May 12th, 2009 | 1:00 pm

The Softer Side of Finance

filed under Spotlight on People

dollars.JPGContributed by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury


The financial services industry has been on a rollercoaster ride since last fall when markets tumbled and the world was reminded that what goes up must come down. Many advisors have lost jobs, changed careers or in some unfortunate cases taken their lives over the turbulent market place. But there are many advisors who have risen to the challenge in this time of crisis, held their clients’ hands and helped them navigate the emotional ups and downs of the global economy. It is not surprising that many of these successful advisors are women and that a historically male dominated industry is now getting in touch with its feminine side.

The Female Advantage

According to G. Scott Budge, Ph.D, the author of the book The New Financial Advisor: Strategies for Successful Family Wealth Management, the new competitive frontier for financial advisors is centered on building and managing client relationships. Active listening, building trust and understanding what a client needs both emotionally as well as financially are paramount in this new world. And who better to do this than female advisors. By nature, women are relationship oriented and excel at helping others. Never before has the softer side of finance been more important and, according to some female advisors, a real advantage to growing a successful practice.

“I love to hear people’s stories,” says Eileen Burkhart, CFP, Principal of Eileen Burkhart & Company. She uses these stories to learn more about her clients, their values and what makes them tick. Kim Zwick, a CPA turned Personal Financial Specialist and owner of Full Circle Financial believes women are good at gathering information and multitasking. In an industry with so many bits and pieces this goes a long way toward being an effective financial advisor. Kim believes that in this field you need to sweat the small stuff.

Media Mania

One of the biggest frustrations for lady advisors these days is the media hype surrounding Wall Street and the turbulent economy. One advisor went as far as to call it “financial pornography.” The recommendation for clients is to turn off the television and stop applying this general information to your specific situation.

Debra Brede, President of D.K. Brede Investment Management Company believes “people are hungry for knowledge.” The problem is that most media outlets provide only part of the story. The average American gets scared when they hear sound bites meant to provoke an emotional response in the viewer and take this as sound financial advice. A little information can be dangerous and with stories on corrupt financial advisors such as Bernie Madoff splashed all over the news, people are bound to be anxious. Debra’s business strategy is to “do the right thing by people” and provide them with education and information so they can make good financial decisions based on their individual life circumstance.

Keys to Success

Being female is no guarantee when it comes to being competitive in the industry. It takes intellectual curiosity, a desire to learn and grow and a little bit of gusto to be able to speak up and offer an opinion. “It is not about predicting the future it is about being able to articulate what is going on (in the world),” according to Carrie Coghill-Kuntz, CFP with D.B. Root & Company. In the current environment, women need to speak up at meetings and risk holding a position on a particular issue. While this may be challenging for new female advisors, those who are seasoned realize that having a thick skin and learning to take calculated risks is what got them to where they are in the field.

Flexibility and a desire for work life balance inspire many women to go into this profession and to stay when the times get tough. While money may be a motivator for some financial service professionals, many female advisors really desire a career that empowers them to choose their work hours, their ideal clients and define success in a more holistic way. “You don’t have to do this job like a guy,” states Bridget DeMartino, CFP and Principal of Andrews DeMartino Wealth Strategies Firm, LLC. She is a third generation advisor who took over the company recently and made a conscious decision to run the practice differently than her father who she watched work long hours and miss out on many family activities. Bridget, pregnant with her first child, is determined to continue to be successful and make time for being a mom.

What advice do experienced advisors have for their female counterparts? First and foremost, start with the end in mind. Hire a coach or talk to a mentor about what is important to you both personally and professionally. Once you develop a long term vision, write down short term goals for getting there on a quarterly, monthly and daily basis. Second, be a curious student of the market and of human behavior because the job involves both. Take advantage of the training your company and outside sources provide. Lastly and most importantly, listen to your clients. Listen to what they are saying and what they are not saying. Their stories will tell you a lot about how to help them reach their financial goals and how to make a client for life.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a Money and Emotions Expert, Speaker and Coach. She empowers financial advisors and their clients to be more emotionally intelligent when it comes to managing and making money. Her website is www.kbkconnections.com.

Kathleen would like to offer a special thanks to Kol Birke and all the women advisors she interviewed at Commonwealth Financial Network.