Wealth Management: Bringing in More Women
Cheryl Nash, president of Investment Services for Fiserv, knows a lot about what it takes to succeed as a woman in financial services. She began her career at a small technology start-up more than 30 years ago and worked her way to the top. That small start-up has been acquired twice over those 30 years.
Nash is an incredible role model for other women in the industry, although there aren’t many who have followed her path. Often she is one of the only women in the room at industry gatherings or meetings. Both the industry and women professionals suffer as a result of this scarcity.
But Nash is working to correct the gender imbalance in finance. As a board member of Envestnet Institute on Campus (EIOC), a scholarship program that supports students interested in careers in wealth management through online coursework and training, she will lead a new Women in Wealth Management program set to launch this fall. Nash intends to use the program to encourage more college-age women to take an interest in the profession. It’s not just a matter of balancing out the gender equation in financial services, either. It turns out that women have special skills that are especially suited for wealth management. I talked with Nash about the program, the history of women in wealth management, and her own experience in the profession.
April J. Rudin: This is a really inspiring program. What made you decide to get involved?
Cheryl Nash: I feel that women deserve the wealth management industry and that the wealth management industry deserves women. Actually, women are uniquely suited to work in this industry, where success is really so closely tied to an ability to build trusting relationships with clients. In general, women are naturally more attuned to relationship building and listening. This is not a myth, there’s science behind it, and wealth management is an industry that needs the input of women. We are also traditionally attracted to industries and jobs that allow us to help other people, and I can tell you there is nothing more satisfying than helping families protect their wealth for the next generation.
Also, I feel indebted to the many women mentors I had while I was making my way as a younger woman. I feel like it’s my turn to give back.
Why start with college-age women?
It’s best to get them started young because being a successful wealth manager these days is a complex business. There’s a lot to learn — about technology, investing, taxes, trusts, the fiduciary responsibility, estate planning. Also, university-age women have a direct line to the millennial population we are constantly hearing about, the ones who will eventually climb to the top of the wealth pyramid and whose investing, communicating, and consumption styles are so different from the generations that came before them. We need these women to help lead our wealth management businesses into tomorrow.
What precisely will the initiative entail? How many women do you hope to enroll?
Through the Women in Wealth Management initiative, Fiserv, as a sponsor of EIOC, will help with the development of women-specific content and expansion of the program. EIOC will also provide scholarships for students at over 20 participating universities, including Colgate University, University of Rhode Island, and University of New Hampshire, among others.
To attract participants to this program, we will provide access to industry-influencing women who are associated with and specialize in wealth management. Sharing their real-life experiences will guide college-age women and help them build lasting and successful careers in the industry. We will offer live webcasts and courses targeted specifically for women, which I will personally lead. We’ll also capitalize on the broad reach and power of social media to connect and engage with our participants.
We haven’t set a specific target number of women participants yet; however, as a whole, the program aims to train 5,000 students from several higher education institutions over the next five years. In the future, we intend to create an internship program and resume hub to connect employers with graduates certified through the program.
Have the barriers to entry for women loosened as the industry has shifted from a stock brokerage model to a wealth management/investment advisory model?
I would say yes, they have. The culture of the business has changed dramatically with this shift. Wealth management is no longer a business that is primarily about sales; it has evolved into a business that places value on long-term relationships, an area where women tend to excel. The business has also become a little bit less “traditional Wall Street,” which was always very conservative. That leaves more room for non-traditional models, new ways of thinking, and greater emphasis on innovation and out-of-the-box ideas — all of which creates a more inviting environment for women.
It’s about time!
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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