Strategy

Women Make the Grade in Wealth Management

Alison Steed, 14 November 2006

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Wealthy women value the “personal touch” from financial institutions much more than men, according to new research. Barclays Wealth, the ...

Wealthy women value the “personal touch” from financial institutions much more than men, according to new research.

Barclays Wealth, the newly-branded private banking division of Barclays, found that women look more for guidance and detailed advice from a trusted and tailored source than their male counterparts, and with women already forming around 46 per cent of Britain’s 376,000 millionaires, they are a key focus for wealth management businesses.

Just 19 per cent of women interviewed by Barclays for the survey, said they felt they had a comprehensive understanding of investment products, compared with 31 per cent of men.

Ian Ewart, marketing director for Barclays Wealth, said: “Wealthy women are a unique group with a set of individual requirements in comparison to their male counterparts. As the number of wealthy women continues to grow, it is vital that we fully understand their needs. These first findings demonstrate the importance of our wealth relationship managers in serving women’s needs, and we are recruiting more wealth managers to build on our already successful relationship management service.”

With the increasing number of female millionaires, you may not be surprised to learn that the number of women in private banking has risen dramatically too. For years, the fusty image of male private bankers has pervaded the industry, but women are now securing leading roles in the private banking world.

Ana Rebec, a director of Citigroup’s UK private bank, said: “The industry has evolved dramatically over the years. I have worked for the bank for 24 years, and in the old days, we had things like client events that would be held at men only clubs, there was a much larger pay gap, and there was less access to training. If you wanted to progress, there was a lot of self-study involved, but attitudes have changed dramatically within the financial services industry.”

Ms Rebec worked her way up to her current role from being a personal assistant who moved into the private banking office in the late 1980s.

She said: “I just worked my way up through learning and sharing with colleagues. I just wanted to better myself, and become as valuable to clients as I could and be as senior as I could. I took two career breaks to have children, then had to start my career again, as I came back to different jobs. The bank was very supportive, and senior management was very encouraging.

“Private banking can be an excellent career for women, but be under no illusion that it’s an easy task. It is not a nine to five job, you may be expected to travel, may be expected to do early or late meetings. But if you have a good support network at home and in the office, then you have a good foundation.”

Private banking is typically performance driven, said Zoe Couper who used to work in the private banking division of Credit Suisse, and now works as a consultant for a number of private banks. This gives women an advantage if they choose private banking as a career, compared to some other financial services areas, because they can “create rewarding careers without the pressure to pursue a career on a single and unbroken trajectory”.

She added: “That can more often be the case in areas such as investment banking or law where the path to partnership can be brutal. This focus on bottom-line results means that women can move in and out of the industry to be mothers and return later with little impact on their career prospects, some even working as introducing brokers without actually being employed by the bank to manage the relationship.”

"One of the cornerstones of wealth management is the linking of family challenges with the human impact and meaning of wealth,” said Ms Couper, something women tend to be “very good at”.
She added: “This has been an important focus of my work in developing client acquisition and generational programmes with wealth managers.”

Much has been made over the years of the glass ceiling that is believed to exist in financial services to prevent women rising to the upper echelons of companies. But Heather Maizels, director of Barclays Wealth, said she feels it is unhelpful to talk about the glass ceiling.

She added: “The good thing about glass ceilings is that you can see through them. If you look around the industry you will see that vision and ability has accelerated the rise of many women. But I feel that many women would not have succeeded in this way within other fields - like investment banking, like the tax Bar, like consultancy. Those who would have done might have found it quite tricky to have maintained the quality of personal and family life that those in private banking are able enjoy while successfully looking after their clients and their families, and their charitable interests.”

Barclays is currently looking to recruit more female private bankers, said Ms Maizels, and has a great deal of experience in hiring women from non-banking backgrounds and training them up in the role. Ms Maizels herself was a barrister before getting into private banking.

She added: “Barclays Wealth is very visible in the market with a major drive to recruit more women into private banking from investment banking and other institutional backgrounds as well as those with specialist professional skills outside finance. Women, in particular, are attracted by the idea of developing their expertise in a different and very often more meaningful way. Philanthropy and gifting well is a major part of private banking and women are also attracted by engaging with clients in this area.

“Clients need kind professional private bankers who can relate to their lives and very often women are particularly well suited to this. Many clients, not just the female ones, are quite candid in sharing with us their preference for a female private banker.”

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