Men and women approach selling insurance and financial services differently. They also purchase these services in vastly disparate ways. For many female advisors, selling is relationship centered with a strong focus on communication, empathy and building a strong bond. This approach can be pivotal with female clients. They have vastly different views about money, and value trust, personal connection and the ability to care for their families above the concept of strictly accumulating wealth. Many organizations don’t have a winning strategy or a successful female team in place to effectively reach this growing female centric market and ultimately grow their business.
Women Take Control
Women now control 51 percent of all personal American wealth, according to a recently published report by Bank of Montreal’s Wealth Institute. Business Insider found that 50 percent of products typically marketed to men are purchased by women. As more and more women recognize the need to actively participate in their financial and retirement decisions, female insurance and financial advisors are tapping into this lucrative market and thriving.
A recent study by Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) found that 17 percent of all women surveyed are earning $125,000 to $199,999 annually and 13 percent are earning $200,000 to $499,999. In addition, more than 50 percent of respondents who earn $200,000 to $1 million or more said they qualified for MDRT or other company or industry honors within the first five years in the business.Despite being a traditionally male dominated field, women are proving that not only can they be successful in this industry, they can thrive.
Juli McNeely, immediate past president of NAIFA and president of McNeely Financial Services, Inc., adds, “Female advisors bring an incredible skill set to the financial services industry. It is critical that we encourage more women to consider this amazing career. It is also imperative that we create an environment where women can flourish as they find success in our industry.”
Today, women represent about 20 percent of this overall workforce. WIFS is working to shift that paradigm. For almost 80 years the association has been dedicated to attracting women to the insurance and financial services sector, developing their talents and advancing them toward their fullest potential. WIFS offers an understanding of what women need to flourish including tailored education and work environments that promote teamwork, balance and constructive collaboration. Male and female members join, not only for career development resources, but for the collective voice WIFS gives women in the industry.
How Women Succeed In Business
Recently, WIFS conducted a research study aimed at answering how some women have been able to achieve success in a field dominated by men. Nearly 800 female financial services professionals completed the survey with the results serving as the basis for the recently released book, Financial Services: Women at the Top. Twenty-three women out of the total survey respondents are featured, sharing their challenges and accomplishments throughout their career. Their stories of perseverance and success are an exemplary model for what is possible. These women, with annual incomes ranging from $250,000 to $10 million, represent a diverse cross-section of successful female financial professionals.
The publication offers valuable insight into why women enter the field, why they thrive and how an organization like WIFS contributes to their advancement.
“I think that this industry is an excellent one for women to pursue. It has given me unlimited income potential, a flexible schedule and the ability to support others in areas that help them leave a legacy behind,” says Susan Combs, immediate past president of WIFS. “I have owned my independent brokerage firm in NYC for the past 10 years. WIFS has been instrumental in the success of my business. Many with agency affiliations have access to ongoing resources and training—WIFS fills this void for me. I have been able to mentor new women in the business, be a part of a Master Mind group to share ideas with other women in the same boat as me, learn from monthly webinars and also develop my leadership skills by serving in a volunteer capacity locally and then nationally.”
WIFS delivers resources tailored to a diverse membership that includes over 1200 financial advisors, agents, representatives, managers, CPAs and attorneys. Members benefit from monthly educational webinars on a variety of business, industry and career development topics. The interactive website provides important organization news and information, a robust member search function and an extensive webinar archive with 24/7 access. Twenty chapters across the continental United States and Alaska provide members additional educational and professional development opportunities plus networking and peer-to-peer connection.
Mentors Make a Difference
Many respondents in the survey cited their male mentors and supportive male managers as playing a large role in their success. The WIFS mentoring program, now in its fourth year, connects veteran members with those seeking to launch, re-engage or ignite their careers. Research suggests participants in a mentoring program, both mentors and mentees, experience overwhelming positive outcomes including higher production, career satisfaction, commitment, and mobility.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that, “...executives who have had a mentor earn more money at a younger age, are better educated, are more likely to follow a career plan, and, in turn, sponsor more protégés than executives who have not had a mentor.” Based on industry statistics and the growing recognition of these benefits, development of the WIFS mentoring program was a natural fit. The program has seen impressive growth and speaks to the value of supporting career success through relationship building.
Connections. Resources. Support.
Many members of WIFS are business owners and independent brokers who may not have access to a strong professional network. WIFS programs are invaluable to these women. Authors of Financial Services: Women at the Top, as well as organizations like WIFS, aim to change the way companies and, ultimately, the industry builds a culture that encourages successful careers for women.
Christy Aleckson, a broker in the Portland Metro area, considers the organization to be fundamental to her success. “WIFS has been an integral part of my business growth in the past seven years. The connections developed by being an active member of the organization have helped me with personal development as well as strategic partnerships to provide my clients more robust referrals for services I do not provide. There is a high level of trust among members. I feel that we are all there to help each other grow and succeed.”
By nature, a women’s inherent talents for patience, relationship building skills and a propensity to listen all lead to a strong fit in the insurance and financial sector. But for many women, they simply aren’t aware opportunities exist in this field, and are reluctant or unaware of where to turn for the support they need. Similarly, men are unfamiliar with techniques to attract and develop a successful female team. WIFS is uniquely positioned to bridge this gap.
There is so much opportunity for women, and it is at the core of our mission to attract more women to this fulfilling industry and nurture them along their journey to the top.
Susan M. Glass
began her career with New York Life as an advisor in 2001. She was awarded New Organization Leader in 2004 for the Greater Atlanta General Office. Susan has built her practice on forming strong client relationships centered on helping her clients develop solid financial futures with primary focus on risk management based solutions, including life insurance, disability income, long term care, fixed and immediate income annuities. She has qualified annually for the New York Council Program as well as MDRT. Throughout her career, Susan has been focused on mentoring and giving back to the industry and her community. Since 2009 she has been an active member of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS); a non-profit organization focused on attracting, developing, and advancing women. She served as president of the Atlanta chapter, became a national board director in 2012 and is the 2016 national president. Women in Insurance and Financial Services can be reached by telephone at 866-264-9437. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.