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Salary disparity still a factor

Financial consulting firms recruiting women advisors

Look at the faces shown on print advertisements for financial consulting firms, and you will find few women. The field traditionally has been male-dominated. But some firms are making an effort to recruit more women financial consultants as increasing numbers of women have money to invest.

Salomon Smith Barney Inc. in Gulfport is having a free seminar Aug. 24, at 6 p.m. at their offices at 2308 East Beach Blvd. to recruit women to work as financial consultants.

“We’re recruiting,” says George Cullinan, branch office manager for Salomon Smith Barney Inc. in Gulfport. “Quite often women will call here with money to invest and specifically ask for a female financial consultant. Women live longer than men, so they tend inherit money. With our society in general, our economic base is so strong that families are wealthier now than they used to be. When women go through divorces and widowhood, they wind up with big decisions they oftentimes never had to make before.”

Cullinan said that it is predicted that by the year 2010, 62% of work force will be women. Women still have some catching up to do when it comes to salaries, but that is expected to improve in the years to come.

Merrill Lynch is another firm that is making an effort to recruit more women financial consultants.

“I think there is a tremendous advantage for women in the field,” says David Sontag, resident vice president for Merrill Lynch in Mississippi. “Merrill Lynch has a huge emphasis on increasing the number of female financial consultants. Our business has changed. In the past it was more of an environment where financial consultants told people what to do. Now it is more a consultant business. Listening skills are much more important. I think our clients want to know we genuinely understand their circumstance, and the only way you can do that is listening to their concerns. I think women are much better listeners than men. Women almost have an advantage today in terms of financial services. Women are very good at this.”

Jana Parrish, executive vice president — employee benefits, Pinnacle Trust, Jackson, agreed about the importance of listening instead of just giving advice.

“I do think listening is a key,” Parish said. “When you listen to clients, you find out what is important to them. That will help you plan for their financial success as they move through life. You also need to be able to know what questions to ask in order to find out what those needs are. Certainly your basic organizational and communication skills are important as they would be in any other type of profession.”

Parrish said a lot of women are more comfortable with women advisors, and feel they can trust a woman for professional advice. Demographics are placing increasing numbers of women in positions where they must handle financial investments.

“As the population grows older, there are going to be more older women as clients,” Parrish said. “Women wind up having to be responsible for financial matters that in their younger years they didn’t think they would have to be responsible for. That’s changing because now women know they are going to be in that position, and are doing more to prepare for it.”

Parrish also believes women may have an advantage because the finance field requires attention to details and good organizational skills. As a general rule, she has found men to be more generalists and women more detail-oriented.

“When it comes to remembering things about clients or planning, there is a lot of detail work to be done,” Parrish said. “And I think that is a gift a lot of women have that would serve them well.”

The field also plays well to women’s nurturing instincts. Bridget Weatherly, a financial consultant for A.G. Edwards in Gulfport, said she finds it very rewarding to help people.

“I help people to send their children to college,” Weatherly said. “I help people to retire. I help people save money on taxes. I help people save for the dream house or boat or the trips they want to take.”

Weatherly said that while it may be more difficult for women to get established in the field than men, there are also lots of opportunities.

“I think women do really well in this field because it takes a lot of organization,” she said. “This business used to be just buying and selling stock. Today it is more planning for the future. I think women are good at that because they are good listeners, very organized, and are understanding of people’s needs, which I think are great assets for financial planning. One of the things I get complimented on often is that I’m able to explain things to people without making them feel insecure. A lot of times people in this field will talk down to people. It is important to be able to explain things to the average or beginning investor. I think women are really good at that, and I think women are less intimidated by another woman.”

Phyllis A. Aduddell, an investment representative for Edward Jones, Gulfport, has also found some clients are more comfortable with a female financial advisor.

“I’ve had a number of people who have made statements that they feel comfortable speaking to me because I’m a woman,” Aduddell said. “Women tend to give more of a nurturing type presentation. They tend to take more time in educating people about what is going on, and they listen more carefully. There is a lot of potential for women to advance in the industry that just hasn’t been tapped. I try to make women aware of what they can do in the brokerage industry.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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