(Updates with comment from Goldman Sachs managing director in second paragraph under ‘Engaging Female Clients’ subheadline.)
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- About 75 women executives streamed up the marble staircase of the Harold Pratt House on Park Avenue in New York last month to a ballroom with cathedral ceilings and antique chandeliers.
They were attending “Women Unscripted,” the second in a series of events put on by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. aimed at attracting and retaining women executives as clients. Instead of focusing on financial planning or products for women, there was a presentation by Saj-nicole Joni, who advises chief executive officers as president of Cambridge International Group. After the discussion there was a chance to mingle at a wine tasting in the adjacent library.
While banks have courted women clients in the past, Wells Fargo, Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and others are increasingly focused on getting the assets of high-earning women executives, said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the New York- based Center for Work-Life Policy.
They’re targeting them now through these events that bring “like-minded” women together rather than overtly selling products, said Lisa Caputo, founder and former chairman and CEO of Women & Co. at Citigroup. It’s a more prudent strategy since women don’t react well to “financial services wrapped in pink,” an approach that some firms have taken in the past, said Caputo, who is now executive vice president of marketing and communications at the Travelers Cos. in New York.
Jacki Zehner, a former partner and managing director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and co-chair of Women Moving Millions, a group of women who have made $1 million gifts to nongovernmental organizations, said she’s seeing an increase in the number of these types of women-focused events. Although some firms are making progress, they still aren’t doing as much as they could be when considering the amount of wealth held by women, Zehner said.
“I don’t see any major financial firm having done this in the way I would see as really taking advantage of the opportunity that’s there,” said Zehner of Park City, Utah.
About 27 percent of millionaires worldwide were women in 2010, compared with 24 percent in 2008, according to a report released in June by Capgemini SA and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. Women controlled an estimated $20 trillion globally as of 2009, a figure that is expected to rise by an average 8 percent annually through 2014, according to a July 2010 report from the Boston Consulting Group.
About 42 percent of wealthy women surveyed by BCG earned all of their money from their own salaries and bonuses, the report said. Women’s $12 trillion in total earnings was projected to rise by 50 percent to $18 trillion in five years, a separate BCG study from October 2009 said.
Banks are paying more attention than ever to “this very alluring” segment of the market because now there’s a large cohort of high-earning women, Hewlett said.
Private banks offer wealthy clients access to services such as investments, lending, trusts and estate planning. The largest banks are under pressure to attract more assets as government regulations have curbed profits and boutique investment advisers have grabbed market share.
It’s not that women have different financial needs than men, it’s that some banks are realizing the best way to approach them may be different, said Kate Sayre, a partner at the Boston Consulting Group in New York and co-author of “Women Want More.” During previous attempts to attract the business of women, some financial firms’ pitches assumed women weren’t as sophisticated or knowledgeable, Sayre said.
“For a long time, the industry has done such a poor job,” said Sayre. “A lot of women felt that the banker addressed everything to the man and felt they were just an appendage.”
Fifty-five percent of women surveyed said they think wealth managers can do a better job of meeting the needs of female clients and 27 percent aren’t satisfied with their private banks, according to the BCG report. Many wealth managers overlook women or use superficial strategies to reach them that may end up alienating female clients if the “women-labeled” pitches come across as patronizing, the report said.
“Our industry does not do a great job for women,” Sallie Krawcheck, the former head of Bank of America Corp.’s wealth- management division who was ousted in September, said at a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association meeting in New York last month. She declined to comment for this story.
‘All But Ignored’
Sasha Galbraith, 52, a former vice president in commercial real estate at Wells Fargo who works at Galbraith Management Consultants, which serves Fortune 200 companies, said she and her husband have used private bankers since 1996 before turning to asset management firm Neuberger Berman Group LLC.
“Until recently, I’ve been all but ignored during discussions,” said Galbraith, who lives in Breckenridge, Colorado, referring to her experiences before Neuberger Berman.
Larraine Segil, who ran the Lared Group for 24 years before it was acquired by consulting firm Vantage Partners, said she worked with four different wealth managers before finding one who was a good fit. Segil, 63, was unhappy with the investment performance by the previous managers and didn’t trust some of them to serve her interests rather than theirs, she said.
Segil, who lives in Los Angeles and is on the foundation board of the Committee of 200, a global nonprofit group of women executives, said she’s satisfied with her firm now, which she declined to name, because she feels they understand her long- term strategy, concerns and meet regularly with her.
Beginning last year, Citi Private Bank, which works with clients who have at least $25 million in net worth, held a series of luncheons in cities such as New York and Seattle for existing and potential women customers on topics including finance, entrepreneurship, fashion and health, said Ida Liu, managing director and head of North America Asian clients group. Citigroup is based in New York.
The events, which have been attended by as many as 100 women, have helped contribute to a gain in assets from existing clients, Liu said. The purpose is also to attract new clients who mingle with existing ones and hear about their experiences at the bank, said Liu.
While Citi Private Bank may host events geared to topics of interest to women, it offers all of its clients, regardless of gender, the same investment products and strategies tailored to their individual needs, Liu said.
The tools Wells Fargo uses to meet the financial needs of women clients are “gender neutral,” said Jennifer Lee, regional managing director for New York at Wells Fargo Private Bank. Before last month’s event, Lee hosted women executives at a June dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant for another discussion on leadership.
“I have no doubt that we will have new clients as a result,” said Lee, whose clients have at least $5 million in investable assets. “No private bank can afford to ignore women clients.”
Barclays Wealth, based in London, started holding events across the U.K. this year focused on women, including one in March at the Marylebone Hotel. Last year, the firm also started a magazine called “SmartWoman.”
“It’s about appealing to the intellect,” said Barbara-Ann King, head of the Barclays Wealth female client group in the U.K. Women clients of private banks traditionally came from inheritances or divorces, and now they’re seeing more women who have earned their wealth as entrepreneurs or executives, said King. Earlier this year, she started the female client group, which currently focuses on women in the U.K. with generally at least 500,000 British pounds ($773,450) in investable assets.
Engaging Female Clients
J.P. Morgan Private Bank, which generally works with people who have at least $25 million in investable assets, usually seeks potential clients by their source of wealth, such as law firm partners or hedge fund managers, said Doug Morris, a spokesman for the New York-based company. Some of the firm’s private bankers have reached out to women locally, Morris said.
“We take a regional approach to serving the needs of women clients and prospective clients,” said Karey Dye, a managing director in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs. “Each region customizes its outreach and engagement efforts to suit the needs of the community.”
Banks and advisers trying to add female clients need to tailor their approach without clumping all women together, said Heather Ettinger, managing partner at Fairport Asset Management in Cleveland. Executive women clients are the fastest growing segment of Ettinger’s businesss, she said. Ettinger’s firm manages about $750 million in assets.
At the annual “Impact” conference for registered investment advisers hosted by Charles Schwab Corp. in November there was a session for the first time on “How to Engage the Female Client.” About 240 advisers attended and listened to Anthony DiLeonardi, co-author of “The $14 Trillion Woman.”
Wealthy women who are invited to banks’ events or approached by financial advisers should find out what the firm’s commitment to educating their clients about money is before moving assets, said Zehner of Women Moving Millions, who has been or is a client of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Charles Schwab and Northern Trust Corp.
They should also ask about the fee structure, whether the firm sells non-proprietary products and what its commitment to women’s leadership within the organization is, she said.
‘Huge, Huge Opportunity’
Since there are few women in top positions in the finance industry, there still may not be enough understanding about the best ways to work with women once they’re clients, and if they require different investing strategies, according to Hewlett of the Center for Work-Life Policy. Women made up 18 percent of executive officers at Fortune 500 finance and insurance companies, according to a 2011 report from Catalyst, a nonprofit that focuses on women and business.
“I don’t see anyone that’s really shown a full commitment to the high-net-worth women market,” Zehner said. “There’s just a huge, huge opportunity for a firm to really do it well.”
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