(Bloomberg News) About 75 women executives streamed up the marble staircase of the Harold Pratt House on Park Avenue in New York last month to a ballroom with cathedral ceilings and antique chandeliers.
They were attending "Women Unscripted," the second in a series of events put on by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. aimed at attracting and retaining women executives as clients. Instead of focusing on financial planning or products for women, there was a presentation by Saj-nicole Joni, who advises chief executive officers as president of Cambridge International Group. After the discussion there was a chance to mingle at a wine tasting in the adjacent library.
While banks have courted women clients in the past, Wells Fargo, Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and others are increasingly focused on getting the assets of high-earning women executives, said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the New York- based Center for Work-Life Policy.
They're targeting them now through these events that bring "like-minded" women together rather than overtly selling products, said Lisa Caputo, founder and former chairman and CEO of Women & Co. at Citigroup. It's a more prudent strategy since women don't react well to "financial services wrapped in pink," an approach that some firms have taken in the past, said Caputo, who is now executive vice president of marketing and communications at the Travelers Cos. in New York.
Jacki Zehner, a former partner and managing director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and co-chair of Women Moving Millions, a group of women who have made $1 million gifts to nongovernmental organizations, said she's seeing an increase in the number of these types of women-focused events. Although some firms are making progress, they still aren't doing as much as they could be when considering the amount of wealth held by women, Zehner said.
"I don't see any major financial firm having done this in the way I would see as really taking advantage of the opportunity that's there," said Zehner of Park City, Utah.
About 27 percent of millionaires worldwide were women in 2010, compared with 24 percent in 2008, according to a report released in June by Capgemini SA and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. Women controlled an estimated $20 trillion globally as of 2009, a figure that is expected to rise by an average 8 percent annually through 2014, according to a July 2010 report from the Boston Consulting Group.
About 42 percent of wealthy women surveyed by BCG earned all of their money from their own salaries and bonuses, the report said. Women's $12 trillion in total earnings was projected to rise by 50 percent to $18 trillion in five years, a separate BCG study from October 2009 said.
Banks are paying more attention than ever to "this very alluring" segment of the market because now there's a large cohort of high-earning women, Hewlett said.