As the fastest growing channel in the financial industry, independent advisors are competing for an expanding pool of potential clients.

Yet should focusing more attention on women as a "niche" client group be a part of their growth strategies?

There was some disagreement over this issue among speakers at the 2016 TD Ameritrade National LINC conference in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, with Ric Edelman of Edelman Financial Services contending that calling serving women clients a "niche" service is wrong.

One panel of speakers at the conference said a singular focus on women clients makes sense given the way women are exerting more influence in the business world and in their family's finances.

“We view the incredible trends in the industry as a tremendous opportunity,” said Eileen O’Connor, managing principal of Tysons, Va.-based Hemington Wealth Management. “Women are the primary breadwinners in four out of 10 families, and in 95 percent of those families, women will be the primary financial decision-maker. It’s the single most important trend that’s going to impact our careers.”

O’Connor unveiled data from a 2015 Hemington study on breadwinner women during the discussion that showed women were not making connections with their advisors.

“There are issues of underconfidence that women deal with when working with their finances,” O’Connor said. “Sixty-two percent of women who work with an advisor had no clue about their own finances. As advisors, we view that as our job and our role, and we’re not delivering on that to women.”

O’Connor, who did not originally intend to market to women, recommended that RIAs tailor at least part of their practice to serving women breadwinners.

“For the first five to six years after I started as an advisor, I resisted the idea of focusing on women as a niche market,” O’Connor said. That view changed after her firm did a study on affluent women in 2011. "I really looked at it as an opportunity and convinced myself to focus on the results, and women are first focus now to Hemington," she said. "We’ve seen tremendous growth as a result. We were the eleventh-fastest-growing RIA in the nation in 2015.”

Not all advisors felt that women are a niche market.

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