Women’s conference roundup

By Kanupriya Vashisht | June 1, 2009 | Last updated on June 1, 2009
3 min read

This one was all about women.

They converged from all over Canada on May 7 at the Park Hyatt in Toronto to be at our fi rst-ever event exclusively for female fi nancial advisors: Investing in You.

The program platter was holistic, and very in tune with the audience: They attended industry-specifi c sessions; got tutored on communication skills; discovered their subconscious; laughed, and yes, even danced; and felt reinforced about being fi – nancial advisors at a time when the very essence of their womanhood—empathy— is the new market mantra for attracting and retaining clients.

PANEL OF EXPERTS The keynote panel focused on the challenges of being female in the Old Boys’ Club, and top women advisors spoke about how they built their books while managing clients, family, firm and personal expectations. Diane McCurdy, founder of McCurdy Financial Planning, reiterated women must work to their greatest strength—good communication skills. “Men aren’t the best communicators at all times. Where women speak 40,000 words a day, men use just 8,000.” Her strategy for success: When you’re having a bad day, get on the phone with your clients immediately, because “at the depths of pessimism are points of greatest financial opportunity.”

Last Christmas, when the bears mauled the markets, McCurdy says she was on the phone constantly, boosting people’s spirits and placating fears. Come the New Year, her book was bulging with referrals from clients who appreciated her for staying in touch when times got tough.

Susan Latremoille, wealth advisor and first vice-president of Richardson Partners Financial Limited, is a big believer in the strength of good teams. Her all-woman team has mastered the art of delineating responsibilities, and her clients feel comfortable approaching different members for different things.

And when it comes to networking, building teams, and seeking clients, Cynthia Kett of Stewart & Kett Financial Advisors, says it’s best not to go after 20 different people in a group. “Just focus on two or three you find interesting, and get to know them well.”

RETENTION MENTIONS Sound communication skills are also key to retaining quality clients—be it through bubbles or booms, joy or sorrow, birth or bereavement.

Especially bereavement, since grieving clients often turn to advisors to manage both their wealth and their emotions. When faced with such a situation, Michele Meehan, psychotherapist and grief counsellor, says, “Don’t try to rationalize or put a happy face on any of the grieving stages. Let time do the healing.”

If you do wish to be of help, be honest about how you’re feeling, and don’t make up an emotion you think you’re supposed to feel, suggests Tanya Chernova, communications and strategic business coach of Courageous Living. “Good communication is all about empowering the other person to say more about how they feel.”

Talking to the three stages in the life of a career woman, Kim Shannon, CFA, president and CIO of Sionna Investment Managers, noted women have to work twice as hard as men to do half as well in their careers.

Shannon, who’s had to fight for every single promotion she’s gotten, says that’s also because women tend to set low expectations. The goal, she says, is to become the Teflon girl—so no dirt sticks. “Don’t get stuck in firm politics; don’t shy away from being contrarian; stay rational; keep your head in; master your emotions; and want to be paid fairly.”

Kanupriya Vashisht