The Invest in Women conference in Atlanta returned after a three-year hiatus and Beyond AUM was happy to represent it. The financial advisory industry has sometimes lagged in building representation among the female population. This is despite the largest wealth transfer currently underway, with women expected to control $30 trillion by the end of the decade and the status of female breadwinners increasing every day.
This is just one of the reasons why this conference is so important. Financial Advisor The magazine not only showcased topics important to women, but also created a learning and sharing environment in which women can thrive.
What do I mean by that? There is plenty of data that shows that women are more likely to participate in conversations and share information when they are around other women. With over 200 women in attendance at the conference, this was no exception. The conference’s main stage included accomplished women like Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic political strategist, and Liz Ann Sonders, managing director and chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, while breakout sessions delved into managing the practice, growth, financial planning and investment topics.
Let’s dive into some of the highlights.
Longevity and the New Retirement
Edward Jones’ Maddy Dychtwald explained that the alumni retreat is no more. Although we tend to think of retirement as going from rocking chairs to rock climbing, active retirement is not the only change and advisors should note and understand the four pillars of retirement. Based on a study by Edward Jones, we walked through the four pillars (or stages) of pre-retirement and post-retirement. Not so long ago, a person who was retiring had only been retired for about 10 years. Today’s retirees are spending up to 30 years in retirement, which requires a whole new kind of planning. This is where the four stages of retirement come in. Each stage (anticipation, release, reinvention and reflection) represents a moment of transformation, and each transformation represents a need for a different type of planning. The study can be found here.
Key points to remember: With retirement lasting up to 30 years now, financial advisors must consider more than the longevity of clients’ wealth. Clients now expect advisors to explore not only how to afford the next act, but also the possibilities of what the next act might look like. The three-legged stool is not enough.
Buying and selling consulting firms
The M&A landscape has changed and with multiples ranging from 5x to 20x EBITDA, financial advisory firms must understand the nuances of a transaction. This roundtable focused on the pros and cons of buying or selling a consulting firm. John Langston of Republic Capital Group stressed that advisers should not act alone. His firm follows a process that not only helps advisors discover their “why,” but also prepares and guides them through the transaction. The panel also included Teri Grubb, senior director of CAPTRUST, and Kay Lynn Mayhue of Merit Financial, an acquirer. Each voiced their “why”: Merit, using M&A as a growth strategy, while Teri’s company sought efficiencies, layoffs and career paths for her team.
Key points to remember: Whichever side of the deal you’re on, have a plan. Know why. Make an estimate. Benefit from a team of advisors. Follow a process. Don’t assume the outcome.
The fragile decade
Jeanie Underwood-Kotner led the discussion on the four pillars of retirement happiness and how advisors can lead conversations with their clients to guide them into and through our many phases of life. This can be accomplished by meeting your customers where they are through empathy and understanding, which in turn can create opportunities for deeper conversations about what they really want. Whether they’re leaving a corporate job, planning their family’s lifestyle, quitting or reinventing a career, having a process to guide those conversations will create an experience your customers won’t be able to resist.
Key points to remember: Whether you serve retirees, career Gen Xers, or stay-at-home millennial moms, you should have tools, resources, and processes in place that help your clients understand how their wealth can affect the decisions they make in their lives. This can’t be done without a true understanding of your clients’ goals, so you can focus on opportunities they may not even have considered.
Market and Economic Outlook
Liz Ann Sonders spoke virtually with a summary of the labor market, recession outlook, corporate earnings and the market. Liz Ann impressed with a detailed navigation of questions presented by Evan Simonoff of FA magazine.
Key points to remember: The labor market is a key indicator of an impending recession: not unemployment figures, but rather data on hiring freezes, job vacancies and layoffs. Often, this data arrives well before the unemployment figures. Covid has spurred an investment-driven economy versus a consumption-driven economy, resulting in an increased weight of GDP at the expense of consumption.
Are we in a bubble? Liz sees micro bubbles in narrative stuff like crypto. She made a point of it by quoting Warren Buffet: “When the tide of cash recedes, you can see who’s swimming naked.” During the discussion of corporate profits, she pointed out that keeping an eye on profit margins is more important than the profit figure itself. Ultimately, entering or exiting is a drunk question and not an investment strategy. Disciplined investing with a long-term perspective that considers time horizon and risk tolerance is the way to go. Although most advisors don’t assess a client’s emotional risk tolerance, they should. And a sale is always a time to buy when it suits your client’s overall plan. “Add low and cut high.”
Navigating the changing media landscape
Full disclosure – I was a member of this panel so there could be some bias. But we were awesome! Chris Cherry of J. Connelly Inc. led the discussion on whether and how advisors should seek media as a growth tactic. Media maven Kimberly Foss shared her personal story of her accidental call to the media and how it created momentum and awareness of her investment and financial planning expertise. We discussed changes in digital media and how technology and digital channels allow advisors to seize opportunities without a studio or fancy equipment. However, the media is not a one-and-done. Advisors should approach the media with clear desired outcomes, a strategic plan that links the media to their overall marketing plan, and an understanding of what success looks like.
Key points to remember: The media can build brand awareness both locally and nationally. There are strategy and marketing agencies like Beyond AUM and pure media agencies like J.Connelly Inc. that can help, but before you make that call, make sure you have a high-level understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and be ready. for a long-term investment of time and money. Although it may seem daunting, the results can prove invaluable to your business and open up opportunities that otherwise might never have existed.
The great resignation and non-retirement
Panelists Susan Bradley, Founder of the Sudden Money Institute, and Lisa Brown, Partner at CI Brightworth Private Wealth, explored the unprecedented departure and career pivots of so many men and women. Understanding how these career changes affect your clients’ lives shouldn’t be a simple matter of checking their financial plan. These events can affect even the most prepared pension plans. Compensation mistakes should be avoided and lifestyle pivots should be explored beyond finances.
Key points to remember: Early retirement, career change… these transitions have emotional and financial implications for your clients. So what should be done? Talk to your client about these types of transitions before the event. Dig deep to understand why they make employment decisions. What could trigger a change? How do they want and expect to live their life after the change? If advisors are proactive in including education and discussions on career change topics, clients will be more likely to open up and allow advice along the way.
confidence and women
Kahne Krause and Ashley Ilardo of Dimensional Fund Advisors led a discussion on women and trust with Katty Kay, BBC World News senior presenter and bestselling author of The trust code, which includes a study on women and trust. The science behind it suggests that biological and environmental factors affect confidence, and women are less confident than men. Advisors Sarah Charles (FORVIS Private Client) and Emi Umezawa (Mercer Advisors) shared how they build trust by being authentically themselves and using their female superpowers of empathy and compassion to help build relationships with clients lasting relationships.
Key points to remember: Women may be naturally less confident than men, but confidence can be built through internal validation and external reinforcement. As trust is developed, action is more easily achieved. Since success comes from confidence, women should own their skills instead of making excuses for them. Women should also elevate other women and amplify the success of others through external validation. The trust code is a fascinating book that both men and women should read.
This was just a selection of all the fantastic sessions that took place. This testifies to the fact that women not only contribute to shaping
the future of the financial services industry, but is leading the way. If you were at the conference, thank you for being part of such a great event. And if you missed it, there’s always next year! Be sure to follow Beyond AUM on LinkedIn, where we regularly post information about upcoming conferences and other events!
Gretchen Halpin is co-founder of Beyond AUM.