I was a registered sales-assistant that was sought after by million-dollar producers, most would say I had a very bright future ahead of me, and then I quit and joined the Navy. I’d had enough. Even though I loved the business of selling stocks and commodities by phone and serving great clients, in the early 80s the environment was toxic.
While geographically distanced from the antics of the ‘Boom Boom Room’ in Queens, New York, (which became part of the largest sexual harassment case against two of the wire houses in the country) the environment in the Newport Beach, California branch of Shearson Lehman Bros was similarly focused on fast cars, loose women and cocaine, all of which I wanted no part.
Egos as rampant as polyester were constantly expanding. Production numbers, the only measurement of success, were worn like badges supported by chest bumps and celebrated over martinis. The latest bond, high paying-mutual fund, and career-enhancing tax shelters were the tools to unearth dollars from unprepared victims leaving little room for ethics, honesty, and principles.
After a three-year tour on the USS Hunley serving in the United States Navy I returned to California with a husband and baby in tow and re-entered the industry. I was optimistic and hopeful that things had changed for the better. My hopes were quickly dashed when in my new position at Prudential Bache I was asked to distort the truth, misrepresent an investment, and minimize transaction risks. My complaints to the managers fell on deaf ears. Being told I was “too sensitive,” my immediate recourse was to quietly find another position and fast. After three firms and four big producers later I finally landed at Smith Barney working for a highly ethical manager supporting a million-dollar producer both of whom I admire to this day. It was this positive experience that inspired my own path to becoming a financial advisor.
Today, as a coach to many female advisors, I find that my story is not nearly as unique as I once thought. Weaving their way through an obstacle course of similar ethical challenges, client irregularities, and unhealthy work life pressures, many women in the industry were left with internal scars that would hinder their progress and success.
For many female advisors:
- Asking a potential prospect about their money felt UGLY and overly intrusive, impeding the advisor’s ability to move the relationship forward at the required pace. As a result, many female advisors started out as “underperformers”.
- They failed to promote their value. Even after uncovering unnecessary risks and financial concerns shared by acquaintances and prospective clients, promoting their value and ability to help felt more like “tooting their own horn”. This left unsuspecting prospects to be swooped up by a tainted professional who carries their horn in their right shirt pocket.
- Leading a client to the proper solution still conjures up feelings of coercion and high-pressure tactics. When providing solutions, many women fail to lead the client to the best solution preferring to present multiple options (no one wants to feel pushy). And as a result, they struggle to “close the deal”. When, in fact, most clients and prospects want a clear recommended solution based on experience and expertise.
The ethics pendulum once swung to the extreme creating an unhealthy business environment and corrupt behavior in the financial advisor world. In fear of replicating that model, female advisors forced the pendulum to the opposite end, which still left the clients vulnerable and floundering in their search for honest and sound advice. It also found that female advisors lagging behind the progress of their male counterparts reinforced the pecking order in most branches.
Like with everything in life, the financial services industry is evolving and the needle is moving back toward the middle. Women clients, tired of being ignored and spoken down to, are pushing back creating a Femolution Revolution that is gaining tremendous traction and momentum in the world of advisors. Their ever-increasing wealth ownership and business independence makes them a force to be reckoned with.
Female advisors tired of being squeezed into a process and model that does little to leverage their strengths as women are sensing a better path to success, one that resonates with women, appeals to men and is fun and effortless to implement. With the pressure placed by female clients, female advisors are more encouraged to break from the traditional path, forging a new model for success that is more conducive to their style and nature.
As the female client continues to pressure Wall Street from one side, female advisors are pushing back from the other, slowly infusing a new approach, a new business model and a new way of connecting and engaging clients with authenticity and clarity. This new model for the new paradigm is welcomed by clients and advisors of both genders.
Like most healthy adults, we continuously work to shake ourselves free of the old family scripts and attitudes and beliefs that are no longer healthy and productive in our life today. So, too, must the female advisors heal the scars from days gone by, and look to the future, focusing on a more authentic approach to engaging clients, building trusting relationships, inspiring new options and motivating prospects and clients to do what’s best for their financial future.
This process creates a “WIN WIN” for all.
Image credit depositphotos.com @carloscastilla