Women in the Financial Services Industry
Volume 20 No 3 Summer 2019
Women in the Financial Services Industry
Official IARFC Publication www.IARFC.org
IN THIS ISSUE
When to Start Talking to Kids About Money — It’s Sooner Than You Think
Rethinking Dividend-Generating Stocks The Glass Ceiling
Having More Insurance Prospects Is Only Part of the Answer
Choose To Rise To The Top
Hannah E. Swigert, RFC ®
When examining the role of women in financial services, the IARFC ® turns to someone who has learned from the past and uses it to make her way in the future.
Hannah Swigert, RFC ® of Columbia Financial in Centerville, OH reflects on how things have evolved for women as they rise in the ranks of financial services and her own personal journey over the years…
Navigating the Evolving Gender Bias
Reflections of a Personal Journey with Hannah Swigert, RFC®
When she started her career over 20 years ago, she was teaching financial planners across the country who were predominately men. At that time, depending on the area of the country, basically men ruled the roost — sometimes as much as 90%. And they were mostly in their 50s and 60s. The challenge at that time was to win their approval and trust. “Youth and gender were my two biggest obstacles — they were skeptical that I could add value to their practice. I often heard the comment they had been in the business longer
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than I had been alive.” She had to toughen up, and learn to listen… really listen, to be able to provide a unique perspective and to earn their respect. Looking back, she feels she learned far more from her students than the continuing education she taught them.
As a practitioner not only did she face the age/gender bias, she went up against long-standing relationships. “I got a guy,” was a phrase she heard often from prospects. Hannah explained, even when I knew I was a better choice, sometimes I was battling with a decades-long relationship with a broker.” At times her planning strategies were undermined when “that guy” held pieces of her client’s financial puzzle and was making moves also. This rarely ended in effective plan implementation for the client, and resulted in more stress and confusion for everyone. Hannah says the hardest lesson she learned in those early years was recognizing when to move on. “There just isn’t enough room at the table for advisors who don’t share common values, and it isn’t good for the client. Recognizing when to walk away has been a most valuable lesson.”
Over and above the age/gender challenges and long-standing relationships, these days, time management is the biggest hurdle. It’s hard to coordinate both the client’s and the consultant’s busy schedules. Hannah feels she is very different from most of “the guys” out there, and rarely runs into the challenges from early in her career. She credits her team’s approach for this, which she says is deeply comprehensive and customizable. “Our client’s investment and financial plan is like a snowflake – there is only one of them. When we are sitting at the table with someone whose overall needs are not being met, regardless of whether they’ve “got a guy,” it is easy for them to make the transition to our firm.”
According to Hannah, women consultants are generally better communicators — they pay more attention to detail. She feels they can break things down in an easy-to-understand fashion and that is a big advantage. However, interestingly enough she does face a bias from
women — an ingrained tendency for women to look to men for the answers and take the leading role. “In older generations, it’s difficult to break years of programming. I find women, especially widows, hold to the same gender bias their husbands did. I take a strong position with them because they need it and subconsciously want it, in order to feel secure.”
Her client approach differs. With men she is direct, to the point and respects their time. Women, she feels, are not as quick to make a decision which requires more patience in getting to know them. “With women it is harder to pull out information, they are more guarded when it comes to family and finances. I let them drive the pace and the depth to which I can probe. Sometimes you have to pose a question and let them think about it on their own terms for a while.”
For the future of women consultants in general, Hannah feels that women mentors are essential. In her early days, there were very few women coaches to help dispel the stereotypes. “In my experience, the industry had been a men’s club for so long, I found myself walking in a man’s shoes. In more recent years, I’ve seen successful women celebrate being financial consultants AND mothers, wives, widows, divorcees and realized this makes them uniquely qualified to give advice about those same life experiences. Because that’s what our clients need — someone who’s been there. They respect that.”
Statistically there are more women than men. She saw women consultants specializing early on more than men — honing their skills in one particular area. “Women are becoming experts in one field. With as complicated as financial planning has become, I think it benefits the industry overall to expand on specialty areas of financial advice. I think women embrace that more than men.”
Her advice for marketing yourself is… be relevant, cut the fluff, and less is more. In an information overload, social media society, a consultant has to be ready with useful information…and TIMELY information. You hear that word so
much you forget what it means. I’m talking about being in the right place at the right time with the right information. This is hard to do unless you really are specializing. “You have to know your client and know what hurts… sometimes even before they do.”
For her own future, she sees spending more time with clients and less on running day-to-day business operations. Cultivating a successful team and successor is critical to her plan. “The role of mentor is the best continuing education. It keeps you sharp, it helps you see things from a different perspective, it keeps you from becoming stale. Even though I am a teacher still, I myself, continue to grow from interaction with my team. It keeps me on the cutting edge of learning.”
As a Registered Financial Consultant and a member of the IARFC, she encourages the Association to develop a substantiated resource center for all its members. With the myriad of options out there, it would be helpful to access member rated tools and information. “In my Utopian Financial Services Association, I would love to see member driven chapters formed by topic, not by region. Small focus groups where advisors could learn from experts in a certain field. It would be advantageous for those wanting to establish themselves in a particular market, and also great for the veterans to stay sharp and contribute to the betterment of their field.”
It certainly bears notice that the last three winners of the IARFC National Financial Plan Competition have been females. Hannah feels this underlines the fact that women are detail oriented and poised to achieve excellence in the financial planning arena. “Women are planners by nature. Men often just want the bottom line. A skillfully delivered financial plan can satisfy both, but the implementation itself is the real key. Because above all else, our success is measured by the success of our clients — that is our litmus test.” �
Contact: 937.938.9610 email@example.com www.columbiafinancialinc.com
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It’s on record that the past three winners of the IARFC ® National Financial Plan Competition have been women – not just women teams, but individual presenters. The most recent, in March of this year at the IARFC Conference in Nashville, was Rebecca Boyle from University of North Texas. She obtained her first place award with a combination of a well thought out financial plan live finals presentation to a “fictional” client couple.
Life after Nashville finds her in St. Louis, MO as a para planner. She had not won the Competition at the time she was interviewed but it was of interest to her future employer that she had made it to the finals. At her position, she assists with different aspects of the financial planning process like tax projections and preparing client reviews, and researches topics as they are assigned to her. Her real world experience is definitely a lot more of sitting down and getting one thing accomplished vs college life of jumping around between different jobs and classes. The work life is more structured.
Rebecca relates to growing up with a mom who listened to financial programs on the radio whenever they were in the car. Combined with parents who advised steering clear of mounting debt and living within her means, she learned valuable financial principles which are fundamental in the work she is doing today.
Identifying the NextGen of Woman Financial Consultants
Rebecca Boyle – Winner of the IARFC National Financial Plan Competition in Nashville, TN at the IARFC Annual Conference.
From over 70 financial plans entered, Rebecca advanced through the recorded presentation Semi-Finals round to a live Finals presentation in front of experienced financial consultant judges to achieve first place in the competition.
Rebecca is a graduate of the University of North Texas and currently works in St. Louis, MO.
However, her first area of concentration was obtaining a major in music with the goal of becoming a music teacher. Along the way, she developed a passion for helping people and realized it could be accomplished by helping others reach their financial goals. She likes the results of seeing someone coming in confused or anxious and stressed out, changing their demeanor to a calm and confident individual excited about the future.
Rebecca has a vested interest in helping people figure out what they want to achieve regarding their financial goals and align that with how they think about money. She looks to take their vague goals of “having enough for retirement” and “paying for my kid’s college” and turn them into a workable plan of achievement. Their values have to align with how they choose to spend or save and her job is to help them figure out a workable financial plan.
To her, now is a perfect opportunity for women to enter into financial services. There seems to be a push in the industry for more women, so it is the right time to be thinking of it as a career option. She has also benefited from the fact of having female bosses and work environments. It seems like no big deal to her for women to become the director of planning or have a higher position in the firm - that’s the emerging norm.
Her advice for other young women entering a financial services curriculum at a university is to not hesitate because of the perception that it is going to be dominated by men. There are a lot of wonderful work places that don’t care if you are a man or a woman – so women really just have to go for it. The more women who choose financial services as a viable career, the more comfortable any new ones entering the field are going to be. �
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International Women’s Journies
Our theme of Women in Financial Services continues as we look into the journey of our International Women Teresa So Ph.D., RFC® Chairman, Hong Kong and Macau, IARFC Hanying (JJ) Liang, RFC® Special Assistant to the Chairman Educational Program with IMM in Greater China
Register: How do you feel women excel in financial services? What are their strengths when dealing with clients?
Dr. So: Compared to the opposite sex, women are usually more attentive and more patient with details. They tend to be more empathetic and can quickly develop close rapport with clients. It is therefore best for women to at first build and maintain good communication with clients and then gain their trust.
Register: What is the major change in the role of woman from when you started in financial services to today’s female consultant?
Dr. So: When I started my career in Financial Services in the 1980’s, females in the industry were rare — almost all worked in the back office, no frontline sales. Top executive positions were also dominated by males. As Financial Services evolved over the past decades, more women joined the industry as frontline sales and aspired to leadership positions. Female consultants not only have greater access to career advancement opportunities but can also enjoy flexible time management to strike an optimal balance between career and family.
Register: What are the hurdles they need to overcome in today’s financial world?
Teresa So, PhD, RFC®
Dr. Teresa So, Doctor of Philosophy, 36 years in the Financial Services Industry, Chairman, Hong Kong and Macau, IARFC
Responsibilities: To prosper the Hong Kong and Macau operation of IARFC by leading the growth of the RFC and the RFA professional designations in both markets
Founder & Chief Financial Officer, General International Agency Limited (GIA) — Resp, a Hong Kong-based company establish in 2001 engaging in holistic consultancy service — Responsibilities: To grow, manage and lead GIA.
Dr. So: Practitioners, both men and women, should keep abreast of the rapid and frequent changes in the financial world and keep up with the market trend to identify potential risks and opportunities for clients. They must therefore continuously devote their time to upkeep their interest. For women, this is an issue of balancing commitments between career and family.
It is not uncommon for female financial consultants to meet clients outside of office hours. If their spouses and families lack full understanding, conflicts may occur.
Register: What advice would you give women who are starting out in the business?
Dr. So: I would advise women practitioners to equip themselves and be truly professional, embrace the change and excel in this highly competitive and ever-changing industry. To reach that level, women must keep updating their knowledge and surround themselves with smart people and role models. One of the best ways to start with is by completing an RFC program and pursuing an RFC professional designation. The program not only delivers professional knowledge of the industry but also gives practitioners access to valuable insights and experience of influential industry leaders. Continuing Education is always an excellent supplement. I would also advise women practitioners to exercise good time management between business and family so that they can enjoy the benefits of both worlds.
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Dr. So won the highest honor in AIA - Top Grand District of the Year 2018
For women practitioners who aspire for a management path (versus a sales path), I would advise them to start early to pick up management knowledge and polish management skills. In Financial Services and many other industries as well, I believe the “early bird” gets the worm.
Register: How has the IARFC helped you in your own professional journey?
Dr. So: The IARFC Financial Planning Framework has supplemented my knowledge. The IARFC Continuation Education activities, of which I have been involved as a speaker or a participant, have helped in refreshing my knowledge in Financial Planning. In my own professional journey as the Chief Executive of GIA, my RFC professional designation ensures that my up-to-standard education, experience and integrity catalyzes my clients’ trust in me. The designation serves as an endorsement of my professionalism.
Register: What do you see the role of women in the next 5-10 years?
Dr. So: In the next 5 to 10 years there will be more women participating in Financial Services, in both sales and management. There will be more women elite producers and management leaders. This will be the situation not only in Hong Kong and Macau but in Asian countries where Financial Services is better developed, for example, Singapore.
Register: How do you see the role of women in China vs the role of women in the US? How are they the same? How do they differ?
Dr. So: The Financial Services market in the U.S. is mature. A client’s engagement with a financial consultant is based on the professionalism of the latter. Personal relationship counts less.
In China, the Financial Services market is still emerging. In choosing a financial consultant, a client often prioritizes personal connection over other considerations.
There is one similarity — in both countries there will be an enhanced population of women entering into Financial Services.
Register: Personally, what is the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome in your financial services career?
Dr. So: There were situations where I was the only woman in a crowd of men. In those circumstances, I had to relax and forget about the gender of the people around me. I had to be mindful of not letting my gender affect my career.
It did happen that a few downline agents chose not to be headed by me, a woman. They conservatively thought female leaders, as compared to male leaders, were over critical with something unimportant. Over time, I dealt with my downline agents persuasively and proved to them I am not a picky leader.
As the Chief Executive of GIA, I have been facing the challenge of ever-increasing rent and staff costs. I have had to bring in enough revenue to meet company expenses. Facing the tightening regulations and the Fintech revolution, how to lead my associates to evolve and excel with industry trends and exceed customers’ expectations has always been my ultimate goal.
I have always lived with my mentor’s words: “Money is good to have but not devastating to be without.”
Register: What is the best advice you have ever received from a mentor regarding your career.
Dr. So: I have always lived with my mentor’s words: “Money is good to have but not devastating to be without.” This message inspired me that in our lives, while money is a useful tool, there are other values of paramount importance. To me, these are family, friendship and contribution to society. I love my family members. I care for my friends. I have made donations to help the needy in society.
Register: What are your thoughts on Continuing Education and how it benefits the financial consultant?
Dr. So: Financial consultants must keep pace with this fast moving and competitive market to serve clientsprofessionally. To provide clients with relevant professional advice, they must update their existing knowledge and acquire new know how from time to time. Continuing Education helps financial consultants in this direction. �
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.iarfc-hk.org
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Hanying (JJ) Liang, RFC®
Hanying (JJ) Liang, RFC®, 19 years in the financial services industry.
Special Assistant to the Greater China Development Chair Liang Tien Lung, RFC®
In charge of promoting RFC educational programs with IMM in Greater China
I was an Independent Financial Adviser when I first joined this industry in the U.S. in 2001, utilizing financial planning, and advising clients especially on asset allocation, portfolio management, risk management and trust accounts for pension, education and estate planning.
Then, after coming back to Taiwan, I worked for a European Wealth Management Company and later joined the local Taiwan Financial Group’s institutional department. I was in charge of asset allocation and portfolio management for both private clients and financial institution clients.
I serve life insurance companies in two ways. One is to give presentations for investment proposals and trading global securities across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, funds, private equity, structure products, and derivatives. Two, is to assist with investment link insurance product design and execute the product once on the market for sale.
I am connected with IMM since their established year in 1983 because the founder Mr. Liang is my father. For 36 years, IMM has been instrumental in raising the standard of Worldwide Chinese Life Insurance professional social status and image. We interview the role models in our industry and publish in our monthly magazine. We promote life-long learning concepts, encourage life agents systematically, and structure learning processes with international certified qualifications. These altogether increase the ability to develop and grow their careers in the long run.
In addition to the media and publication promotion for the purpose of becoming an RFC, we have strict requirements for
whomever comes to apply and register. We request candidates with an ethical background, a qualified education, and certain equivalent working experience. This ensures that once they go through the learning process, they can apply what they have learned in daily practice. For the outstanding certified RFCs, we will interview and publish them in Advisers’ Magazine (now up to 362 issues). Some extraordinary RFC practitioners will be invited to share their cases and practices at the Worldwide Chinese Life Insurance Conference and IDA Annual Conference. Since 1996, about 8,000 delegates join this event each year hosted in different cities worldwide — for example, August of 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand and August 2020 in Toronto, Canada.
While we promote the RFC program, we focus on the younger generation, (through higher education degrees, study abroad, and/or with certain years of working experience in financial industry), who love continuous learning for professional career development and who have become a role model of our industry. Both men and women are balanced candidates and look at being holistic international financial professionals.
Since we select strictly whomever can apply to the RFC program, we build up professional reputations of those current RFC practitioners. Gradually, RFCs acquire the reputation as quality candidates. At the same time at IMM, three editing department in Taiwan, China, and south east Asia, interview and publish those RFCs. Worldwide Chinese Life Insurance, IDA, CE seminars, Greater China RFC Conferences and other local city summits, all increase the exposure of public awareness and professional image. This is a branding strategy we have applied since year 2002. Members will find the meetings and gatherings
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I am connected with IMM since their established year in 1983 because the founder Mr. Liang is my father.
teams. We all pursue one mission - to provide a holistic financial plan to help our clients fulfill their lives and dreams.
According to IRDC (Insurance Information Research and Development Center, established by IMM in 2002) and PHBS RMIRC Beijing University HSBC Risk Management and Insurance Research Center, established in 2011, we conducted a survey in 2018 for the ecosystem of China Insurance life agents. The samples are 13,884 from 18 provinces, 85 cities and 35 insurance agencies. The survey indicated 71% of life agents are women in China. In the last 20 years of life insurance development in China, they play important roles. They are more compassionate, warm, caring, and sensational, which are good traits for marketing and communication in a people service oriented industry, making it easier to open up a primitive market. I believe these characteristics apply to American women, too.
On the other hand, the U.S. is a much more matured financial market, with more delicate segments of focus on market target groups and specified demands of advanced clients. Therefore, women who work in the U.S. financial market require much more expertise and logical thinking to survive and outperform in the long run.
JJ and IMM founder and father Mr. Liang
are long term learning and growing platforms. It is a service we can provide to the IARFC members.
With the RFC status, it represents a certain level of professional knowledge and learning ability to be up to date. This group of people is like a big family who are ethical, competitive, and holistic. The same identity gives every RFC respect and the opportunity to share on a similar level, across boundaries of countries, companies, agencies, and
The IARFC Evolves in the next 3-5 years… First, global wealth has accelerated and clients are more and more sophisticated and international. The awareness of having a financial plan for each one and each family has been increasing more and more. Obtaining the RFC is the career goal for every financial practitioner who looks forward to being more professional and grow in this industry. Since 1984, there has been an extraordinary increase of RFC practitioners in our global financial industry. It will attract more people who want to build up their brand and become more professional to join the IARFC, and be part of a learning and sharing organization and an international financial society. I think each RFC cherishes their own reputation and contributes to the force of selfrespect and self-admiration to the public. In the future, there will be more and younger and energetic international professionals who will love to become RFCs and will lift the standard of our industry and advance to a better and prosperous society.
Time changes, technology advances, every day is a new day. Our clients are growing and thus we have to grow all lifelong. To be ahead of our clients is being responsible. To be professional, we need to continue to learn. Learning is like rolling a boat against the water flow, if you don’t move forward, you will be pulled back. Being an RFC is a starting point to open up a systematic and structured way to solve problems. This method will guide our clients in the direction they want to progress in their lifetime and continue to make it better. It is a direction. It is a system. It is a guideline. Only with CE, we can lead and manage the changing society and find the path to prepare ourselves.
There was a senior business owner, one of my clients, who told me that our role is like a gardener building a beautiful garden for a lifetime, every day with discipline to take out bad plants and keep nurturing beautiful seeds of flowers and trees. We design, we make, we adjust, and we watch it grow to a beautiful garden. �
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