Never underestimate the power of a woman in financial decision-making from either side of the desk. Their tendency to listen, and desire to be heard, make them a formidable presence as client or advisor.
Karen Altfest, principal and executive vice president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, regaled the female advisors at the Women Advisors Forum in New York with a story about how one couple chose their advisor. The man interviewed several candidates but had his wife sit in on all the meetings because she would make the ultimate decision.
Who did the wife choose? The one who involved her in the conversation, Altfest said during the kick-off panel discussion. The other candidates never bothered to ask her what she thought, even though she admittedly did not have much knowledge of financial matters.
Recognition of female clients is critical, added Alexandra Lebenthal, president and CEO of Lebenthal Advisors, noting that oft-cited statistic that 70% of widows fire their advisors within a year of losing their husbands. When meeting with couples, it's important to pause a conversation if the woman's body language suggests there's something she doesn't understand, she said.
On the other side of the equation, women are also well suited for careers as financial advisors, according to both speakers. Women are good listeners and eager to build relationships with their clients, traits that are key to success in the field. When sitting down with prospects, men tend to cut to the chase, jumping into conversations about rates of return and other financial metrics, said Altvest. Men are prone to be "in a hurry and aren't going to be good listeners," Altfest said, adding that she often counsels them that they need to slow down.
Women, on the other hand, tend to ask questions and learn why the prospect, for example, is looking to change his or her financial advisor or move to another city or location, Altfest said.
Their skill in serving clients is getting notice, despite difficulty in breaking into a once male-dominated world, said Lebenthal. "Today there's a recognition that women are extremely talented at dealingwith clients," she said, a fact that's making it an auspicious time for female advisors.
"I think the time is now, I think the future is now for female advisors," said Lebenthal.
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