Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" was a popular talking point at this year's Women Advisors Forum in New York City, where roughly 200 female financial planners gathered to discuss how to become better at their jobs and level the playing field gender-wise.
A study released earlier this month, relying on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, noted that although womens involvement in the sector has increased women now comprise 36% of the industry, up six percentage points from 2003 the gender pay gap has also grown over the past decade. And only 23% of all CFPs are women, said CFP Board Chairwoman Nancy Kistner, who announced a new program to increase that number.
The women at Wednesday's Women Advisors Forum were ready for that disparity to change. After a host of presentations, discussions over lunch and cocktails, and active Tweeting (look for the hashtag #WAF13), here are some of the key points we picked up from the event.
1. Confidence gap: Cathy Smith, director of the Center for Behavioral Finance for Allianz Global Investors, noted that men are often more over-confident, particularly in male dominated fields like finance. (Note the over part: Theres nothing wrong with confidence!) Men trade 45% more than women, she said. The result? Female portfolio and hedge fund managers have outperformed men over the past five years, because women tend to hold less risky portfolio positions, she said.
2. Change of outfits: Wearing loose-fitting black slacks and a gray T-shirt, Loretta Vitale, a financial advisor with LCV Wealth Management, told me that shes going to stop wearing so many dark colors and dressing like a man. The women at the conference taught me that as advisors, we have a lot to offer and theres no need for me to act like a man and dress like one to do my job best. Im going to buy more dresses and color, she said.
3. Focus: Instead of spreading yourself too thin and being all things to all people, Michelle Smith, CEO of Source Financial Advisors, told the audience to specialize. Find the niche within the niche that makes you invaluable to your clients, said Smith, who specializes in advising divorcees: "Focus on what you're good at and stop doing what you suck at." She said her knowledge about divorce separates her from legions of advisors who have the same elevator speech.
4. Tablet talk: Cynthia Stephens of ByAllAccounts cited stats from Financial PlanningsDecember 2012 technology survey, which noted that one in two advisors is using a tablet -- and of those, 81% own an iPad, 15% own an Android, and 7% own a Windows tablet. Other advisors noted that use of tablets can often make communication with clients more personal and engaging, with the ability to present portfolio recommendations more easily across a table.
5. Stand out: You've got competition, said Christine Gaze, TD Ameritrades director of practice management. Clients with more than $10 million in assets have three advisors on average. To satisfy wealthier clients, offer better communication and tier your service, she suggested -- combining quantitative and qualitative metrics. Too often, advisors only consider revenue and assets, she said, but there are other factors to consider: Think thoughtfully about clients with future potential, both in terms of assets and for referrals."
6. Smarter networking: Laurie OToole, an advisor with Ameriprise, said she aims to improve her business with divorcees by networking more frequently with divorce attorneys, locating potential clients when they are in the midst of a divorce or thinking of one rather than waiting until after the division of assets is settled. I can be more helpful while a divorce is in negotiation rather than when the woman walks away after a less-than-ideal settlement, she said.
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