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For Female Clients, Focus on Family

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As women increasingly find themselves as the heads of households, advisors find retaining and expanding their female client base is imperative. “The No. 1 thing women say about financial advisors -- most of whom are male -- is that they talk through them, and minimize their concerns,” says Kimberly Foss, now founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif.

Foss herself was a single mother for 10 years, without child support -- and while she has since remarried, she says the experience helps her connect with some of her female clients. “In truth, I wasn't comfortable being the sole supporter of my family," she explains. "It was daunting. Women need to feel comfortable being the sole provider.”


Although many planners still focus more on their male clients, women present a greater opportunity, particularly after divorces and other life events that force changes in their financial circumstances.

Changing family structure is another factor affecting the female client base. In a in a recent column lamenting the "crisis of the American family," CNN contributor David Frum highlights the diminishing role of marriage in the United States and the rise in single-parent, often female-led households.

Tom Chancellor, a financial advisor at Teak Tree Capital Management in Fort Worth, Texas, says he has observed more women at higher levels in the professional workforce than the past. "Some of those women may feel greater freedom to make mating choices based on personal preference because they are more economically and financially self-sufficient than they may have 20 years ago," he notes.


Chancellor, whose practice has increasingly focused on divorced women, says he works with female clients to focus on intergenerational issues -- making sure clients' children are caring for their own assets. That's particularly important now, he adds, after many advisors helped clients transition wealth to heirs in 2012 to take advantage of generous estate tax exemptions that had been expected to expire this year.

That intergenerational planning is also seen as essential for the health of advisors’ practices, to bring in younger clients as older clients start spending down their assets. This will be the year that advisors get more serious about finding their ideal successors and connecting them to clients' children -- the key to a practice's longevity -- according to a major wealth management trend outlook released earlier this year by Aite Group.

That all makes sense to Foss. “If advisors are forward thinking," she says, "they’ll learn how to listen and talk with their female clients, not at or over them -- and they’ll integrate their next generations.”

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