Depending on how you look at it, the financial advisory industry has either a huge opportunity—or a huge problem.
In the next five years, private wealth is expected to grow from $14 trillion to $22 trillion. And women will control an estimated two-thirds of that money. But many investment advisors will never see a dime of it because they don't know how to attract, or retain, female clients.
"Women represent a huge and growing opportunity," Eileen O'Connor, co-founder of Virginia-based Hemington Wealth Management, told attendees last week at TD Ameritrade's Advisor Conference. "[But] we're doing a horrible job working with women as a whole."
For as long as many advisory firms have been in business they have largely catered to men, perhaps because they were traditionally the family breadwinners and money managers. Those roles may be shifting in marriages now—an oft-cited 2013 Pew Research study found women were the breadwinners in 40 percent of households with kids—but the perception that advisors pay more attention to male clients has not.
And it's not unfounded. A study by Fidelity Investments found that even when couples interact with a financial advisor, men are still 58 percent more likely than women to be the primary contact. That may help explain why when male clients pass away, their widows are more likely than not to fire their advisors.
Seventy percent of women leave their advisors within a year of their husband's death, David Bach, author of "Smart Women Finish Rich" and vice chair of Edelman Financial, told attendees at the advisor conference. "In most cases we're still ignoring the wife," he said, " and that has to change."