Given that women are increasingly wealth creators, wealth inheritors and financial decision-makers, Annabel Bosman, head of relationship management at Julius Baer International, explains what this means for the wealth management industry, and how the sector should adapt

Recently much has been written about the increasing power of women as financial decision-makers and controllers, with significant growth of female billionaires.

In fact, according to Forbes, the percentage increase in the female billionaire population is greater than the percentage increase in the number of billionaires overall – an interesting sign of change, in my opinion.

There has been a clear shift in the typically male-centred balance of financial decision-making. Women are increasingly becoming wealth creators, wealth inheritors and financial decision-makers, but what does this mean for the wealth management industry, and how should we adapt to this?

In the annual FT Top 400 Financial Advisers compiled since 2013, the number of women advisers has never risen above 10%, with figures coming from the US suggesting that the number of women advising is no higher than 36%.

If we think about the need for a wealth management business to reflect its potential audience through a diverse adviser population, there is clearly something out of sync. This is not to say that women will always want a female adviser, but surveys do increasingly suggest that female clients want to be given that choice.

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The same surveys, which show that a lower percentage of women than men in the UK will seek professional financial advice, point to a feeling that wealth managers do not listen to the voice of their female clients. Women have lost confidence in the financial sector and do not feel it always relates to and interprets their needs in the same way as male clients.

A recent study in Switzerland between Campden Wealth and Julius Baer highlighted the fact that women feel that female advisers better understand their goals, which are often less about wealth as an end goal in itself but rather as a mechanism to facilitate broader pursuits such as entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

This is something all wealth managers need to recognise, whether by employing more female advisers or by equipping all advisers with a better understanding of how to relate to female clients.

All of the above said, it is increasingly challenging to attract women in to the financial services sector at grassroots level, which translates to problems further up the career path.

Banks and financial institutions – wealth managers included – need to be more proactive about the conversations they have with young female students starting their careers, particularly as millennials place a different set of values on work than perhaps we have seen in the past.

I believe we, as an industry, have much work to do to promote both subjects and degrees, and ourselves, to young people.

In the UK, there is still a relatively small population of female advisers, and with many of the large wealth managers recognising that they need to diversify the face of their relationship teams, the competition for hiring becomes challenging.

At Julius Baer this is something we are increasingly focusing on in the UK.

We are fortunate to be in a strong position at senior management level, and we want to add further balance in our relationship manager population as we look to attract this growing population of female clients.

Many financial institutions in the UK have signed up to the UK Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, which can be seen as a clear statement of intent both to potential clients and employees that a company is serious about change. We are considering joining them, with a stated objective of targeting more female CVs for the relationship managers we are looking to hire. This is one aspect, but we are also focused on the conversations we have with those candidates as well as with our recruiters.

Wealth managers perhaps also need to take a broader perspective on where they are hiring from, given the relatively small gene pool of qualified advisers. At Julius Baer we are thinking more creatively about the types of background those candidates may have to broaden out the population and create a more diverse set of CVs.

As our clients move away from a traditionally patriarchal model to something which is far more egalitarian and gender-neutral, we as advisers should be looking to do the same.

Wealth management, for me, has always offered a career which fits with my life as a woman, particularly with children, as it offers a degree of flexibility.

Advisers can usually operate under a degree of entrepreneurship, controlling the types of client they want to focus on to fit their own interests and value sets, which is one of the reasons I believe more women should consider it as a career.