- The demands of high-wealth women around the world are changing with the times. A group of female bankers at Citi Private Bank explained how they are meeting their needs.
- Women are not more risk averse – they are goal-orientated, according to Citi.
- With the appointment of Jane Fraser as CEO of Citi, the bank is pushing for change, but more needs to be done for women in the industry generally, the executives said.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Female talent is increasingly coming to the forefront across the world and with success has come increasing wealth.
Whether the wealth be generational or self-made, women hold a huge amount. This can be easily seen with the 74 female billionaires, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. Nowadays, women are estimated to collectively control as much as $72 trillion globally – that's 32% of all wealth, according to Citi.
However, as women collect more wealth, demands on private bankers change. Indeed, 70% of women fire their husband's advisors after a divorce or death, according to Citi. This means many private banks are rethinking their strategy when it comes to female members of the Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) community.
Madeline Seddon, director at Citi Private Bank, said: "A lot of banks, when they examine this issue, think: female client segmentation. Let's treat women very differently to men. Our approach is that every individual is unique and that's very much the case with women as well."
"So we've not taken a segmentation approach that lots of other banks have chosen, we really focus on how women may like to engage differently. It's ultimately about understanding the individual and making sure that we look after them on that basis," she added.
To understand how female clients can be different with their demands, the banker approached a group of female clients at Citi, where several key themes came to light.
"We found women like to make informed decisions – whether that be on the wealth management team that they work with or the strategy behind it. Women may also invest more time in getting to understand the team and exactly what we are discussing and proposing to them," Seddon explained.
"We have some very sophisticated female clients – they're very financially savvy in their own right – possibly, portfolio managers who don't have time to run their own portfolios. So they are very much interested in hearing our house views and how we would manage the portfolio. But on the other side, we also have clients for whom all that financial jargon is fundamentally off-putting," Seddon added.
Taking the time to help educate these clients is something Citi Private Bank's director of CIM EMEA, Sue-Wei Wong, did recently: "I spoke to a widow and her daughters, whose husband had been very much involved in the investment portfolio," she explained. "After she and her daughters inherited it they really didn't understand the construct. So we spent some time going through the absolute basics with them, introducing financial terminology and the bare bones about investments… It wasn't about proposing a model portfolio, much more about building confidence and trust."
Sarah Courtney Dockett, Director at Citi Private Bank, added: "In families where the husband has been running financial affairs, COVID has shown us all that you have to think about plan B – if something goes wrong."
"We're having a lot more spouses coming in for training and education on investments, but also involving their children. Children have been handed pots of money much earlier than they probably would have as parents are keen to hand over wealth in a controlled and educated manner," Courtney Dockett said.
Risk and priorities
"One of the other things that we found was that – although a lot of people assume that women may be more risk averse than their male counterparts – our view is that's not the case. Women, we found, may be more goal-orientated, but it doesn't mean that they are prepared to take any less risk," Seddon said.
"We also found that planning for the next generation was central to their objectives," Seddon added.
One goal for all genders across the investing community has been environmental, social and governance issues, going from something people "talk about" to a topic people are genuinely interested in and integrating, Wong said.
This has had two major implications for the private banking community. Primarily, when clients have previously been involved quite heavily in philanthropy – always segregating funds between philanthropy and their investment portfolio. "Now, increasingly these conversations are becoming intertwined – somewhat driven by the younger generation as well," Wong added.
"The younger generations are asking why they can't invest sustainably with philanthropy in mind? At Citi Private Bank, we've been thinking about it for a couple of years. We launched an initiative called 'Investing with Purpose' a couple of years ago, which aimed to allow clients to invest in a way that aligns with their values," she added.
Moreover, Wong is having more conversations around "gender equality or gender-lens investing with our female clients and what we can offer in that space," she added.
For example, a female client held a core portfolio with Citi, but she was also very involved in philanthropy and specifically in gender-lens investing with real focus on emerging markets and the development of girls and women, Wong said.
"We were discussing the shape of her core portfolio, where we set strategic asset allocation, and we talked about how we could populate that portfolio with ESG integrated solutions with a focus on her interests. So, we tilted the portfolio, to have a thematic exposure to gender-lens investing, to the environment, to water preservation, etc," she explained.
A changing Citi
Citi has not been shy to promote women to positions of authority. This year it appointed Jane Fraser as the bank's CEO, marking a historic moment as the first female CEO on Wall Street.
Even though role models are an essential part of empowerment, it is essential to retain female talent throughout an organisation.
"We'd like to see more senior female representation. Across our peers, at graduate level females are recruited 50: 50 alongside males [but] there seems to be a transition point around VP level, typically when women tend to have children and the path of women up to the next level seems to slow," Courtney Dockett said.
"We need as an industry to work harder to ensure we have women going up through the chain. As a business, we're moving in the right direction as you can see by the appointment of Jane as CEO," she added, noting that Citi has a successful women's "returners" program for talent that has taken time out of the industry.
Advice for future female bankers:
"For me, like Sheryl Sandberg, it's about having a seat at that table. I think back to when I first started, if I walked into a meeting room I was always at the periphery. I never felt that I was senior enough to have that seat at the table. This is what I say to my daughter: ask questions all the time," Wong said.
Seddon's advice is for women to always ask the question and share their aspirations. "If you do put your hand up, or if you do ask the question, the opportunity might not be available for you at that given moment. But if you show that you're keen, and a future opportunity arises, people will think of you," she said.
Courtney Dockett concluded: "Be your own ambassador! I have conversations with people who say, 'but I do a really good job.' Don't expect people to know you do a really good job, you have to tell them. Go in and say: 'I've done a really good job and that is why I should be put up for promotion'. Understand how the dynamics work in whatever organization you're in and make sure you have a seat at the table. You have to drive your own agenda and it's something I think, as women, we haven't been good at doing historically."
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