Vanguard and Schwab may offer a brochure or some content to target women, Ellevest takes the customization to another level," he notes. "The question is: Will that matter?"

PLAY TO WIN

In addition to Williams, Ellevest's latest investors included Mellody Hobson, current director for Estée Lauder and Starbucks; Theresia Gouw, managing partner at Aspect Ventures; and Miriam Rivera, former deputy general counsel at Google and now co-founder and managing partner of IT investment fund Ulu Ventures.

“Investors are buying their story,” Sondhelm says, noting that Ellevest is able to position itself as a higher-end brand due to Krawchek's role at the helm. “Most start-ups don’t get that kind of visibility.”

Varas cautions that while celebrities and a higher profile of women in leadership roles may create intrigue in services like Ellevest, "these digital platforms still have to make the case that there is a different service model and a different investment approach that can resonate with women.

"This isn't going to happen overnight," she says.

Steinberg says going forward for Ellevest, a challenge will be to create a sign-up experience that removes friction for potential female clients.

Her platform WorthFM, for example, found that only 30% of women are motivated by making goals. Even women who are meeting retirement milestones still question if they are "doing it right," Steinberg adds.

Gabriella Iannetta

Gabriella Iannetta

Gabriella Iannetta is a contributing writer for Financial Planning.