Years ago (well not THAT long ago), women’s initiatives in the financial services industry had to be mandated by the courts starting with two of the big powerhouse firms, Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch.
For centuries, women — whether as clients or advisors — were typically ignored by the financial services arena until a class action suit strong armed the industry starting with forced hiring quotas for women. Even then, newly hired female advisors were encouraged to prospect men as they were considered the qualified client, and female clients continued to feel like second class citizens growing more detached and frustrated with their experience.
Unless you took a college course on investing (which was often very boring) there were few opportunities to help women clients become more financially savvy and comfortable discussing their money. As a result, women fell further behind in their journey towards financial education and independence. They certainly weren’t learning from their husbands and fathers, most of which felt women weren’t really capable of understanding. Ultimately many women grew to rely on others to make important financial decisions — a crisis waiting to happen.
Today “women’s initiatives” have become quite common within the financial services industry. While women weren’t even on the radar screen ten years ago, today the topic of “Women’s Initiatives” has moved up on the corporate priority list for many firms. Recognizing that women will control the majority of the country’s wealth is a strong motivator, especially for companies solely focused on bottom line returns. Yet the benefits have been there all along.
In 2003, I joined Citi’s Women & Co. as the Director of National Sales, one of the first and most dedicated efforts committed to educating and empowering women in Financial Services. At Women & Co., we built a team of women to travel the country teaching and coaching advisors on the best ways to connect with the female client. We hosted regular conference calls on topics relevant to female clients spoken in a language that women could understand and embrace. Even before email became the number one method of communicating, Women & Co. provided valuable nuggets of information designed for all women. Women & Co.’s live events packed the house and wherein great demand in the major cities across the US. These Women & Co. events created both the community that women love with the education they need. Women & Co. was ahead of its time.
Today I am no longer with Citi and have spent the past 9 years as an independent coach and consultant yet Women & Co. continues to inspire with their commitment to engage and focus on women and wealth. Women & Co. has truly set the tone and pace for helping advance women by providing financial education. Under the leadership of Linda Descano,
Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, Content and Social, North America Marketing, Citi; and President & CEO of Women & Co., Women & Co. has developed a tremendous following encouraging and inspiring both women and other organizations to embrace the importance of women and the impact they will have on everyone’s bottom line. Whether you are a female client, advisor or financial firm, Women & Co. can provide a tremendous example of what works for women in your community.
You can learn more on their website www.womenandco.com