Women are taking control of their financial futures. But to attract these discerning clients, an advisor needs to put her best foot forward.

Research presented at the Advisor Group’s third annual Investing in You Conference on May 4 in Toronto finds prospective female clients don’t interview many advisors before deciding who they’ll work with. This suggests it’s important for female advisors to make a solid first impression and provide as much information as possible, and do it quickly, when meeting a prospect.

The need was consistently reiterated during the conference, which aims to help female advisors strengthen their voices, create valuable brands, set goals and stand out.

Margaret Franklin, who chairs the CFA Institute Board of Governors and is president and CEO of Kinsale Private Wealth, opened the day telling the audience why she stands out.

Growing up with five siblings taught her two lessons—the value of a strong voice and hard work.

Back in 1993, Franklin had just given birth to a son, but was determined to write her CFA. However, balancing motherhood with studying proved so challenging that she fell asleep during the initial exam.

It took Franklin the requisite four years to attain the designation, but she says it was well worth the dedication because it provided her with credibility and a competitive edge. “As a woman, you have to be just as good [as a man]—and possibly better—to really, really succeed,” says Franklin.

When she began her career 20 years ago, the institutional investor dominated the scene. Now, there has been a wholesale transfer of assets to the individual investor, and these clients want someone who will listen and help them on a personal level. They want someone who has the innate ability to understand both what’s said and unsaid.

Women advisors are uniquely qualified to assist this emerging client base, and that’s created a watershed moment for women in business, says Franklin. “We are a scarce resource. What we have to offer—diversity, perspective and opinion—can be very powerful.”

Sound advice

Later sessions focused on using strength and confidence to stand out from the crowd, starting with a panel featuring Bev Moir, investment advisor and financial planner with The MoirTEAM, ScotiaMcLeod; Natalie Jamison, investment advisor and insurance representative with Jamison Family Wealth Management at RBC Dominion Securities; and Serena Cheng, director of wealth management and investment advisor at The Begg Cheng Wealth Management Group, Richardson GMP.

Cheng told the audience she learns about clients by listening strategically. She’s not afraid to bring a bedroom discussion—for instance, when each member of a couple wants to stop working—into her office. True closeness takes time, so she probes carefully until she reaches the aha! moment with her clients.

And while listening is an important skill, being able to command the proceedings with both individual clients and hundreds of colleagues is equally critical to creating an impression.

To that end, the day’s final session, Taking the Stage, talked to how women can strengthen their voices. Judith Humphrey, founder and president of The Humphrey Group, led the inter-active workshop.

“Women have many challenges when it comes to public speaking,” she says. “They’ve been brought up to think girls are expected to be humble and not try to take the spotlight.”

To overcome this stigma, think like a leader. Humphrey says women should brag without feeling embarrassed, since what they interpret as arrogance is seen by others as self-assurance.

To help with this, women should silence negative thoughts about their abilities by actively challenging each assumption with “a mantra you can use every time,” Humphrey says.

Further, when speaking to clients or colleagues, advisors should have a leadership script, which can apply to anything from a phone call to a prospective client to a request to a boss. This script must include an attention grabber, strong message with “proof points” or reasons backing the message, and a conclusion with a call to action.

Humphrey also led the group through an exaggerated exercise where the audience had to maintain eye contact for an extended period. Yet being able to look clients and colleagues in the eye is how you develop a powerful presence. And as Humphrey says, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re doing it right.

  • Suzanne Sharma is the associate editor of Canadian Insurance Top Broker.