Wealth Industry Improves For Women As Clients, Advisors - But Can Do Better, Says Julius Baer

Robbie Lawther, Reporter, London, 29 August 2017


A focus on the needs of Millennials might be getting in the way of appreciating the requirements of women both as clients and those looking to advance careers in wealth management.

The number of women in wealth management is rising, both as advisors and as clients. Since the start of the 21st century, great strides have been taken by many large financial institutions to increase this number and change the attitudes of women in wealth management. 

WealthBriefing recently interviewed Annabel Bosman, managing director, head of relationship management at Julius Baer in London, about the firm’s strong stance to improve equality within the company. She said the industry could do more in terms of studies on what women want within the wealth management sector.

“I certainly saw that happen in the past, and it has probably gone a little bit out of fashion in favour of groups like Millennials,” said Bosman. “I don’t think it does any harm to try and get a sense of any particular demographic. We are very much in favour of talking to our clients and trying to get a sense of what they want. You will find eight times out of ten, what are important to female clients differs to what male clients find important. Again, it is gender stereotyping but male clients seem more focused on the net result, and female clients are more focused on the goals - e.g. achieving things for their families. We probably can do more as an industry to try and understand what women want.”

There have been various initiatives put in place by institutions to improve female client relations. In July, UBS launched a new advisory board, comprised of business leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, to help drive its five-year plan to better serve the world’s wealthy women. However, ideas like this are very few and far between in the industry, and things will need to change with the amount of female wealth holders skyrocketing.

In April 2015, BMO Wealth Institute said that women are the primary breadwinners in 40 per cent of American households. In the US alone, women control $14 trillion in personal wealth and that number is expected to grow to $22 trillion by 2020. Also, UBS found that the world's female billionaire population grew faster than the male billionaire population, rising by a factor of 6.6 compared to a factor of 5.2 for men. Bosman highlighted her firm’s effort to meet the demands of the growing women wealth holder population.

“In terms of the client base, a lot of the work that we have done has been quite focused on making sure that our relationship management population reflects our client base,” said Bosman. “Our client base doesn’t come in one shape. We have a myriad of different clients. In fact across our Julius Baer client base, 46 per cent of our main account holders are women. There has been a real shift in terms of the female breadwinner. Also the female decision-maker; even if they are not the breadwinner they are controlling the family purse strings. And if we don’t reflect that within our relationship manager population then frankly we are getting something wrong there.”

Despite Millennials becoming the “craze” of the financial sector, Bosman was determined to state the work that Julius Baer is doing to increase equality in terms of men and women at the company. The firm can boast a 41.2 per cent ratio of women at the entire company, according to its Corporate Sustainability Report 2016. Bosman proudly says that the firm is still looking to better those stats, and is now looking to improve the numbers within its relationship management department.

“It is quite an interesting one because at senior manager level at Julius Baer, our split is very good,” added Bosman. “For me that’s a really positive sign. Where we are slightly more challenged is at the relationship level, and that’s what we are really focused on. Both myself and Tracey Reddings, who has recently joined us, are very focused on how we can attract more female relationship managers into Julius Baer. It’s a difficult one, I think we have to be more open and creative about the types of conversations we are having we headhunters, the types of headhunters we are using and the places we are looking for candidates. I guess without taking a hard quota approach, we do want to make sure we are seeing plenty of female CVs. That is a bit challenging because it is a fairly small population; lots of the other banks are doing something similar.”

According to a study by analytics firm Cerulli Associates in January, women represent only 15.7 per cent of the 310,504 financial advisors in the industry across the US, a country where one might assume the situation of women was more advanced. Many firms are starting to adopt various different schemes to improve the amount of women working within the industry. In March, as reported by this publication, Royal Bank of Canada pledged to promote gender equality across its workforce as well as the wider financial services industry after signing the Women in Finance Charter. 

Bosman, who joined the firm in 2015 from Deutsche Bank, where she was a director for six years, believes grassroots level (universities) is where financial institutions need to look to improve their gender balance.

“There is clearly a fair amount of work that we have to do in terms of attracting women into relationship manager level,” said Bosman. “Not a bad starting point but still work to be done. So I think you need to start at grassroots level. And that is a challenge, it’s a challenge not just to attract women but generally it is getting more and more difficult to attract good candidates into wealth management and broader into the financial services sector.”

The managing director of Julius Baer said: “You have got to start at that level; we have got to think about how we get the message across to younger women. Just as I saw when I was coming out of university that actually wealth management is a really good place where you can have some control as a woman across your career path. I think the financial sector has a role to play in promoting subjects and degrees towards women. I think we should be far more on the front foot in terms of getting into universities and having those conversations with the women’s networks, and that type of grass roots conversation is vitally important. There’s definitely an imbalance there, I don’t have all the answers but I am really passionate about trying to be part of the change.”

Some firms have looked to change their marketing stance towards women. In March, UBS launched an international brand campaign with a focus on women, highlighting how the Swiss firm and its peers are targeting current and female clients as a growing source of business. However, Bosman is wary of strategic marketing for women, and believes it could be seen as a negative.

“I think it is a really fine tight rope to walk because I have seen it go horribly wrong the other way, where there are marketing documents that are pink,” said Bosman. “As a woman if I were a client I would find that incredibly patronising. I think we have got to try and move away from taking out any sort of gender bias whether it is male or female. We have a far more neutral approach to our marketing that will be able to appeal to both men and women. I don’t think it is as straight forward as having events targeted at women. I tried that in the past, it had some degree of success but equally you can end up alienating a lot of women. It’s a very delicately balanced thing but the more neutral we can be around marketing, around events, the better.”

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