In an era when female wealth and income is growing faster than ever, wealth advisors need to do more to acknowledge and respect that women’s motivations and attitudes towards wealth can often differ from those of men and adapt accordingly. Charlotte Filsell, Head of Family Office Services at Sandaire, talks to SLOAN! about issues surrounding women of wealth.
Evidence suggests that women prioritise meaningful relationships over transactional ones; they like to be informed and educated; they tend to be risk aware; and, are likely to put a lot of focus on family security. These nuances have profound implications for the way females prefer to invest and preserve their wealth, and the wealth of their family. I am fortunate to work with several successful women and would observe this to be true. Studies indicate that, by 2025, 60% of the UK’s wealth will be in the hands of women. In an era where female wealth and income is growing faster than ever, the industry must recognise these needs and change the conversation if it wants to engage more female investors.
Every individual’s situation is different
Among women, individuals will be at different life stages, have different values and be more or less knowledgeable in certain areas. The same applies across genders, generations and cultures. Ultimately, the key is to treat all clients as individuals. Never assume. Never categorise. It is important to devote time to listen to clients and to understand their motivations, to ensure that the service provided is relevant, personalised and fits around their often busy lives. It is also helpful to understand that wealth can bring emotional challenges as well as financial complexity.
As increasing numbers of women are gaining independence, their role in the family unit is also evolving. Their influence is increasing, with some having become the critical decision makers in matters of family wealth. In addition to the shifting needs and priorities of the individuals, it is important to have an appreciation of the changing family dynamic, where applicable.
The role of a multi-family office
The role of a multi-family office when supporting women of wealth is to educate, empower and equip individuals with exactly the information and support they need to ensure their economic advancement and success – to do this the service has to be personalised. There is no “one size fits all.”
Wealth is multi-faceted and requires thoughtful navigation. Understanding the intricacies of the lives of each client is integral to supporting them. The provision of effective support for families and women of wealth requires a family office to take many forms and shift their role depending on the needs of each family and individual. Whether acting as an educator, leader, partner, coordinator, coach, facilitator or mediator, each of these must be performed entirely objectively.
The role of a wealth adviser is to develop an integrated plan for an individual’s or family’s wealth, and then identify areas requiring specific expertise and attention. The aim is to take away the burdens, administration and challenges that can come with wealth, so that clients can enjoy the pleasures of life focusing on their family, business and/or passions, as they wish. It is incredibly rewarding to work with clients to give them back one of the most valuable assets of all – time.
What type of advice are women with wealth typically seeking?
Some of the common themes when supporting women of wealth include how to protect and secure their futures and those of their family; how to talk to their children about wealth; how to plan for succession; how to structure their wealth to ensure it can adapt to changing circumstances; and, how to invest sustainably or for positive social impact as much as for financial return. Philanthropic ambitions are also increasingly apparent among both women and the younger generations of families, and we are often asked how to make these a reality.
Another frequent request is for help to simplify and gain a clear picture of total wealth all in one place, which can include collating information from various statements and sources to create one manageable document. This makes the information far more digestible and much easier to review, in the midst of the often busy lives that many lead.
What are the common barriers for women?
In my experience, one of the key barriers for women in seeking advice is a lack of confidence, which may mean that they do not feel comfortable asking seemingly simple questions. Successful businesswomen may be incredibly smart and astute in their specific industry but simply not have any experience of or interest in stock markets, and perhaps may not want to admit this. Some women may have received an inheritance or financial settlement and similarly find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Others may simply need help taking back control of their finances while they juggle many other demands on their time.
It can also be difficult to know who to ask for advice. Women often tend to place a lot of value on referrals, and so recommendations from family and friends can be useful. It is important to appreciate the power of networks and have an ecosystem of trusted partners and experts to assist, as required. Recognising that no one is an expert at everything, it can be helpful to have someone on your team who can coordinate with several specialists of multiple disciplines on your behalf.
Another barrier specific to female entrepreneurs can be the struggle to get investment compared to their male counterparts. Traditional funding avenues tend to be male-dominated and have a gender bias, which can present a challenge. Women-owned (and female led) firms are still in the minority, and the hurdles faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship can be huge and often quite different from those experienced by men. It is encouraging to see that female investors are likely to back female led businesses but there is so much more that needs to be done to level the playing field in this area.
Top tips for women of wealth and their families
1. Take a step back and focus on what is important to you. What are your values? What is the purpose of your wealth? Your family values will provide an anchor point for your decision-making. By focusing on what lies close to your heart and how best to achieve those objectives, appropriate measures can be put in place to help you realise a robust legacy. A family charter is a useful document to create to capture this information.
2. It is equally important to think about what you would not want to happen, so that you can protect against this.
3. Have a plan for your wealth to balance your current needs with your long-term goals. Life is never linear and by its very nature is unpredictable. If you can find a trusted advisor, they can assist you through all of life’s unexpected moments – structuring your wealth to ensure it can adapt to changing circumstances, while preserving the integrity of your core capital.
4. Find advisors whose values align to yours. Values are lived through our actions. Look for the same traits in the people you place in positions of trust. It is implicit that those you ask to execute on your behalf are not going to do something contrary to your values.
5. Strong lines of communication are important, and preferably two-way. There are people who can support you to have the more challenging or emotionally charged conversations. Open, honest and frank dialogue with partners, children, other family members and your advisors will usually result in the better outcome.
6. Always seek the best advice. This may seem obvious but is worth stating. Bad advice can be far more damaging than the positive effects from the right advice. Ask family, friends and your wider network for recommendations and referrals.
About the expert
Charlotte Filsell leads Sandaire’s Family Office Services Team and has principal responsibility for ensuring the delivery of exemplary client service.
Her wealth of investment experience and meticulous support of clients inspire confidence and trust; her perceptive and thoughtful approach allows her to develop a strong rapport with clients and their advisors.
Charlotte began her career at HSBC Asset Management as a discretionary portfolio manager focussing on international private clients. After eight years, she moved to an investment advisory role at UBS and then in 2007 returned to the HSBC Group, as an Investment Counsellor within the Private Bank providing multi-asset class investment advice, delivering the full capabilities of their investment group to key clients. Prior to joining Sandaire in 2015, Charlotte held the position of Head of Investment Counsellors for the UK and Channel Islands at HSBC Private Bank and was a member of their London Investment Committee.
Charlotte is a CFA charter holder and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment.