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Partnering on the Financial Needs of Women
• Kelly DiGonzini • March 7, 2022
It usually benefits the clients and their financial plan to have both spouses in a planning meeting.
Over 10 years ago, in order to get more of our female clientele through the door and a seat at the table, my firm Beacon Pointe Advisors, started to offer lunch and learn events. The invitation came with a simple and subtle message to: ‘Invite your spouse.’ We didn’t know at the time that it would have a much more profound effect on our firm’s approach to serving the financial needs of women.
Financial Advice for Women by Women
Beacon Pointe’s Women’s Advisory Institute kicked off in 2011 as a holistic planning service tailored to women. Today I serve as the director of financial planning and uphold the commitment to provide female clients and their families with peace of mind and the ability to meet their long-term life and legacy goals. Sometimes that involves advice for a monumental life transition, such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, or multi-generational wealth transfers.
Engaging clients comes naturally when you’re offering education to further empower your client to make important and informed decisions. The Women’s Advisory Institute aims to be a partner to a population that is often underserved. We want to educate our clients, to make sure they understand their situation and the decisions available to them. Helping people sleep better at night after being reassured they can afford to live the lifestyle they want without impacting their future is rewarding. When clients understand the decisions that they’re making, they don’t feel like they are on their own anymore.
Empowerment is central to what we do and offer; I am very passionate about financial education. I believe financial well-being can be obtained at any age or stage of life. I co-authored a financial advice book, Your Dollars, Our Sense, which serves as an introduction to topics covered in financial planning to help prepare you throughout all stages of the financial lifecycle.
Embracing the Exception and the Rise of Financial Planning
The bulk of my career has been spent at Beacon Pointe, one of the largest female-led Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firms in the nation. We are especially proud to say that at Beacon Pointe we have fifty-percent female representation on our corporate leadership team. I love that in my career today I am surrounded by and serving women, but I recognize that Beacon Pointe is an exception in the wealth management industry.
What excites me is that I think the industry has shifted away from the traditional stockbroker or financial advisor to offer more specialized roles, particularly in financial planning. The focus becomes less on selling investment products and more about providing a holistic service. Creating more opportunities that are not one-hundred percent commission-based is a window for more women to enter the wealth management profession—specifically financial planning.
In financial planning you get to work directly with clients in meaningful ways, helping them to solve a specific challenge or prioritize their financial goals. Talking about money is deeply personal and diving into a client’s most closely held values requires an empathetic and practiced approach. Quite often people don’t think about the soft skills involved in a finance-oriented role. Financial planning is an area where you can marry both the softer people skills and the analytical mindset to fulfill a market need.
Getting into Financial Planning
I personally didn’t always know what to do with money. Early on, my parents engrained lessons of financial discipline and responsibility. When given an allowance my parents would say, “Save it, don’t spend it.” It was perhaps those early lessons that shaped some of my own diligent financial behaviors, but also nudged me to explore how to become empowered to make my own financial decisions.
In college I was a business major and had never heard of financial planning. I didn’t know anything about the wealth management industry at all. But while in school, I needed a part-time job. I sought out a listing found on Craigslist—a popular source at the time—at a national provider of employee benefits and financial solutions. And this position was essentially cold calling people for 12 hours a week—a bit intimidating for someone new to the industry.
In this experience, however, I got to sit next to the head financial planner for the region who covered all financial plans for big clients. Just from hearing his conversations, observing what he was looking at and talking about—I found what interested me.
From there I asked the leadership of this firm if I could do an unpaid internship for them. I wanted to gain more experience and have access to financial planning software. I just fell in love with it right away. Then the next summer I had the opportunity to do a shadowing internship where I was partnered with a financial advisor.
The culmination of these experiences really brought to light a profession that I hadn’t previously known and it helped lift off my career. I was offered a permanent position by the firm and got hired as an in-office financial planner, essentially doing financial plans for all the advisors.
Learning to Grow
Earlier on in my career, many of my mentors and the individuals I was learning from were men. As mentioned, I didn’t enter the profession on a pre-determined path. But I was willing to learn and be educated by those around me. I was fortunate to find opportunities where I could be supported—when needed—and grow.
I learned a tremendous amount from both the advisor I shadowed during my intern days to my first manager within the office. In particular how to assess client needs thoughtfully, build a comprehensive plan, and essentially, how to create real value for clients with financial planning. In fact, this manager always held “case study class” which was a training for not only the advisors but our entire department to assess a case regarding a particular financial situation. I integrated the practice and use case class now as a learning tool for my team.
Today I continue to hone my expertise and share it with others. I believe it is everyone’s shared responsibility to mentor and empower the next generation of investors, savers—or future financial planners.
At Beacon Pointe we host a program with the Girl Scouts to help them develop their own financial literacy. We also offer a complimentary, six-week “Foundations of Finance” educational seminar to students and young adults just starting on their financial journeys and interested in learning more about the financial advisor and planner career paths.
I hope during Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day of 2022 that I have inspired some aspirational planners or investors in need of financial guidance to seek out a partner that can help support your growth.
The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.
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