Globally, women’s economic power and overall financial independence is growing rapidly, and research suggests women may soon control most US household wealth. As the pendulum shift continues, many identify an opportunity for wealth management firms to capitalize, however, many women and minorities say they view the investment industry as intimidating.
In addition, they experience grave challenges in finding financial advisors that look like them or those they can comfortably relate to. According to a study by Cerulli Associates, the financial advisory industry is comprised predominately of white males who make up nearly 80% of the industry.
The lack of diversity from firms, coupled with the unfamiliar and unwelcoming aspect of the industry as experienced by women and minorities, negatively impact each, respectively. Firms are not as profitable, while women and minorities jeopardize their savings and retirement goals. The purpose of this article is to raise the awareness of financial advisors, women and minorities about the financial and social impact of not having a diverse and inclusive industry and provide actionable takeaways to work towards remedying this growing concern that is negatively impacting respective pocketbooks.
- Develop and Embrace a Customized Approach for Women:
In 2017, Ernst & Young conducted the global market research study, “Women and Wealth: The Case for A Customized Approach.” Investigators gathered data to explore how wealth managers are currently serving women clients and what they could be doing better. According to the study, “research shows that most wealth managers see gender as the least important source of client differentiation. Just 5% of firms view gender as a key driver of segmentation.” This is an outdated way of thinking as it does not proactively engage women in meaningful and trustworthy financial discussions about their wealth potential. Change is the only thing that remains constant. Those who adapt persevere. Those who do not, fade away. Firms must adapt their mindset and understand that: (1) female income and wealth are growing faster than ever before, (2) experience should be welcoming, consultative, and not full of jargon, and (3) a customized approach is in the best interest of women and their retirement goals, as well as financial growth across the industry. As firms successfully adapt, EY identifies a potential revenue prize of $175-$200b for delivering best in class client experiences.
2. Seek to Understand
In 2017, John Hope Bryant authored a book entitled, “The Memo: Five Rules for Your Economic Liberation.” A touted philanthropist, author, and leader in the financial literacy arena, Bryant discusses how Blacks never received “the memo” on how to grow, sustain, and transfer wealth. Black wealth is new as it just began in the 1980’s. According to a New York Times article printed in 1991, “more Black Americans than ever moved into the upper middle class in the 1980’s.” And, the idea of wealth is still fairly new for African Americans. In my nearly 10 years of experience working as a financial advisor, I have encountered countless successful Black people and others who do well in terms of income but lack foundational knowledge on how to best allocate and save for the future. This significantly diminishes their potential to create and sustain wealth.
According to another study, Blacks are 35% less likely than whites of similar means to invest in the stock market. This cripples their potential to accumulate wealth. Many Blacks and other minorities, like me, did not receive the wealth blueprint in their home growing up. It is a generational concern that must soon be addressed, and the time is now! The onus is on Blacks and other minorities to become intentional in their search for knowledge through attending seminars, reading books, or hiring a financial advisor they feel comfortable with to have this important discussion. Again, advisors must embrace an inclusive approach for this to happen.
Another challenge as it pertains to financial literacy for Blacks and other minorities is the reluctance to share personal financial information. Before a physician can make a diagnosis, material medical history information must be provided; before an attorney can take a case, details must be shared, whether comfortable or not. The same need for information applies to financial advisors. Blacks and other minorities must be intentional and move with a sense of urgency to break the generational financial literacy curse and learn how to grow, sustain, and transfer wealth. Firms and their advisors must understand that the generational pedigrees are different for these groups. They may not have been raised with a wealth blueprint. Lead with more discussion around teaching and strategy versus product and jargon. Knowledge and skill transfer yields comfort and trust.
3. Join the Wave
There is a huge opportunity for women and minorities to become financial advisors. According to Cerulli, only 16% of advisers are women, 6% African American and 4% Latino. Our country’s multi-cultural diverse markets require and deserve access to competent and ethical financial advice. In addition, considering the average age of advisors is 57—the great wealth transfer will ensue as we will lose 50% of our workforce over the next 10 years to retirement. A large succession of assets will transfer to younger advisors. The opportunity is vast. Join the crusade to educate your community!
In summary, our world is full of diversity. As we seek to digest different cultural and generational norms and the plight of women and other minorities, is it possible for both sides to modernize mindsets to close the gap on wealth disparities amongst women and minorities? Will firms catch the wave and customize experiences to drive profitability? If change is going to happen, both will need to be done.
- “Harnessing the power of women investors in wealth management,” EY Global Wealth Management 2016.
- “Women & Wealth-the case for a customized approach” EY Global Wealth Management 2017
- “Only 16% of Advisors are Women” Cerulli: 2017.
- Bryant, John Hope: “The Memo: Five Rules for Your Economic Liberation” 2017
- “Rich Got Richer in the 80’s” The New York Times. 1991
- Firm Research on Advisers Retiring
Christopher Campbell is a financial professional with AXA Advisors in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a speaker and teacher who leads seminars on multi-generational wealth management, asset protection, and wealth preservation. He is on the TAG Diversity and Inclusion Society Board. For further discussions regarding the content of this article, please feel free to contact him directly at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.