My Experience Finding a Financial Advisor

Jessica Darmoni Financial Industry Leave a Comment

Working for a company like DyMynd, that helps financial institutions attract and retain female clients, I had read and written about the experiences women have when looking for a financial advisor (FA).  I am familiar with the notion that women don’t feel they are seen as individuals when speaking with FAs, they don’t believe their specific needs or opinions are taken into consideration when FAs talk about investment vehicles and they certainly are not happy with the financial industry as a whole.

I was most surprised to learn that most high earning women do not even have financial advisors.  This was proved to me a few weeks ago when I went out to lunch with one of my role models, a very successful and high profile women in the derivatives industry.  I was telling her how I had been interviewing FAs and she asked me to refer anyone to her that I liked as she was in the market for one as well.

As I had an immediate need to combine an existing IRA and 401(k), I did not want to be too picky. I was looking for someone that simply did not rub me the wrong way. A bonus for me was to find someone that would take my specific investment opinions into consideration. For example, I would love to invest in female-led companies. I was looking for someone that would it least take these ideas into consideration and explain why they would or would not want to include these companies in my investment portfolio.  Easy enough, right?

Lack of Effort

The first financial advisor was referred to me through a friend.  Her financial advisor was in the suburbs but she swore he was great and could help me make millions. I was hoping for an FA that was located in Chicago as I live and work in the city.  I was looking for someone that I could get to easily on public transportation, or that would come to meet me.  If I was going to be handing over all of the money I have invested throughout my adult life, this person could it least make an effort to introduce themselves face to face. Even though this guy was in the far Northwest suburbs, I didn’t think it would be too much of an issue.  I was wrong.

This FA didn’t really come to the city because “it took up too much time from his day.”  While I understand not wanting to come to the city, the suburbs make me itch, I was disappointed that he didn’t have the big picture in mind.  On occasion, I will make the trek to Palatine or Buffalo Grove to see my friends that have bought the house with a backyard and white fence because I know it will make them happy. This guy lost out on a client because he didn’t want to spend one afternoon at a Starbucks downtown.

Hand Holding and Too Much Talking

The next guy was recommended to me by an industry colleague.  However, he was the typical financial advisor I hear about in DyMynd focus groups.  He talked too much, didn’t listen to anything I was saying and thought he knew everything there was to know about female investors. He was located in Chicago’s Loop, already he had a leg up, and had been in the business for 25 years.

He was talkative and somewhat charming in a “I can tell you are in a sales role” kind of way.  However, he put his foot in his mouth when he started talking about his female clients.  I had asked him if he had a different approach when talking to his female and male clients.  He said that his male clients took a more hands on approach, while women just wanted someone they could trust to do it for them.  While I could understand older widowed women taking this perspective, I didn’t see my female friends going this route.  I tried to get a word in but he continued to talk about himself, his wife, his kids, his career and so on.  It was when he said that his female clients didn’t really understand the markets and needed a lot of hand holding, that I decided this FA was not for me.

First of all, I come from a background in derivatives and do understand the markets.  I thought for a split second that maybe I am an exception but I quickly doubted that as my friends are also smart, clever and market savvy women. Second, he never asked me about my specific investment opinions or strategies.  Did he not think I was educated enough to have my own thoughts on an investment portfolio? Also, I did not need hand holding.  I want to feel empowered by my investments.  If he were to stop talking, I would have happily told him all of this.  Needless to say, I did not have the chance.

Setting Up a Meeting With My Husband

The third FA had the most promise as he was referred to me through a friend of a friend of DyMynd’s.  He had been prepped about my immediate needs, that if he could help me now I would probably be able to bring a lot more business in down the line and that I had been having trouble finding someone I liked.  We met in his office in the city and the conversation started off like it normally does; he asked me about my career and life goals, my assets and as I am married, my husband’s financial situation.  While I think this conversation is weird to have the first time you meet someone, you wouldn’t be bringing up your graduate school debt on a first date, I am used to the invasiveness and awkwardness of meeting an FA for the first time.

Where this guy shot himself in the foot was when he asked me to set up a meeting with him, my husband and my husband’s business partner before he addressed my needs. It was like a kick in the gut.

If I found a financial advisor that I liked and that simply helped me combine a 401K and IRA, it would come naturally that I would end up bringing my husband into the picture. We file joint tax returns, we have joint bank accounts and we both own The Title Connection.  My relationship with this FA would have grown organically.  However, since this man was more interested in my husband than he was me, there was no future for us to work together.

What Women Want

Unfortunately, I became one of the many statistics DyMynd refers to when talking with financial advisors.  I didn’t feel that I was being looked at as an individual, and my husband was the client not me.  They didn’t cater to my needs or take my concerns, perspectives and approaches into consideration.  They talked a lot, thought they knew what I needed and didn’t make the effort to get to know me better.

What’s most interesting to me is that this is a common occurrence.  While I am an emerging professional, there are many experienced and established women that have also come across this challenge.  There is a large untapped market for financial advisors if they just stopped doing things the way they always have long enough to see that women want different things when it comes to their investments. The financial advisor that takes this approach to female investors will easily have the competitive edge.