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Business Development ‘There is a stereotype that men understand finance better’

‘There is a stereotype that men understand finance better’

Shifali Satsangee of Funds Vedaa, Agra talks about the biases people hold against women financial planners and shares her success mantra.
Ravi Samalad Mar 8, 2015

Shifali Satsangee of Funds Vedaa, Agra talks about the biases people hold against women financial planners and shares her success mantra.

What inspired you to get into financial advisory profession?

Funds Ve’daa was the fruition of a long cherished dream – that of being an entrepreneur. Inspiration comes in many forms. For me it came when my husband Sahib and I envisaged the need for organized wealth management and advisory services, which were at a nascent stage then. I could see a big  opportunity because of tremendous wealth creation in tier 2 cities like ours. The proportion of the wealth believed to be in the organized wealth management was less than 5%. After foreseeing the need and the lacunae in this domain, we did a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) Analysis and decided to completely focus our energies on one investment avenue - mutual funds. Thus, Funds Ve’daa was born.

What advantages do women financial advisors have over their male counterparts?

Of the three main varieties of empathy - cognitive, emotional and empathetic concern - women on an average outdo men. It is in their DNA to be high on EQ (emotional quotient).They are wired to be multi-taskers balanced and rational thinkers. Emotional Intelligence is regarded as a far stronger predictor of success. As Daniel Goleman wrote in Emotional Intelligence, “Emotions guide everything we do.”

Women do not normally call the shots even at home as far as investment decisions are concerned. This is true even for women who have independent source of income. As a finance professional, why do you think this is happening?

Historically speaking, women never had a say in financial decision making. Investments were primarily and predominantly made by men and seldom by women.

You see, the universe of a woman is unique in its own way, where she plays multi-dimensional roles, has a distinctive set of responsibilities and demands on her, which thereby influences her priorities and limit her ambit. Therefore, her role in making financial decisions is limited.

We see that awareness level and financial inclusiveness among women are dependent on their cultural background (conservative or modern), education levels, and independence given to them. Conservatism leads to non-inclusion of women in taking any financial decisions while a modern mindset in a family leads to combined decision making. Though over the years, we have observed that there is a migration from a male dominated society to that of one that promotes equality of gender.

Women are now moving up the learning curve and are better informed than what they used to be. Today, we are observing trends that are changing - the terrain that women dreaded to tread is now being explored by them after we saw awareness campaigns being addressed towards promotion of financial savviness in women.

As a woman financial advisor, what are the challenges faced by you?

There is a stereotype that men understand finance better. The world of investments and money management is perceived as the gentlemen’s domain. But of late, we have seen many women take centre stage in the field of finance. And that is the first challenge, and once this challenge is addressed then our ability to understand clients comes to forefront. Going very much into retail poses logistics challenges.

What is your advice to women who aspire to become financial planners?

·        Be process-oriented like big brands. Try to institutionalize your practice and corporatize your processes to give a corporate feel and connect to your clients. Every business needs structured processes and an understanding of its dynamics before being operational. Being process-driven is the key to format ourselves for success, gain positive traction and beef up our expansion muscle. Have a gradual step by step, structured advisory approach while advising. It is more prescriptive in nature than an off the shelf guidance.

·        Get future ready and make your business scalable, by embracing the online medium moving from just referral based mode and, try to leverage the power of technology, social media and make use of digital revolution. Create a digital roadmap since there has been a fundamental shift in the way the world now communicates by building up a social graph on Twitter and Linkedin.

·         Scenario Planning - During initial engagement with a client, it’s essential to set proper expectations regarding market movements and possibilities of negative returns. This also helps us retain them at a time when the markets are in a tizzy because having made them understand the basics of finance and investing, our clientele is better equipped to handle what we usually witness - miscalculated behavioral issues (the omnipresent fear and greed factor) like investing at high P/E and market levels and exiting at low. So chances of retention are higher. We also make sure it is a collaborative role that clients play in decision making.

·         Be well equipped with good back-end infrastructure in the form of software, CRM systems, and business intelligence systems to handle an expanding client base.

·         Create brand equity by organizing financial wellness programs, sponsoring events that support good causes, writing articles for sites, blogs etc. and earn visibility.

·        Compete in a healthy way, respect competition, learn from them to maintain a conducive environment in the ecosystem. We all have our distinctive styles of working, different strategies and business models which can complement and co-exist.

·         Network within your professional circle. Divergent opinions and views add a fresh perspective, broaden our outlook to business and make your thought process more progressive

·         We need to be on the same page as him/her, connect with the pulse and understand the psyche of our clients. We are more than just advisors who configure the product to client needs, we are also psychologists wherein we have to handle human behavior. We have learnt that the role of behavioral finance cannot be undermined.

‘Women are more empathetic in their approach’

Sujata Kabraji, a Mumbai based advisor shares her journey into financial advisory profession.

What inspired you to get into financial advisory profession?

A wish to provide investors with holistic solutions.

What advantages do women financial advisors have over their male counterparts?

Women are probably more empathetic in their approach and can use that to have a wider perspective when looking out for their client's interests.

Women do not normally call the shots even at home as far as investment decisions are concerned. This is true even for women who have independent source of income. As a finance professional, why do you think this is happening?

Lack of confidence that they are capable of making financial decisions. 

As a woman financial advisor, what are the challenges faced by you?

I don't think the challenges are different.

What is your advice to women who aspire to become financial planners?

There is a need for more women advisors and planners! Ladies... please take the plunge!

‘Some prospects have confidence issues due to my gender’

Nisreen Mamaji of Moneyworks Financial Advisors gives tips to aspiring female planners.

What inspired you to get into financial advisory profession?

I am from the advertising industry and got into financial distribution by default. Now, instead of writing advertising strategy of powders and soaps I’m writing financial plans. The direct interaction with the end user gave me utmost satisfaction as well as the opportunity to create customized solutions to a variety of individuals of differing age/income/demographic backgrounds.   

What advantages do women financial advisors have over their male counterparts?

Women tend to be better listeners and are more open to non-verbal cues.

Women do not normally call the shots even at home as far as investment decisions are concerned. This is true even for women who have independent source of income. As a finance professional, why do you think this is happening?

Typically, daughters are raised by their parents to have less economic sense than their sons. This is the first barrier to gaining confidence and knowledge about banking/investing/insurance needs of women. This reasoning continues into their marital homes, where husbands take over the mantle of investing on behalf of their income earning spouses. They don’t include women in the financial decisions of the household whether working or non-working. This childhood conditioning makes even mathematics or finance degree holders doubt themselves while investing their own hard-earned money. Also, since women are typically loss averse, they let others make financial mistakes with their money, since it’s easier to blame others in case of losses. 

As a woman financial advisor, what are the challenges faced by you?

Sometimes, I have had men prospects smirk when I speak to them about money matters since they are of the opinion that a woman cannot have superior knowledge in this field. After successive meetings they forget my gender, but are still reluctant to include their wives into discussions. Divorced or widowed women are left without nominations/ passwords/ locker keys/ zero knowledge of family investments and sometimes take 12-18 months to unravel some of the mess. Even women with their own sources of income might have had the courage to meet me and discuss financial plans but they are reluctant to execute anything until their spouse/brother/father give them the go ahead. Even though, as a woman advisor I might have understood their issues and offered them correct solutions, some prospects have confidence issues with me due to my gender which is genuinely frustrating. 

What is your advice to women who aspire to become financial planners?

  • One needs to be determined and not let initial set-backs or discomfort with prospects because of your gender sway you from your goal. Your success will speak for itself and testimonials from satisfied clients should be worn as a badge of honour. 
  • Any business needs to be nurtured. Consider financial advisory business as one of your children and it will reap you rich rewards when you retire. 
  • Only accept as much business as you can manage in order to maintain the work-life balance. Eventually, you won't be able to work if you have a crisis at home, but the beauty of this business is that you decide the level of operations that you can manage at different life stages. 
  • Honesty and integrity for the client’s well-being are the most important characteristics you should have. Your natural empathy will automatically differentiate you in a business which is currently a male domain.
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