A lot of conventional wisdom about wirehouse advisors, female clients and millennials is wrong and misguides the financial advice industry, Sallie Krawcheck told attendees at the Inside ETFs conference.

Krawcheck, the former president of global wealth and investment management for Bank of America, said in a keynote address today on the future of financial advice that to read "the newspaper and HighTower press releases," one would think that financial advisors are streaming out of wirehouses to independent broker-dealers and registered investment advisories, resulting in a lot of client money being in flux. When Krawcheck oversaw Merrill Lynch at Bank of America, she recalled, she was speaking to two research analysts who thought Merrill lost 2,000 advisors of its 17,000 in one year. "The real number was 36," she said.

"After we read about all the advisors leaving, then we read about how unhappy clients are with the advisors," Krawcheck said. But high-net-worth client satisfaction at wirehouses is as high as it was when she was at Merrill -- 86 percent, she said.

Core high-net-worth clients leave their wirehouse advisors at only a low single-digit percent rate, Krawcheck said. Clients are even harder to pry away if they are also getting banking services, such as mortgages, bank accounts, small business loans or automatic bill pay, she added.

"But what is absolutely true is that clients report that they are unhappy with the Wall Street firms themselves," she said. "But the big Wall Street firms today remain financial powerhouses. And while clients may not like 'too big to fail' as public policy, it's a helluva marketing campaign. ... [Clients] are disappointed in the firms, but they abide by them."

Another view supported by the media is that wirehouse advisors primarily are stock pickers and aren't very good at it, she said. The truth is that advisors can't "outperform" as a group because "they are the market." In fact, clients don't particularly know whether their advisor outperforms the market, says Krawcheck, who adds that in all the client focus groups that she's participated in, not a single client was ever able to tell her what the actual performance of their portfolio was.

Clients overall report that they are OK with performance that they think is "good enough," she said. In Merrill's research, poor investment came in No. 8 as a reason that clients left their advisors, she said. Number one was the "phone call isn't returned quickly enough."

Research she conducted shows that client satisfaction increases in direct proportion to the number of contacts the client has with his or her advisor, Krawcheck said.

Clients want to reach their goals, whether the market is up or down, she said, and advisors need to do a better job in helping clients achieve them. Other ways in which clients say an advisor delivers value, she said, is forcing them to do financial plans, not letting them panic and sell at the wrong time, and asking them awkward questions like "What are you going to do if you lose your job?", "What happens when you die?", and "How are you going to take care of your parents?"

Also, clients appreciate help in understanding the risks to their portfolio and with capital preservation, she said, noting that not many advisors spend time on capital preservation.

Krawcheck also identified misperceptions when it comes to women, who are on the way to holding the majority of wealth in the nation. They are going to inherit 70 percent of $1 trillion of intergenerational wealth transfers, 90 percent will control their own wealth on their own at some point, more graduate from college than men, they are starting businesses at twice the rate of the population, they are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in 60 percent of households, and they live six to eight years longer than most of the population and are healthier while doing it.

In spite of those statistics, one major industry publication recently did a series of articles on women that referred to them as a "niche" market, said Krawcheck, who is now chief executive of 85 Broads, a professional women's networking organization committed to the economic empowerment of women globally.

"It's no wonder then, that this group, women, ranks the financial services industry 33 out of 33 of the businesses that serve them," Krawcheck said. "They report that they pick up on an attitude for the industry overall that leads it to be called a niche market. They feel sort of marginalized, they feel spoken down to."

She noted this attitude came through in a recent advertisement that talks to women about investing in the stock market -- instead of in shoes. She also cited a recent news article in which an advisor said that he adjusted his practice to serve women by sometimes going cellphone shopping with them.

She said advisors, the majority of whom are men, think they serve clients as a family. But research refutes that. Male and female advisors were filmed as they spoke to a couple, and afterwards the advisors thought they spent about 50 percent of their time speaking to the husband and 50 percent to the wife. When advisors were shown the tape, they saw that they actually spent the vast majority of their time speaking to the husband, she said.