I have been a woman in business almost as long as I’ve been a woman – and yet there are many meetings I attend where I continue to be in the minority. This is slowly changing, and today there are many areas of finance where women area involved: as financial advisors, investment analysts, portfolio managers, business owners, venture capitalists, corporate board members, and most of all as investors.
Investment and Insurance firms are seeking out more women agents and advisors. Only a third of new life insurance agent recruits are women, and only 16% of financial advisors are women. Yet a study by the Insured Retirement Institute found that 70% of women prefer working with female financial advisors. This month, Thalia Kingsford, VP, senior investment advisor at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said there should be more women in this business. “Women are sensitive to what people are saying and what they aren’t saying. They are intuitive and very collaborative. I think there needs to be an emphasis on recruiting women.”
The industry is also beginning to recruit for women investment analysts and portfolio managers. Females make up only 11% of Portfolio Managers in Canada, according to Kelly Roberts, Vice President of National Accounts at Fidelity. Abby Johnson, who became chief executive of Fidelity –US in 2014, set about recruitment and cultural and structural changes to promote women and to improve the gender mix of analysts and portfolio managers. Morningstar research confirms that the underrepresentation of women as portfolio managers is not justified by lack of performance, and that women are equally capable.
Women have been strongly represented as entrepreneurs and small business owners, however access to capital remains a significant barrier for women looking to launch and scale globally relevant businesses. Venture capital firms have been largely controlled by male managing partners. Female Funders reports that of all the dollars invested in venture capital funds in 2018, only 10% of funds were raised by women.
Slowly, women are starting to enter the upper levels of management or boards of directors, and investors are beginning to seek out corporations with diverse boards. NEI investments is taking shareholder action on Corporate Board Diversity. Research shows that companies with gender-diverse boards are likely to achieve financial out-performance — making diversity an imperative that all boards should be considering as part of their duty to shareholders. Further, a correlation has been demonstrated between board diversity and out-performance on sustainability issues.
In Dec 2017 Mackenzie opened a Global Leadership Impact ETF (MWMN)* which aims to invest in companies having women in leadership. In May 2018 BMO launched their Women in Leadership portfolio (WOMN)*. It is an ETF investing in North American equities that have women as either 25% of board members or a female Chief Executive Officer.
Yes, the financial industry is finally coming to realize that women are not just the “wife of” the client: they are the client. In fact, 9 out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. About 46% of women report they’re the main decision-maker about their family’s investment portfolios, with the balance either sharing or deferring the responsibility to someone else.
But wait – aren’t finances the same for both men and women? Not really. Women may have different lifestyles, income needs, savings goals, and investment approaches. Sometimes they are affected by more years out of the workforce, lower earnings while working, employment without pensions, and longer life expectancies. You can find out more here from a seminar I presented on this topic: Women and Finances.pdf
Women tend to view wealth in terms of security, rather than opportunity, according to Sarah Widmeyer, Head of Wealth Strategies at CIBC. Wealth advisors could benefit from paying greater attention to female clients, according to Emily Ben-Haim, VP at Toronto-based Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. “In my experience, wealth advisors have typically paid more attention to male clients and I often hear from female clients that when they participate in a meeting with their husbands, their wealth advisor may not even address them,” said Ben-Haim.
Yes, women are investors, both personally and professionally, and confidence increases with familiarity and knowledge. As always, if you have any questions about the markets or your investments, I'm here to talk.
Elaine Kelly MBA CFP FCSI
Senior Investment Advisor, Manulife Securities Incorporated
*Not intended as a solicitation; always speak to your advisor before making an investment