In this episode, Mike sits down with Nina O’Neal, Partner and Investment Advisor with Archer Investment Management and founder of the Female Advisor Network.

Her interest in creating a retreat for female advisors blossomed into a nationwide community, and today the Female Advisor Network helps female advisors connect and grow their businesses.

Tune in to this timely conversation where Nina and FMG Suite podcast host also discuss:

  • The importance of bringing more women into the industry
  • Common misconceptions about women investors
  • Tips for advisors to make women investors comfortable and excited to plan their financial future

As a national thought leader and commentator on industry topics and trends, Nina offers unique insight on the state of the industry and investors.

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Mike: Hi Nina.

Nina: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Mike: FMG celebrated a March by debuting our newest collection of women-focused content. We rolled out a new video, an infographic and a host of whole other items. When you log into your FMG dashboard, you can click on the banner and view the collection. Nina, have you had the opportunity to check out FMGs material yet?

Nina: I did. I was able to check it out and I'm glad to see some marketing material for women that focus on women or men that focus on women as a niche market.

Mike: Awesome. It's something that as we look, we are constantly critical of our content library and we try to prop up sections that we feel don't have enough content and tone down sections that do and we definitely felt like we needed some more in this area. Nina, I first want to talk to you about the Female Advisor Network. Can you take a few minutes and explain how the idea was created and where it stands today and what it looks to accomplish in the years ahead?

Nina: Yes. Just being a female advisor myself, I've been in the industry since 2006 and before that worked on Wall Street. I've had a lot of experience being just a woman in financial services in general and consistently as I met other women, heard that we had a lot of the same shared stories, experiences, hurdles and also a lot of the same I think benefits as far as being a female in financial services and how as advisors we may sometimes work a little different than men do. I've sought out a community or a way that we could expand on that or connect more. I didn't really find something by only female advisors for female advisors. So, I wanted to create a retreat where we could consistently or annually get together and network, deep dive into our practice, and our ourselves.

Started to think about the retreat and then just felt like three days together really wasn't fixing the need for community for female advisors that I think is beneficial. I think we talk about, we're low in retracting and attracting and retaining women in our industry as advisors. I think a lot of that comes from the lack of maybe a support network of other women that have already gone through or will go through the same processes and good times and bad. So, from the retreat, just started thinking about it going to a bigger picture as a national community and just started putting the wheels in motion to do so. That was the inspiration.

Where it stands today. It's not quite a year old. I formally launched it in late April. We have amazing women all over the country. I continue to be just blown away with the caliber of members that are coming in. We currently have several ways that we connect together and programs that we have implemented to support and mentor and educate and help each other. To start, there's an online platform and there's a members only site where they can see who the other members are. There's a lot of resources. We have a partner marketplace that FMG is a part of and that's what we offer—and thank you so much—we offer promotional products or services for female financial advisors as far as the pricing for the programs. Then we're also sharing educational content via social media and different ways to share with them what these programs or products may work for their business. We're trying to get other women exposed to what resources are out there to do some of the things, outsourcing marketing content that's so hard to create in our industry and other other things like CRM systems, et cetera. That's a digital way that we met. We get together and support each other.

The other way is through a mighty network, which is like our close social program. Then in person we have just launched community connections, which are local meetups like ambassadors in that area. So starting those in late 2019. We have conference connections, which is where I've been working with conference creators to try to get, if they don't already have something, try to get something at the very beginning of the conference where women can get together for coffee or a drink, one, to network so they know other women throughout the rest of the conference, but also maybe a buddy system. If they're doing things at night might make them feel more comfortable to have other women with them.

Another thing that we do is we have an accountability partner program and a mentorship program. We have women across the country that the members write in that they're interested in either, we ask a series of questions through a survey and then we're partnering them with a good fit for either an accountability partner or a mentor or mentee. Then they're sent a workbook that's a 12-month guided program that I wrote in order to facilitate these programs. There's lots more to come out.

I'm trying to think of what else. We do have a student membership. We encourage students in any program, whether it's college or masters, to join, get to know some of the women in their area to learn about financial services, and learn about being a female advisor. We encourage our members to be open to the students to reach out to them for either coffee, internships or however they may be able to expose these younger women to the industry and to this profession. I think that's one of the other reasons why we have the lower numbers in females in general for financial advisors. I think just not as many women see it as an attractive job for them. They think it's a lot of analysis and stocks and maybe things that they're maybe, just not as interested in when really we're in the relationship business. I think women are really great at that and proved to be fantastic advisors.

That's a real quick where we stand and there's more. What the network looks to accomplish in the years ahead, I wish I knew. We have a lot of programs coming out. It's definitely a passion project. Our wealth management business keeps me super busy as well, so I hope to continue to grow as a community together and I've really gotten a lot of great ideas from the other members and I know that we'll evolve. I'm looking to implement things that will support, pre and postnatal mothers as well as some other phases of life that are specific for women in those areas.

We also have a speakers Bureau and a media repertoire of people that are looking for conference planners that are looking for women on stage or media, they're looking for commentary to increase, I guess, diversify their list of sources. I hope that we see more women through the network have those opportunities and continue to in the future. Then we're starting more educational content this month and next month as well through webinars and videos. I'm excited. It's been a really incredible experience and given me a lot more than I ever thought it could. So, very enthusiastic about the future.

Mike: I bet. Now, I'm going to give everybody the website. It is www.femaleadvisornetwork.org. The website I was popping on yesterday and just had a wealth of information on there, including a lot of pictures from, it was your first get together in September. Was that the one you did where you had their first retreat?

Nina: That was the first retreat, yes. We did have that and it was absolutely wonderful. We rented out a whole inn about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta. We kicked it off with really just relationship building and getting to know each other. We kept it small intentionally. I think we had around 15 or 18 of us there. Then Saturday and Sunday were workshops. It's not a conference-like experience. It's much more of a relaxing retreat. We encourage casual clothes. We had downtime to do some things around the area where we were [unintelligible 00:08:30], which is in Georgia and it's really amazing. I think we had a really great experience and I'm working on planning the next one right now for later this year. That was exciting to see that vision come to reality as well.

Mike: As I looked at that I compare it to other conferences that we see, I get a whole different feel when I looked at your website and saw where you held the event, the people that were at the event, the pictures you showed, it was much more of a intimate gathering like you're describing that is more where you can network and share ideas versus where you're going and listening to speakers.

Nina: Right. It was less about meeting more people, but getting to know yourself and a handful of others better and work on your practice and goal setting and vision for your future. I had a very different and an intentional, very different experience overall, so I appreciate that.

Mike: Yes, it definitely gave that feel on the website. It was one that I did a double take on. I wanted to touch on the meetups too, because that sounds like a very interesting avenue. You see meetups. I get invited to probably half a dozen every couple of weeks where they either are something that's directly that I'm connected to or indirectly, and I'll go to the ones that I have, but a meetup for female advisers is something that would be relatively unique for the industry.

Nina: Yes. I've always believed in collaboration not competition and really love networking with other advisors. There aren't that many in my area that are women but I have gotten to know some of them. Just thought it's a good way for us to get together, talk shop, have a support system of somebody that really understands our business and what we go through. Days like Monday and today that are tough in the markets. Just create a more local network for yourself. It's going to always be a relatively small group unless you're in a larger significant metro area just because it's a game of numbers.

Then we have a place on the member website where the members can write in that they want to be an ambassador and we give them the tools to network the event, sorry, to market the event and then try to facilitate that and give them a list of people in their area that might be potential either current members or maybe future members that are local female advisors.

We're trying to facilitate that as much as possible but they know their local market best so we're leaving it up to the ambassador to determine when, where, is it coffee, is it a happy hour, what part of the town or city, timing. We do ask that they can make a 12-month commitment and keep it consistent because it takes some time to get these things off the ground and get people to pay attention to them. We're all really busy professionals. We're excited that that has started and we'll have more coming out throughout 2020.

Mike: Yeah, I’ll say, boy, I'll RSVP to five and show up to one. I'm a poster child for that. You need that consistency. That's awesome. I'm glad you gave us a great background on that. I want to switch gears now. I want to talk a little bit about what's going on being that we just passed International Woman's Day and March is women's history month. I think that message definitely got through to the trade publications because yesterday I read a couple of articles in the trade pubs about women and I'd like to get your perspective on them too. I think they both raised really interesting questions.

Financial Planning's headline was Advisers' dilemma, Women Less Engaged, More Negative Towards Financial Planning. The article talked about women control more than 20 trillion in wealth but they're less likely to hire a financial planner to advise them than men. I wanted to get your perspective on that. Have you found that to be true and what have you learned really about working in the women's market?

Nina: First, I don't actually focus just on women, so say a majority of our clients are couples but in that couple is, typically, a female that has had some career or currently has a career. I was really interested to read through that article because that's not the experience that I have had. That may be because I am a financial advisor so any females that are with me or have hired me or engaged with me are very much say-- I don't really know who's out there not hiring an advisor.

The statistics were really interesting and what I see in our, just to speak to my client base and the women that I work with, I find them really planning focused and less investment in performance focused. They have much more concerns with, "Am I making the right decisions?" I've also found it's probably 50/50 on who's the lead in the family on the finances. We always like to try to-- Who's the financial quarterback in your family or tell me how you as a couple navigate finances together and try to get an understanding of their experience together with money.

Then the single, whether they're widowed or divorced or just never-married, women that we work with, I think for them they've hired a planner and they're very grateful for the advice. Some of them are more hands-on than others, they're more engaged than others but I could also say that for some my male clients. I feel like for me I've really seen, as a gross generalization, women are much more engaged in the planning process and as we develop our relationship, the decisions they need to make throughout their years.

What I would say I see socially through whether it's my kids' school or friends, I definitely don't see as much conversation or engagement around the finances. I find a lot of women ask me questions and they're really interested in what I have to say. I find a lot of women can be really intimidated. I'll get a response, "You're so smart. You must be such a math person," or, "You work on Wall Street." I appreciate that compliment but I actually struggle with math. I'm a relationship person and I love puzzles. I love the planning process. My business partner's male, he's actually more the analyst brain and he runs our investment management.

I just found a partner that had some of the strengths and skillsets that I didn't and same for himfrom me and so we're able to really compliment each other. I would say personally, I see and I really encourage people, even if they don't want their hands in it every day, if their husband's taking care of it, that's great but if something happens to him, and I've had this happen in my family, an unplanned or unexpected loss can really devastate you financially but if you're in that moment you really don't want to try to figure out what the bank password is or what accounts you even have. I really encourage both parties to be involved in the meetings with us, the decisions and what's going on with their financial lives.

Mike: Sure. Do you find when you work with a couple that the man does, say, the investments and the woman does the planning? Do they have roles like that or do you find it very different throughout, there's really no real generalization you can throw over it?

Nina: I think because of the way our process is set up because we're first, planning-focus performance is important but it's part of the conversation and it's secondary. I feel that because of the way our process goes, both are really engaged more in the planning than the investments. Also, we run discretionary portfolios. Our clients are not involved in our investment decisions other than as far as just the actively traded portfolios. They're pretty hands-off in that regard anyway.

I would say, if I had to make a call, I think the men tend to go into more questions but that's not always the case. A lot of times that depends really more on their background. I find engineers have more technical questions and we have some female engineers, we have a lot of engineers and tech people in our area. I just have to say, in my opinion, I haven't seen much of a difference either way but I haven't seen either party weigh heavily always on the investments or are divided up like you mentioned.

Mike: Got you. Interesting. Then I wanted to check with you, there was another article on Financial Advisor IQ. They talked about, women client present an untapped opportunity for financial advisors but it's said that, even women with great careers often lack confidence when it comes to money. That struck me as odd. Have you found that women lack confidence when it comes to money planning, investing all of those?

Nina: Yes, I've definitely seen that. Again, I've seen it in men too but I've definitely seen it in women. Whether they're doctors or lawyers or experienced sales professionals, business consultants, I find that they do ask questions and they are very trusting of us and they know that they can ask us a lot of questions but we do frequently get the caveat, "This might be a stupid question," or, "I might be dumb for not knowing this," or, "I know my job. I don't know anything about money."

I like to say repeatedly, "There are no stupid questions. Nobody was born with a knowledge of personal finance innately just known to you and it's really not taught in a general public right now but I think we're improving." But financial literacy is a big thing. I work with several 401(k) plans and find that a lot of people in general just don't have a sound knowledge of just basic financial concepts. A lot of women, I think, shy away from asking questions or participating in being fully engaged, especially if it's in a group setting. That's where I've seen it the most and maybe some of the educational presentations of a 401(k) plan.

Mike: Interesting. Fascinating. My lovely bride does clinical research. This year I forced her to go through the tax process with me of gathering all the receipts, putting all the documents together, meeting with the CPA, putting all the material together. She also has an LLC, so she's got a vested interest in this game. She went kicking and screaming but went through it anyway just because I reminded her that you almost have to force yourself. Do you find that you hear similar stories where either men or women force themselves to go through a process of learning about money, about investment decisions, about planning decisions?

Nina: We're really working typically with both couples, so I don't know that I see one or the other as forcing themself to go through it. After we get started, we will see one of the spouses drop off, and it is more frequently the wife where we're then more dealing with the husband, but I only have a handful of those. We do try to loop the wife back in after it's been a period of time and we really haven't met with her. [unintelligible 00:20:28] interested, and that's fine. In my home, my husband's completely disengaged. He's never done any of the tax process or anything so it can go both ways, but I would say there's definitely a bend towards women being less engaged. I think as the world is changing, and women have more careers and things, you just see a generational difference in the involvement with money than anything.

Mike: Right. In my neighborhood, there are a couple of women who are widowed and they go through all of these things. They don't really have a choice. It's not something they either consider good work or bad work. It's just what they do now. It is really a case by case situation. I'm big on lists Nina. I love lists. I think it's easy for people to latch on to. I was reading something today just about three lessons on the market volatility. Six things you can do when the market's volatile. I wanted to get from you, I want to take that idea and run with it, so I wanted to get your three best ideas on how to approach the women's market. Now, here's the caveat, here's the twist. Let's look at it from male advisor's perspective first, and then from a female advisor's perspective. If a male adviser is looking to market more to women, and be more involved with that, what approach should they take? What three pieces of advice would you give them?

Nina: I think one, consider the space around you. Just make sure it's a comfortable, non-threatening space for meeting. We're very conscious of how we have set up our conference room. For example, everything is-- Our tables are all round with chairs. It's a collaborative feel. If you have a big board room, maybe that feels intimidating you across the desk. I would say, second thing for men is, address the women. If you're in a couple situation, address the women often and just make sure she's engaged. Ask how they handle their finances. If it's a single woman that has gone through a process of either death or divorce, find out what their relationship with their former spouse was like with their finances. Also, if you have a woman that's never gotten married, and has always handled her finances, I'd say you can probably talk to her pretty savvy. most women that are on their own, you don't have to treat them any different, honestly, than anybody else.

Three, if you find, gain, in a couple situation or an individual really, if they're not talking, begin to ask questions that might be more comfortable. Talking about money can be difficult, but we could still get a lot of information about people talking about things that they love and are use to talking to like, "Tell me about your children. Are they independent? Are they still in your home? Grandchildren?" It starts a warmer conversation than just the cold money, the jargon, and things like that.

Mike: Yes, that's fascinating because it really is boring to talk about investments. It's a lot more interesting to have a conversation about your children, and what they've been doing. People love to talk about that, and their successes, and their troubles. Boy, they could write a book about that, but you get them on some other subjects and you're going to get a very, very shallow response.

Nina: Yes. When I first started as a financial advisor, I taught myself a process. I don't think I've ever really gone back and thought about this until just now when you said this. It's called FORM, and it would talk about their family, their organization, what their retirement goals are, and then talk about their money.

Mike: FORM, I like that. FORM, all right. Our engineer is quickly writing those down. [laughter]. Family, organization, retirement and money. Awesome. Perfect.

Nina: Yes. So from a female advisor's perspective, I think one thing is, be aware that not all women just want to work with women. I see a lot of women that we work with that are just as happy working with my male business partner, so that's kind of a stereotype out there that women want to work with women. I think not a lot of them necessarily do and that's okay. There are many that do.

Two, I think if you're really marketing to women, and I've never marketed solely to women, but in the relationship building with the women that we have in our client base or prospective clients, I found they really love events that are fun and educational because they may not ask the question at like an economic forecast that we do which is a group of strangers they don't know. If it's women and wine, or health and wealth, or a paint party where you give a finance 101, not to treat them like they don't know anything, but a lot of women don't really want to acknowledge how much they don't know. It's easy to go, "My husband just handles that." So, I found that if you make it fun and try an event to go to and educational, they really get a lot out of it. I just had a woman in the last week tell me, "Man, I really love that women and wine event you did at somebody's house not long ago. I was able to go home, and have an intelligent conversation with my husband. That I had more confidence." I think those are good ways to get in front of women, develop your relationship with them, and have fun while giving them some valuable knowledge.

Then don't be stereotypical. I think even as a woman, I can sometimes find myself slipping into just the bias assumptions we all sometimes have. I think just being very open-minded and assume she knows a lot about money, assume that she has a great career, assuming all these things, and then you're only complimenting the person, and maybe hoping your getting them to open up and say, "Thank you so much, but I actually don't know that much about finances and I want to learn from you."

Mike: Sure. Interesting. Some of the best conversations I've had with both men and women just about money are at social events where they just feel more comfortable talking about it because they know what I do, and they know about who I work with, and so they're much more comfortable, I hate to say it, but after a glass of wine or two saying, "What do you think of this? What do you think of that?" I'm not surprised to hear the women and wine party went great. It strikes a chord with me that it's more-- It creates a disarming environment where people-- They lose some of their inhibitions and they're much more comfortable just bringing up things that bug them, so perfect.

Nina: It's fun for me too. I like wine.

Mike: Yes. God forbid, you have fun at one of these events. All right, so there's our list. Just to recap, for the best ideas for men, consider the space when you're working with a woman, address the woman often if you're meeting a couple, and if they're not talking, draw them out. For women, don't assume all women want to work with women. A second item is, remember it's an event fundraiser, or educational event, something like that. Then the third thing, don't be stereotypical on how you speak to them. Great list Nina. Perfect. Well, Nina, this has been an awesome call today. Thank you so much for joining us today. Certainly, it's a section that-- It's a time of year that we, FMG, will want to draw more attention to Women's History month, and we appreciate you doing the podcast, and look forward to getting some great responses.

Nina: Thank you. I really appreciate it. It's always fun to get to talk about things that I love.

Mike: Awesome. Nina, have a great day. Talk to you soon.

Nina: Take care.