Last Thursday, I attended InvestmentNews’ Women Adviser Summit in San Francisco, where over 100 advisors gathered to learn, network and be inspired by other leaders in the industry.
While the main theme was around elevating women in their careers in wealth management, the one-day workshop featured content and expert advice that could easily be applied to all advisors. Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay, also spoke at the event about leadership and the lessons she learned leading a Silicon Valley fintech startup.
Personalize Your Digital Self
Throughout the day, speakers discussed strategies for advisors to differentiate themselves and grow their business with cost effective, time efficient methods. In her session on “Changing the Conversation,” Maribeth Kuzmeski, president of Red Zone Marketing, discussed the importance of creating and maintaining an online reputation, and had some great points for me to take to my clients with Hearsay.
Kuzmeski encouraged advisors to use their online presence – including their social media profiles – to tell their story and define their value. An easy and impactful way to do this, she said, is to use the LinkedIn Summary field to describe why you’re passionate about your business on a personal level. She also stressed the importance of being likeable and unique instead of the “person in the suit who will judge.”
“Nine out of 10 prospects Google advisors before they visit,” Kuzmeski said. “If you knew your prospect was going to choose you based off your LinkedIn profile or website right now, would you change it?”
Be More Than Just a Financial Advisor
In another captivating session on differentiating your business, Susan Kay, VP and director of business development at MSF Fund Distributors, interviewed top-producing advisors and shared success stories in her talk on “Secret Strategies and Inspiration from the Industry’s Most Successful Advisors.” In her research, Kay discovered that the best advisors differentiate themselves by understanding their clients’ and prospects’ passions.
“If you can get people’s passion points, they will become your biggest advocate,” she said. Unique examples included advisors who hosted mother/daughter brunches on Mother’s Day, a Women in Business book club, and even a pet portrait session.
Ladder Down – and Up
Successful advisors are also reaching up generationally to clients’ parents, not just children, Kay said. By providing clients the right conversation prompts to discuss future planning with parents, as well as providing resources and education, advisors were able to set face-to-face meetings with clients’ parents. Eventually, the advisors Kay interviewed were able to move clients’ parents from ROI-driven brokers to their own firms, where advisors could help plan for meaningful decisions in the last 10 to 15 years of life.
Leadership Lessons: Embrace Risk
Hearsay’s Shih spoke about “Lessons in Leadership” with Marie Chandoha, vice president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management, and Christine Nigro, managing director of AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company. Moderator Suzanne Syracuse, vice president and Publisher of InvestmentNews, asked them what their biggest lessons in leadership have been over their careers. Embracing risk was a theme throughout the responses.
“Take risks, manage your time, and be open to feedback,” were three of Shih’s lessons learned. Shih recounted how she took a major risk in leaving a role she truly enjoyed at Salesforce to found Hearsay in 2009.
In women’s careers, “risk taking is something we have to do and men don’t even think about it or call it risk taking,” said Nigro, noting than women will often wait to be tapped for opportunities, while men are more likely to ask for what they want. “You can stay up all night worrying about the bad things that could happen, but you can never get the good things unless you say yes.”
All three panelists agreed unconscious bias can also play a role in how women are perceived in their careers, but Shih doesn’t let it hold her back. “It’s more constructive and enjoyable to assume I belong and should be in the room,” she said.
As the day wrapped, attendees enjoyed a time to network and discuss with each other how to put their learnings into practice over a wine tasting reception. After such an empowering day, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Women Adviser Summit!