Women going through difficult life events — such as a divorce or the death of their spouse — are vulnerable and need an investment adviser more than ever. It’s an opportunity for women advisers to be their hero, said an adviser who specializes in helping women in those situations.
“Women in transition typically don’t come out the other end in a good place,” Stacy Francis, chief executive of Francis Financial Inc., said at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit Nov. 11 in New York. “What’s challenging is some of these women haven’t had a great experience with the financial industry.”
That opens the door for women advisers because female clients can be put off by patronizing male advisers.
“There is a huge opportunity to serve these women,” Francis said. “Women, if they’ve gone through a transition, typically prefer to work with another woman. There’s just not enough of us.”
Both women coming out of a divorce and widows tend to struggle. Their income can drop sharply and their careers may have stalled while they raised children. Their finances may have been managed by their husbands and their retirement savings may be tied up with his. Many worry about how they will fare financially on their own.
The best way to help them is by assembling professionals who can address the various challenges a woman in transition faces, Francis said. For instance, she could need not only an investment adviser but also a CPA, an estate attorney, a life coach and maybe a divorce attorney.
“You can put that team together for her,” Francis said. “Cradle her in all those great resources. You’ll be her adviser for life. She’ll rave about you and refer every single friend she has to you.”
Francis took the first steps on her career path when she was a little girl. The first vulnerable woman she knew was her grandmother, who Francis said was abused by her grandfather and passed away due to the trauma.
Her grandmother told Francis she stayed in her marriage because she felt “financially trapped,” Francis said. That revelation in her youth from her grandmother inspired Francis to become the person she is as an adult.
“It turns your whole life to be something different than you thought it was going to be,” Francis said. “It shapes what I do every day. It’s why I’m so passionate and driven.”
In addition to her advisory firm, Francis also founded, at the age of 26, Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit that provides pro bono financial planning for women in crisis. Francis maintains space between Francis Financial and Savvy Ladies. The women she helps in the latter organization don’t become clients of the former.
But the work she does with Savvy Ladies is central to her background and builds her credibility with the women in transition who walk through her door at Francis Financial.
“Savvy Ladies is my story, my why,” Francis said. “It is the reason I get up in the morning and work 15 to 16 hours a day. That’s when trust is built. [A potential client] wants to hear your personal story. Why do you do this work? That is why she is going to hire you as opposed to someone else.”
The number of women who need help from someone like Francis is growing during the coronavirus pandemic, which has especially set back women financially and in their careers.
The number of women seeking help from Savvy Ladies has soared. Those who turn to Francis Financial are under financial stress as they also struggle to come out of the pandemic.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my career other than, I’d say, 2008,” during the financial crisis, Francis said.
All advisers should step up and help address the situation, she said. “Every adviser can do better serving female clients.”
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