It was tough to narrow them down, but here are our top takeaways from the 2019 Pax Ellevate Invest in Women symposia.
There were tons of takeaways from the panels of advisors who dished out their top tips for incorporating sustainable investing into a practice, but the one we heard loudest and clearest was this: If you are waiting for your clients to bring up sustainable investing, stop waiting and make the recommendation. ESG funds are sound investment options that should be evaluated as any other investment product would be — and not only when your clients ask for them. Top advisors are using their discretion to implement ESG into portfolios where it makes sense as part of their overall investment strategy. Bonus tip: Don’t fall for the common misconception that you need to go all in on ESG — you don’t. Just start; your clients may be impressed.
Purpose Generation’s talk about the next-gen investor challenged our assumptions and underlined the opportunities in front of us — in bold print! Think millennials are too young and their lives aren’t yet complex enough to warrant professional advice? That’s wrong! Millennials were 90 percent of the new parents of 20171 and 37 percent of the new home buyers in 2015.2 Today they are most of the workforce and many are in their peak earning years. The time to start working with millennials was yesterday. If you aren’t helping them, they will find help elsewhere. OK, one last (big) thing: Advisors who are working with a significant number of millennial clients are growing their business 50 percent faster than those who are not.3 Who knew that a satisfied millennial (is that an oxymoron?) could be your best advertisement?
Sallie Krawcheck was fired up and spot on when she talked about the ridiculous money lies the media directs toward women. Messages such as Budgeting is hard, we can help. (Fear selling.) Skip the latté and invest, instead. (Guilt selling.) Such messages have resulted in women associating money most commonly with the feelings of loneliness, stress and fear. This is a huge problem! We know that women investors are just as sound as men, and as shapers of this industry, we need to send different messages — ones that convey confidence and call out sexist directives that leave women feeling less capable than they’ve proven to be. (Or, as Sallie has put it recently, “Buy the f*ing latté!”)
If you haven’t heard of the work being done by 21/64, do yourself a favor and check them out. One of our favorite lines from Danielle York’s presentation about understanding the motives that drive generational wealth was “Our values are our benchmarks.” Danielle led us through an exercise to identify our top three values (i.e. compassion, spirituality, equality) as an entry point into a typically complex conversation about what we want our money decisions to reflect. As advisors, you navigate these kinds of conversations with families often, but how often do you lead with values? Designing a family discussion this way has proven to be incredibly impactful, and one of the best ideas shared at the symposia.
…and what we can accomplish by embracing gender lens investing is potentially profound. We can change the business culture. And because America has always been business-minded, by changing the culture we can change our country — for the better.”
These were the words of Pax Ellevate CEO Joe Keefe when he kicked things off in New York City. Joe reminded us that, at a time when we’re confronted with so much negativity, when many are wringing their hands about how bad things are, about how broken our politics are, about how divided our society is, about how unresponsive our system seems to have become, that we — investors and advisors — have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to act.
1 Winnie.com, “Millennials May Be History’s Most Competent Parents,” 2017.
2 Jung Hyun Choi, Jun Zhu, Laurie Goodman, “The State of Millennial Homeownership,” Urban Institute, July 11, 2018.
3 Patrick Donachie, “Financial Advisor Revenue Reaches Record High Despite Drop in Assets,” WealthManagement.com, April 30, 2019.