Morningstar Investment Conference

Women: An $11 trillion market for financial advisors?

America's retirement crisis, a woman's crisis
America's retirement crisis, a woman's crisis

Women control more wealth than most financial advisors recognize.

That's the message Sallie Krawcheck, former president of the global wealth management division of Bank of America, told attendees at the Morningstar Investment Conference Thursday in Chicago.

"Women are not a niche market," said Krawcheck, who is now chair of Ellevate, a global women's professional network. Women are "the largest opportunity for our industry today."

In the U.S., women have decision-making power over $11.2 trillion, or 39 percent of the nation's estimated $28.6 trillion in investable assets, according to the Center for Talent Innovation.

"Women are on their way to be the majority of U.S. millionaires in the not-too-distant future," Krawcheck said.

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But the financial services industry has served them poorly. Krawcheck said that two-thirds of women who have financial advisors are unhappy with them, and 70 percent of women leave their financial advisors after their spouses die.

Krawcheck offered five ways financial advisors can attract and retain more women clients:

Talk with women clients, not at them. Avoid the jargon, like basis points, alpha and beta. "I love the jargon," Krawcheck said. "But we have to ask ourselves how much our clients understand it or even interested in it."

Focus on risk. "Women value wealth preservation seven times more than they value upside risk," Krawcheck said.

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Take a holistic approach. Advisors should help women clients close the gender pay gap --women earn about 77 percent of what men do globally--in their careers. "That's a 30 percent return on her biggest asset that she gets year after year," Krawcheck said.

Frame investing around goals. "I talk to a lot of women about this: Not one of them can tell me what her portfolio did versus the market last year. Not one of them truly cares," Krawcheck said. "They truly care about, 'can I send my kid to college?' ... 'can I buy that home?'"

Offer values-based investing services. Krawcheck admits she has changed her mind on this. She used to think that social impact investing was "not real investing" because "you have to get the highest risk-adjusted return that you can and you just can't do that if you are doing good." But women really want to "have a fair return and have an impact."

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