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May 13, 2021updated 17 May 2021 4:01pm

Women’s wealth is projected to hit $93 trillion in 2023. Is wealth management paying enough attention?

By Rasika Sittamparam

Even as women’s wealth is projected to hit $93 trillion in 2023, many female wealth management clients’ needs are not being met. We meet the financiers pushing for change

Wealth management has traditionally been something of a boys’ club, and concerns that the industry does not sufficiently meet the needs of female HNWs are widespread.

A 2017 report by Orbium, a wealth management consultancy, found that among 50 leading wealth managers and private bankers who collectively oversee $2.5 trillion in AuM, 78 per cent think that the service is sub-par when it comes to addressing the needs of women clients.

But there is change afoot. A 2020 report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that wealth managers who ‘fail to adequately address the needs of female investors’ will be missing out on a ‘massive opportunity’ in the coming decade. Women, who, let’s not forget, make up more than half the world’s population, are accumulating wealth at ‘record rates’ – adding $5 trillion annually to their global assets.

The report projects women’s wealth will reach $93 trillion by 2023. The change is being driven by female entrepreneurs, according to Aastha Gurbax, a JP Morgan Private Bank managing director.

‘In the UK, female entrepreneurs are now starting businesses at more than twice the rate of men, and by 2035, women will earn more than 60 per cent of the country’s personal wealth. This is very powerful,’ Gurbax says. In 2015, London & Capital created a women’s private office, led by Jade Bentwood.

Bentwood left the firm in 2020 and the women-only offering was discontinued. However, the essence of that service and the significant portfolio of female clients continues at the firm, albeit without a gender-related label.

Such labels can sometimes risk appearing patronising notes Jessica Crane, an executive director at London & Capital who worked closely with Bentwood.

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‘We came to the conclusion that we didn’t need to have a formalised women’s offering as such,’ says Crane. ‘It was perhaps better just to show that we have front-office, experienced female advisers. Ultimately, the main thing that we could offer is choice.’

JP Morgan Private Bank’s Aastha Gurbax: Women tend to be ‘more conservatively positioned’ than men

She continues to receive client referrals from divorce lawyers – one of the few sectors of the private client industry in which women exceed the number of men. Some 61.6 per cent of advisers in the Spear’s Family Law Index are women.

Women are also well represented among tax and trust advisers, especially at senior levels, says Crane. She adds that it could be a good model for the wealth management industry to follow.

Spear’s data shows that women make up 58.3 per cent of tax and trust advisers but only 21 per cent of wealth managers. Crane says that women trustees are particularly successful and tend to excel at structuring and safeguarding assets for future generations.

Gurbax believes that, as clients, women are often goal-oriented and have an astute understanding of the needs of the wider family.

‘This would be the biggest difference – they don’t just look at the transactional side of an investment but are very much looking at the long-term legacy,’ she says.

‘The conversations end up being more holistic and encompass all different facets of their lives, including their families, choosing their philanthropic goals, their aspirations for the world and sustainability,’ says Gurbax, adding that women tend to be ‘more conservatively positioned’ than men.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are risk-averse. HSBC Private Banking’s Kirsty Moore says that women are in fact ‘just more risk-aware. There is the need to spend a little bit more time making sure they’re happy to take that risk that they need to when investing their funds.’

April Rudin, CEO of wealth management marketing firm the Rudin Group, feels that 2021 will be positive for women in finance, despite the fact that women faced increasing pressures from household duties and childcare throughout the Covid pandemic.

‘Women are natural planners,’ she says. ‘It’s a very good, portable career, right? You can take it with you. You can work as many hours as you want, take on as many clients as you want.’ With more women working in the industry, the quality of service for female clients can only improve.

Main image: London & Capital’s women in wealth network

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The 2021 Spear’s Wealth Management Index

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