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Conferences for Women Advisers on the Rise: Attend One

Over the past decade, the number of conferences geared toward the female adviser has grown. I’m proud to say that my own company, Commonwealth Financial Network®, will be holding its first Summit for Women Advisers in June. Further, broker/dealers, industry publications and industry organizations are focusing in on the female adviser to a much greater extent than ever before. So, what does this trend tell you?

For me, it means that many likely share my opinion that women will play a much greater role the industry at some point in the future. But I also believe that conferences for women advisers are on the rise in more ways than one.

Better Than Ever

It’s not just the quantity of conferences that has increased. It’s also the quality. The speakers are engaging, articulate, and, in some cases, well-known. Other presenters are delightful surprises, showcasing the inspiring new talent within the industry. And then there are the audiences! Audience members are well-spoken, asking insightful questions that everyone in the room can learn from.

The feeling of these events is also changing. Women seem to have gotten better at networking, evidenced by the constant exchange of business cards. And they’re branching out. You no longer see women sticking with the three or four people they came to the conference with. Instead, everyone is eager to put out a hand to meet new people.

Finally, those organizations creating these conferences are to be commended for taking a stand to help develop an adviser segment vital to the future of the industry. Organizers of successful events carefully include female advisers in designing events and diligently seek input from all attendees—so a round of enhancements can be made for the next conference.

Still Room for Improvement

Of course, some may say that we don’t need conferences for women advisers since there aren’t conferences just for men (that I know of). So, what’s with the focus on women? Well, the reality is that almost all conferences are dominated by men. Women advisers are still, by far, the minority at 17 percent, with the number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioners a bit higher at 23 percent. The female contingent has been far from top of mind over the years at industry conferences. If you need proof of that, just look at the standard gifts that advisers receive: the XXL T-shirt or golf tees. Those do work for some—but not for the majority—of women.

Sometimes, women are surprised to see men at a women’s conference. At one conference I attended, a couple of women commented on the number of men there. I had not paid attention and assumed they were from sponsoring organizations. But then I gave it some thought. Why didn’t the sponsor organizations send their female executives? Did those sponsor organizations even have female executives to send? As an industry, we are increasingly interested in ESG (environment, social and governance) investing. How might “governance” be playing out right in front of our eyes? Now, I’m sure some of those male attendees were sincerely interested in meeting the needs of female advisers on their staff. But for me, this experience highlighted the importance of increasing not just the number of female advisers, but also the number of woman-owned advisory firms. I believe conferences focused on women will help get us there.

Worth Your Time

The key takeaway here? If you attended a women’s conference once or twice years ago and weren’t overly impressed, I encourage you to give it another try. The quality of conferences for women has been greatly enhanced. I think you will find attending one an experience that is worth your time and energy. It might even boost your career.

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Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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Education—The Missing Piece of the Investor Success Puzzle

Being a good financial adviser requires mastery of a wide range of technical skills. Being a great financial adviser requires having skills as a counselor and psychologist. Being an outstanding financial adviser requires developing your skills as a teacher. Here’s why.

The job of a financial adviser is to help each client get from Point A (where they are today) to Point B (where they want/need to be at some point in the future). The question is always how to maximize the chance that the client will arrive safely and securely at Point B.

When I first entered the financial services industry, the focus was on the technical aspects of this journey. Advisers used their financial planning and investment skills to define and plot the course from Point A to Point B.

Later, the focus broadened to include another dimension of the problem. Supporting clients emotionally and coaxing them to do the right thing has always been part of the job. But our understanding of the importance of that aspect of advising clients changed when research from the world of behavioral finance entered the mainstream.

Soon we were awash in new jargon that labeled each quirk in the vast inventory of our financial decision-making dysfunctions. A tsunami of information familiarized us with the basic concepts of behavioral finance, but left us unsure about what, exactly, to do with this information.

One exception is the area of risk tolerance. A host of service providers emerged with products that purport to help us measure the risk tolerance of our clients. But what should you do when there is a significant gap between a client’s need to take risk and their comfort in doing so?

Say you have a client that has done a poor job of saving over the years. The client has no choice but to be aggressive in their investment strategy if he is to have any hope of meeting his goals. But what if his tolerance for risk is very low? Do you ignore the client’s discomfort with risk-taking or do you dial down the portfolio in favor of a smoother ride?

Actually, this is a false dilemma. It assumes that the client’s risk tolerance is a fixed feature like the nose on his face. This is simply not true. Soldiers learn to fight with bullets whizzing by their heads. Athletes learn to maintain their focus in the midst of chaos. Clients can be taught to better weather the inevitable storms they will encounter. Education is the key.

Most advisers are comfortable answering client questions about investing, but this level of education is reactive and event driven. Exhorting clients to “think long-term” and “stay the course” is not education, it’s sloganeering.

Being a good investor requires a solid frame of reference. Clients need to know what to expect and why things happen the way they do. They need that course we all should have had in school, but never did. Providing this level of education requires thought, planning and a proactive approach. But like soldiers and athletes, clients can be trained to be better, more confident investors.

If you want your clients to make it successfully from Point A to Point B, you should put as much time into teaching them about the journey as you do developing financial plans and investment solutions for them.

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Scott MacKillop
CEO
First Ascent Asset Management
Denver, CO


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Let Your Voice Be Heard: Register for FPA Advocacy Day

There may be elected officials who aren’t familiar with the financial planning profession or its relevant issues. That’s something Financial Planning Association members could change.

Registration is now open for the organization’s third annual FPA Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., which will take place June 21-22. The event is designed to provide CFP® professionals with an opportunity to advocate for the profession and issues important to practitioners.

“It’s a great way to understand how advocacy works in our country and why it matters,” said Karen Nystrom, the advocacy team leader for FPA.

With the help of lobbying and consulting firm, The Raben Group, FPA will set up meetings with elected officials, prepare any materials you may need for those meetings and provide training to help you better communicate your message to your legislators.

Chapters organize their own state Advocacy Days, said Dave Panko, CFP®, of  FPA of Central Pennsylvania, and both the state and national events should be on all members’ calendars.

“It was very well-organized on FPA’s part,” Panko said in an FPA Advocacy Day 2015 recap video. “We had all the materials we needed and we had directional maps, etcetera. I highly recommend that every single chapter in the United States has an Advocacy Day and comes to participate in the Washington D.C. Advocacy Day.”

The national event is unlike any other, Nystrom said. “There is nothing like marching up to Capitol Hill with your fellow FPA members to let our elected officials know who we are.”

Past Advocacy Day participants share that sentiment.

“To be part of a dedicated group of individuals who were able to meet with our legislators and pave the way to building a relationship was awesome,” Dusty Hoetger, CFP® said in a testimonial about the event, posted on the Advocacy Day page. “The journey to change begins with taking that first step. By participating in Advocacy Day, you are taking a step not only for yourself but your profession as a whole.”

Some other benefits of attending the event, Nystrom said, include:

  • Meeting like-minded members
  • Getting the opportunity to serve on financial services committees
  • Offering to provide pro bono content to elected officials in their districts
  • Using your experience to let your community know you are involved
  • Seizing a great opportunity to tweet about your meetings (don’t forget to include photos of you and your elected officials) to clients and others

The event’s cost covers meals and training and the deadline to register is June 3.

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Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.