By Ande Frazier
As a young woman starting out as a financial advisor in Northwest Georgia more than 20 years ago, I faced my fair share of challenges. I began my career in a very small town bereft of many professional women, let alone young women in financial services.
This environment forced me to learn quickly. When clients would walk into their first meeting with me, they were sometimes taken aback and even seemed a bit skeptical about my potential competence as the guardian of their financial assets.
Many of the hurdles I experienced then are still experienced by young women today. Financial services is a wonderful career field for women. But women are often scared away from entering the industry over concerns about its male-dominated culture, commission-based compensation models and a dearth of females in management positions.
Regardless, we are seeing more women enter the field of insurance and financial services than ever before. For those individuals, I have a few pieces of advice for excelling in this rewarding and fulfilling career path.
1. Listen more than you speak. I found in my early years that I could engage my clients by asking open-ended and introspective questions. Inquire about their previous experience with financial advisors and what they hope to accomplish through their relationship with you. Leave at the door any personal agenda you might have had prior to the meeting and listen closely to your clients’ desires. This is the best way to deliver an experience they truly value.
2. Pay attention. Building off the first point, follow up on your clients’ responses by closely monitoring their financial habits and associated monetary behaviors. For example, people tend to overestimate how much they can save on a monthly or yearly basis. Saying you are going to save $500 per month is one thing, actually doing it is another. As women, I believe we have a natural tendency to observe human behavior. Use that tendency to your advantage by educating your clients about the importance of developing good financial habits and monitoring the results.
3. Mobility is freedom. Many women are not willing to sacrifice a work/life balance for the sake of their career. And in today’s age, you don’t have to. Look for firms offering education around mobile capabilities that enable employees to work anywhere at any time. Countless apps and web-based platforms exist that allow for collaboration between employees in different geographical locations. If your employer does not allow for work to take place outside the office, it might be time to reevaluate your future with the company.
Women have so much to offer the financial services industry. Female advisors are also in high demand to meet the needs of the growing number of women who are wealthy and have greater decision-making power over household finances. However, the financial services industry could do a better job of positioning itself in such a way that women want to be a part of it professionally. We need to put structures in place to support and encourage women coming into our business. The office culture needs to be a welcoming and inviting place. Most of all, we need to put women in leadership positions and show a clear path for career advancement.
Women do not need to wait for these advancements to come into place. There is plenty of opportunity to enter and thrive in the financial services and insurance industries today, and I am excited about women’s future role across the landscape.
Ande Frazier, CLU, ChFC, RICP, is president of Leap Systems, an independent affiliate of Penn Mutual. Ande may be contacted at [email protected].
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