Financial advisors need to increase their focus on women investors, who continue to gain more control over managing money, said experts at a Fidelity Investments forum on engaging female clients.

The Fidelity forum is the first in a series on female clients that the firm is planning.

“In case you missed it, women are taking over,” said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of Fidelity's clearing firm National Financial. His line received some laughs from the attendees, but Mirchandani backed it up with some eye-opening statistics.  One that stood out:

• The Federal Reserve reports that women control 51 percent of all wealth in the United States. By 2020, that number is projected to grow to 66 percent. The statistic came from Financial Services: The Industry Women Love to Hate, by Susan Galbraith.

“The simple demographic fact is that women out live men,”  Mirchandani stated. “Seventy percent of the time, the women that inherit the wealth leave the advisor.”  Fidelity’s own research backs this up.

“This is an enormous opportunity, but the rest of the industry hasn’t figured it out yet,” Mirchandani concluded.

Working With Women
Meg Kelleher, executive vice president of institutional sales and relationship management at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, said women are more confident as an investor when working with an advisor, but they are looking for more than just an investment strategy. They want collaboration and are looking for something more customized to meet their life goals.

One major point made was that women do not want to be dismissed by an advisor. Kelleher challenged the advisors by asking, “What words would your female advisors use to describe you as an advisor?”

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, principal of KBK Wealth Connection and author of How to Give Financial Advice to Women, shared her own experience of her and her husband leaving an advisor.  She boiled it down to one main mistake, saying, “I wish the advisor had asked how I felt. If he just asked how I was feeling, that one question would have made a difference.”

Advisors need to understand that if they do not adapt to women, they are increasingly going to lose out on client relationships.  Kingsbury said, “Eighty-five percent of buying decisions are made by women. Plus, they have veto power when things get home [after others in the family buy goods and services.]”

To work better with women, Kingsbury suggested advisors:
• Get personal quickly through stories.
• Avoid jargon.
• Communicate using feeling and collaborative words.  
• Be thoughtful, making them feel at home, from having magazines women like in the lobby to using technology like CRM to never forget the kids’ names.
• Define the success of the advisor-client relationship as her being ‘indispensable.’  
• Be a coach to coach them along the way.

Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital, suggested five questions to ask all clients, especially women:
1. How do I think about money?
2. What matters to me?
3. Where am I today?
4. How do I get where I want to go?
5. How am I doing?

“If you don’t answer these five questions, clients are vulnerable to be taken by someone else,” said Duran.

He also challenged the audience to think about what clients are paying them for. He boiled it down to one main thing:  “We help our clients make better decisions.”

“The only way the industry will change is if we change,” he concluded

Alexandra Taussig, and senior vice president of marketing at Fidelity Investments, in a follow-up conversation said, “This is eye opening for our clients. They need to go through their books and make sure clients are all engaged. If they are not, they are at risk.”

Laura Kogen, a vice president in Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ practice management group, pushed the advisors to think about every client relationship and evaluate which assets are at risk.  She said to think about:  “Do they ask a lot of questions? Are they engaged? Using a tool like Constant Contact, are they opening your email? What is at risk to the business if I lose those clients?”

A panelist, Robert Ix, managing partner at Crestwood Advisors LLC, had an interesting observation. Of the attendees, only about 17 percent were men. He said in a follow-up conversation, “Statistics show the shift that is going on toward women, but 87 percent of the attendees are women.”  In other words, a majority of men missed out on this valuable conference even though they are probably the group that needs the information the most.

Mike Byrnes is a national speaker and owner of Byrnes Consulting LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. Need help with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness? Read more at and follow @ByrnesConsultin.