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The aptitudes that make Canada’s Top Women Wealth Advisors successful are similar to their male counterparts, such as work ethic, financial acumen and building client relationships, but with a few modifications.
While all advisors must build relationships, statistically more women score higher than men on emotional intelligence (EQ), which may ultimately help women advisors bond better with clients.
“Our discussions go much deeper than portfolios,” explains Sophie Paquet, senior wealth advisor and portfolio manager with Brunet Gilbert Paquet Financial Group at National Bank Financial Wealth Management in Quebec City. “Clients tell us about their families and goals. They’ll talk about their children, fears, and insecurities.”
Gillian Stovel Rivers, senior wealth advisor and branch owner with Surround Wealth Advisors at Assante Financial Management Ltd. in Burlington, Ont., says while sound professional advice matters, it also has to feel relevant to the client, which is where EQ comes in.
“It’s being able to read what clients are capable of, where they’re at, and trying to meet them at that place so they can actually move forward,” she notes.
“A lot of times clients can get stuck on how to solve an issue and that’s where it’s really important to have that sort of right-brained approach to understanding people as humans.”
Ms. Stovel Rivers adds that it’s easier for her to participate in what-keeps-you-up-at-night conversations about financial and personal challenges because she doesn’t mind being vulnerable herself.
“I have a sense of empathy about what a client has gone through and sometimes that can be exhausting for an advisor to have that level of awareness,” she says. “What’s the overall impact? A client might say, ‘Gillian, you are one of the first three people I will call as we move through a problem.’”
‘We understand each other’
Sandra Ramos, executive financial consultant at IG Private Wealth Management in Barrie, Ont., describes hugging long-time clients regularly, something that isn’t easy for a man advisor to do. She notes that it’s sometimes easier for clients to have more intimate discussions affecting finances such as personal health care challenges and marriage dynamics with women.
“Most women prefer to work with women because we understand each other,” she says. “When you’re sitting at a table doing business and she feels comfortable talking about her private thoughts, that’s powerful.”
Women are seen as better listeners and observers, Ms. Ramos adds, noting that she considers body language for cues on how clients may be feeling. Is the person sitting with their arms crossed or is their body more open?
She also encourages women in couple relationships to come to her for a discussion on their own. During those meetings, Ms. Ramos may find differing opinions from the spouse, and address any side questions they may have.
“Some men and women come in together but the women may want their individual needs served,” she says.
Men want ‘empathy, compassion and genuine care’ too
But it’s not just women who may prefer working with women advisors.
“I have a lot of male clients tell me they much prefer dealing with me than a guy because they feel the empathy, compassion and genuine care,” she says.
Ms. Paquet offers the example of a recent high-net-worth client she gained.
The client had predominantly worked with a male advisor on financial planning and investments with great success. Still, something nagged at him. His wife didn’t care for this advisor, and he started pondering the circumstances should he die prematurely. Was this man the best advisor for his family?
He and his wife met with Ms. Paquet, who turned out to be a much better fit.
“It was important to him that his spouse feel comfortable with the advisor,” she says.
Playing to organizational strengths
Other factors that drive success for top women advisors include the level of communication clients receive externally. Ms. Paquet says her practice’s goal is to create as many “touches” as possible with clients, whether it’s a weekly or monthly note and webinars every quarter about the markets and other topics.
She also points to her systematic organizational skills as areas of traditional strength for women. She compares her office setup to a dental clinic, in which everything from what will be discussed, meeting frequency and what experts are needed are determined ahead of time.
Finally, Ms. Paquet emphasizes building an advisor team. She has centres of influence that focus on everything from business succession planning, insurance, private banking and tax to wills and estate planning.
“I’m really trying to serve my clients in a holistic way,” she says.
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