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Building the Business 101: More Musings on Gender

More advisors give their stories, and an expert weighs in as well.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 08/28/2008

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we have taken in building our financial advisory business, Garnet Group LLC. Currently, Garnet has eight staff members, more than 90 clients, more than $300 million in client net worth under advisement, and offices in Bethesda, Md., and Boston. Veena Kutler, CFA, and Annette Simon, CFP, are the managing principals in the Garnet office in Bethesda.

Last month we began a discussion of gender and its impact on financial advisory practices from internal operations to the types of clients who are attracted. As we have a firm staffed only by women, we always believed that we attract clients who value our collaborative approach and holistic advice that goes well beyond their investment assets. This belief was recently reinforced when a respected client in his annual review meeting said he was very pleased with our service, but asked if we could be even more parental going forward!

In this column we continue our exploration of the role of gender within a financial advisory practice.  Several readers sent us their stories about the effect of gender in their advisory businesses. We'll share some of those anecdotes along with the observations of Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist who has spent years working in the field of money psychology and studying the differences between men and women as they relate to money.

Stories from Other Advisors
Helen Modly, a NAPFA colleague and fellow Morningstar Advisor columnist wrote in response to our last column:

"We were an all-woman firm, by choice for several years. In January 2007, we hired my stepson from the golf industry (he was a teaching pro in Florida) with the intent to grow him into a CFP and hopefully an owner over time. So far, so good. In 18 months, he has finished the CFP coursework online and will be taking the board exam this November. I'm convinced it is easier to turn a great golfer into a financial advisor rather than the other way around.

We had thought that a younger man would appeal more to the male executive type. Turns out, he is a bigger hit with our older couples, probably due to his military experience and professional demeanor. I will agree that he "moves us along" on our decision making. We share your tendency to evaluate every option before choosing a course of action. I also agree that clients want a firm recommendation rather than a discussion. I think we create anxiety when we dither.

You might also look at age as well as gender. We are all 50-something, with limited responsibilities outside of work (kids grown, etc.) He is 30 with small kids, working wife, the whole nine yards. Even as working women who know all about that struggle, we grow impatient from time to time when he bolts at the end of the day. He will tell you that he feels "over-mothered" from time to time.

All in all, I am happy with the way things are developing. We get to grow a planner that values relationships, both inside the firm as well as with our clients. He gains the experience of seeing how a successful, NAPFA-type firm operates."

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