Can women clients trust you as an advisor?

A new award is seeking to establish 17 criteria that planners can use to analyze their practices to gauge how well they serve women.

“This award is pre-vetting advisors using these different criteria in order to give women consumers who need financial advisors a place to start looking for them,” says Ginita Wall, a longtime planner in San Diego who is a cofounder of Women’s Institute for Financial Education, one two organizations behind the initiative. “The other part of it, of course, is putting advisors together with the women who actually need them and want to work with them.”

The San Diego-based nonprofit Women's Institute and WomenCertified, which endorses products and services for women consumers, intend to honor about 100 planners – men and women – later this year with the first-annual Women's Choice Award Financial Programs. The two organizations claim the award will be the first and only nationwide recognition mechanism for advisors deemed well-qualified to serve women. Planners of all stripes will be considered, including CFPs, RIAs and wirehouse advisors. Those who primarily serve insurance products will not quality, according to Wall, a cofounder of the Women’s Institute.

The two organizations have not yet announced the date when the awards will be presented.

Wall has offered a free divorce seminar to women and men in the San Diego area for 25 years and devoted much of her career to pro bono counseling of women in financial crisis. More than 70% of women want to work with a financial advisor and don’t know how to get started, she says.

“They are so afraid of encountering another Bernie Madoff,” she says, “that they are sitting there paralyzed and not knowing what to do.”

The Institute – which goes by the acronym WIFE – has retained the well-regarded consulting firm Advisor Impact to design the 17 criteria and the survey. Advisor Impact also will ensure that all the recipients are planners in good standing both with their clients and with regulatory bodies, Wall says.

The criteria (see below) are broken into “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” according to Wall.

Hopefully the award will add to the prestige of those planners who choose to optimize their practices to serve women, Wall says.
“It is not a credential,” she adds. “God knows there’s enough credentials out there to choke a horse.”

17 Criteria Considered in Evaluating Award Candidates

Top priority criteria:

  1. Clientele are at least one-third women or male-female couples
  2. Accepting new clients
  3. Actively employed as a licensed or credentialed professional in financial services for a minimum of three years
  4. Credentials include an IAR (Investment Advisory Representative), a FINRA-registered advisor/broker, an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor), a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CFP® (Certified Financial Planner), PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) or a licensed attorney practicing in financial services
  5. Must be in compliance with regulatory requirements of the SEC, state securities regulators in states where they do business, and self-regulatory bodies
  6. Must be in good standing with the standards of the firm with which they are affiliated
  7. Must have a favorable regulatory and complaint history and who sign an affidavit to that effect
  8. Must not have been subject to a regulatory action that resulted in their license being suspended or revoked, or payment of a fine
  9. Must not have been convicted of a felony
  10. Must not have filed for personal bankruptcy in the past ten years

In addition, in determining whether an advisor has the tools and experience to serve women’s financial needs, the following criteria are also considered:

  1. Assets under management
  2. Number of clients (households) served by the advisor
  3. The advisor’s client retention rate over a three-year period
  4. How many firms the advisor has been associated with in the past ten years
  5. The advisor’s education and professional designations
  6. Educational programs and events provided for clients
  7. The advisor’s record of community service

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