Friday, August 3, 2012

Women Want a Revolution

The results are in and, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of unhappy clients in the financial services arena. If I were a wealth adviser, I wouldn't want any of these responses to serve as my report card. (A note about the respondents: this is not a representative sample. This group of over 110 women responders are highly-educated, wealthy and activist-minded, since the respondents are those who were e-mailed or twitter responders to myself, Jayne Hillman, Melanie Hamburger and Sarah Granger.)

Interestingly, given that financial services are a "service" business, the level of a woman's wealth did not increase the respondent's happiness with their providers. The wealthiest respondents were no less displeased as their less affluent counterparts, in rating their services. Many women mention that they don't like the attitudes of their advisers. Some who want to do impact investing mentioned things like "being told that wanting socially responsible investing, or investing in women-run enterprises, is "cute and nice, but not the way to make MONEY".

As larger studies have documented, women feel misunderstood by investment marketers: "For an industry with an astounding amount of data on its customers, institutions still behave as though they have no idea who I am", wrote one respondent.

Here are some improvements that these women would like to see:

82% wanted greater transparency on fees, 87% wanted clear simple language and 76% wanted to collaborate to leverage their economic power. The strongest response from all questions on the survey was that 92% of women want to "invest my assets to align with my values". We also included a text box so that the respondents could say more about which values they most wanted to advance. Women wrote that they were interested in advancing women's leadership in the corporate world, specifically greater women's representation on boards of directors and in senior management. Women also wrote "accounting for environmental and social costs in financials/ reporting", "caring about others and not just profits", "more transparency, less lobbying of congress for special treatment", "sustainable business practices" and "companies that have a triple bottom line". Another benefit of values-based investing is that, according to this study by Merrill Lynch, investors with values-based investments have lower anxiety levels and churn their portfolios less, which can result in better returns in the long run.

This group has a large appetite for risk-taking. Over 73% are interested in the private markets, ie, in investing in private equity, venture capital and angel funds. There is a strong interest in better education in finance. 90% of women want "more confidence and/or confidence in my investing" and 85% want "more creativity and enthusiasm around money". All in all, the respondents are interested in a more holistic approach to investing their assets: one that accounts for their strongly held values around women's leadership, sustainable business practices, and sound environmental practices. Many wanted to "blow-up" the current system and start fresh. They'd like to feel a much higher level of trust and experience a customer-centric approach.

We conducted this survey because we'd like to help build a movement that satisfies women and men's desires to align their assets with their values. Those with wealth who donate 5% of their assets to non-profits each year while keeping their investments in the status quo are missing the ability to "liberate the 95%".  This shift will require some serious bucking of the existing financial services industry which has been built to have cookie cutter portfolios (to keep costs down) and to sell the financial products that they create (to keep profits up) . If an adviser strays from the pack, she will not be offered full liability protection if a client sues her for poor financial advice.

We'd also like to see more women feel enthusiastic about directing their investment dollars.  We look forward to the day when we overhear women walking along the beach at Chrissy Field talking excitedly about their portfolio and their recent allocation to a top-performing portfolio manager named Helena.

We look forward to any comments, ideas and questions that you may have.  Thank you to the respondents for taking the time to answer our survey! Marya and Jayne

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Women Angels and (Mostly) Women Founders

We held our first pitch night for The Angel Fund and had an amazing collection of women angels.  The table of angels consisted of eight mostly former Googlers and three entrepreneurs who have built businesses serving women. (Note that all individuals represent themselves and not their employers).  We laughed when we realized that we had self-sorted around the table by type: the Google-ladies and the lady-ladies.   Even more exciting were the companies that pitched us.  Three companies had all women founders and one had all men.  BizeeBee provides saas biz services to franchise lifestyle businesses (such as yoga studios, pilates instructors, etc.) and is raising its 2nd round.  AppSmitten is an app discovery company with both newsletter and an app for personalization of app recommendations, with a big and growing list of subscribers.  Virtruus is a trust verification company, with companies using their service in beta for employee screening.  Consumer facing service around the corner.  And, Roominate Toys sells toys for 6-10 year old girls that combine building furniture, rooms and electronic fixtures using circuits, such as lights, fans and buzzers.  They had a big hit on kickstarter (3x their goal) and are raising a first angel round.  Each company found interested angels who will continue with them.  An exciting start.  Many thanks to the Hattery for hosting us in their space.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Affluent Alpha Ladies Unite!

We held our second meeting last night for a group of women who are engaging in a conversation about investing their assets to align with their values. We are also focused on how the finance world could better engage women. Maybe, it's just the Bay Area, but all of these women are interested in the private markets, including angel investing and putting money into venture, private equity and hedge funds. The group discussed banding together to buy into funds with seven digit minimums. First things first: women want to feel more secure with the logistical aspects of their financial picture, like estate planning and life insurance. Then, they'd be ready to move on to "high-class" problems, such as identifying the right private equity fund to invest in. Reminders for financial advisers: women grow weary of feeling that their adviser uses too much jargon, that they have to push to get clarity on fees or more cooperation on values based investing. From our survey (currently, we have 64 respondents. I'll write more about the survey after we get 100 responses), affluent women want to see a vastly improved financial services landscape. Over 50% responded that financial institutions "give me a headache" or worse. Some of the features they'd like to see: clear, simple language (81%), greater transparency on fees (80%), to invest my assets to align with my values (91%), more competence and/or confidence with money and investing (90.0%) and many more eye-popping findings. Note that this is a biased sample. Over 1/3 of respondents have more than $1 million in liquid assets.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Do Women Want?

Studies show that women are not satisfied with current offerings for managing their wealth. 70% of women with wealth managers believe that their advisor should take a more female-centric approach (BCG Survey, 2010)and more generally, 84% of women feel misunderstood by investment marketers ( Considering that 75% of the nation's wealth is controlled by women over age 50 (MassMutual Financial Group, 2007), this seems...dumb.

I've put together a small group of affluent women to find out what would make them happy, satisfied customers. Our first meeting last week was super-charged with energy and excitement. We talked about looking at money from the perspective of meaning and values which everyone felt was inspiring. Once women have financial security, they want a whole lot more than charts and risk tolerance from their money.

Women are interested in
•Sharing ideas and their relationship to money with a trusted group of peers, within the context of protecting their privacy
•Security – want to protect resources first, then be more adventuresome.
•Trusted long-term relationships with financial providers, eg, a longstanding family accountant who knows all the family members and the family's financial history.
•Communication within family – not finding financial skeletons in the closet from the generation above, working with spouse to achieve goals and leaving a legacy that gives freedom and flexibility to children while not reducing their children’s desire for success.
•Building knowledge around how to invest assets that align with their deeply held values “doing good while doing well”. I call this "premium with a purpose".
•Showing leadership in investing in more meaning-driven ways.

I'm looking forward to our next gathering in a few weeks.

I will be sending out a survey to a wide audience of women investors this week to find out more about their desires around aligning their values and wealth. Check back for a discussion of the results in early May!

If interested in participating in a discussion group or learning more, drop me a line at

Emerge Women Poised to Take Back the Maine House

Thrilled that 25 Emerge women are running for office in Maine and that several Emerge women are running for the State House. This article suggests that the Emerge women could be the key to flipping the Maine State House from Republicans to Democrats. We decided to start an Emerge program in Maine in 2006 because races in Maine are affordable. Looks like we're seeing the payoff already!