Why women advisors have unique value opportunity

Women advisors have a unique opportunity to build confidence and empower female clients.

In an era of low-fee products and robo advice a mere mouse click away, an advisor’s value-add is constantly being tested.

Lori Landry, chief marketing officer at Sun Life Global Investments, said the theme of saving and investing is the number one driver of confidence for women.

This was just one of the topics addressed at the firm’s two-day Women’s Investment Symposium 2018 in Whistler, B.C. last week that examined why 73% of women are unhappy with the financial service sector and how to address the two things most holding them back: mindset and confidence.

Landry said: “As a financial advisor, I would need to help my female clients feel confident around taking charge of their investments.

“The second thing is women have unique challenges – we live longer, we often earn less, and many of us take time out of the workforce to have children. As a financial advisor, if you can acknowledge that you need to build confidence for the investor and address their unique challenges, that presents a huge opportunity for female advisors to gain those female investors as clients.”

The symposium also tackled topical issues like volatility, interest rates, portfolio strategy and emerging markets, with each speaker mandated to talk about their career and challenges they have faced.

Landry said women in the industry tend to be willing to “open the kimono” and admit they are not particularly good at certain aspects of selling wealth management or giving advice. As a result, they are more open to learning from their peers. While the event was fund-oriented, there was plenty of content in the annual event for female advisors to share with each other.

One area Landry is particularly passionate about is tackling the much-shared statistic that 80% of women leave their advisor within 18 months of becoming a widow.

She said: “My passion and vision is how can I help female advisors – and frankly, I’d love to help male advisors as well – really pursue that widow? Perhaps the advisor they used to have when they were a couple never really built a relationship with the woman, so how do I help males and females acknowledge this and what unique tools do they need to engage that widow? It’s not just a widow, it could be a divorce or a separation.”

Landry said the symposium event took off like wildfire four years ago – tickets sold out in an hour – and she said there was clearly a market for female advisors who were often forgotten when companies arranged social events where key relationships are built.

She said: “We launched Sun Life Global Investment eight years ago and as the head of marketing, right from the beginning one of the things I was trying to figure out is where is there a gap for financial advisors and where are they being underserviced in the industry?

“I went out and talked to a lot advisors and what came through loud and clear was that many of the female advisors said that often the investment management firms will come and meet with us but often, to be frank, they take the fellas out golfing and they take them to various things to socialize to build relationships. They felt like there was really nothing special going on for them.”

One way Landry gets attendees to open up at the event and help each other improve as advisors is by having a conversation circle, which she joked is something male advisors might not be as willing to embrace.

She explained: “In the middle of the table they have a fishbowl with little pieces of paper with questions on a theme. Each person at each table draws a piece of paper and it will say, tell us about your biggest win with a client or tell us your most horrible day as an advisor and how can we help you.

“Basically, it’s like this self-help group at your table where you can bear it all and we help each other. We love that aspect of our conference.”

Sun Life is also piloting a new virtual reality training tool aimed at improving advisors’ confidence when presenting to clients, directors or boardrooms. InStage has developed technology that transports the advisor into realistic speaking environments and they are then scored on things like eye contact, heart rate and other metrics.

Landry said: “You put on these glasses and you are presenting in a virtual environment. We don’t tell them their score – we take them through mindset training, which is about building confidence and capability around presenting, and then retest then. I’m really excited that we have this tool that we are going to pilot to see if it has an impact.”