It isn’t easy to find positive effects of the lockdowns and physical isolation in the COVID-19 world, but one outcome of the new remote work reality is that it could draw more women into the financial advice profession.
“Businesses and industries will absolutely change” as a result of the pandemic, said Shannon Eusey, who founded the largest female-led RIA, Beacon Pointe Advisors, speaking Thursday at the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, which was held as an online event for the first time. “For women advisers, this levels the playing field.”
While gender roles and family structure have become more fluid in recent years, the responsibility to care for children often still falls on women, Eusey noted. That fact has made it difficult for many women to pursue careers in financial advice and wealth management, she said.
But remote work will change that, she said. With companies realizing that they can operate seamlessly with an entirely remote staff, many will almost certainly allow more flexible working arrangements, even after the pandemic subsides. Twitter, for example, this week announced that it will not require any of its employees to be present in an office going forward.
For women who have a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities, that will make a world of difference, Eusey said.
“This absolutely lets women take their kids to school … [fulfill] their household responsibilities and still be an adviser,” she said. “We’re excited about the opportunities for people to work from home.”
For Eusey, a “life hack” around that issue has been her husband, who has been a stay-at-home dad for 20 years, helping raise their four kids, she noted.
Her firm, which she launched with her father in 2002, now manages more than $10 billion in assets for more than 4,000 clients, with 16 offices in the U.S.
“Over the years, we were fortunate to be approached by the major custodial platforms,” Eusey said. In 2010, the company made the decision to offer administrative services – such as marketing, compliance, financials and back-office support – to smaller RIAs, she said. “Anything that takes away from working with a client, we do for smaller RIAs.”
And the wealth management firm has been a beacon for women, Eusey said. About half of the firm’s employees are women, as are 65% of its leadership team, she said.
“What we tell our employees is, ‘We want balance,’” she said. “We want them working with clients. We also want them to be able to attend their kids’ soccer games.”
InvestmentNews contributing editor Mary Beth Franklin, during the 30-minute session asked, “How’s remote work going in the Eusey household?”
Working at home – with teenagers and college students in the house – has presented some challenges, with multiple Zoom calls happening at the same time, for example, she said.
“We’re learning to manage, we’re learning to work better as a family unit with everybody home,” she said.
The wider use of video conferencing – thanks to the lockdowns in the current pandemic – has made many more clients comfortable with the meeting format, she said. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it was normal for a couple hundred people to attend Beacon Pointe Advisors’ online events.
“Now we have upwards of 1,000 people attending our meetings, which is phenomenal,” Eusey said. “What excites me, is the clients who weren’t willing to do a face-to-face on Zoom are now willing to do it. They’re doing [Zoom calls] with their kids, their grandkids.”
One potential opportunity for wealth managers, including her firm, is to provide online classes or seminars for students, who would receive certificates at the end, she said.
Beacon Pointe, for example, offers a Girl Scout badge, in which scouts bring $10 and learn how to save and invest – a class that could easily be taught online, she said.
“If you do a Girl Scout program, invite their mothers,” she said. “Then you have another audience of 10 to 15 that are prospective clients.”
The firm participates in a college-level course at the University of California, Irvine, and it has a full 10-week internship during the summer, she noted.
The current crisis also presents an opportunity for firms to roll out advice programs that are specific to women. When asked whether their companies have women-specific financial advice initiatives, just over half of attendees at Thursday’s event said they do.
“What’s important to women, without men in the room, is very important,” Eusey said.
In the current environment, “people have more time and are willing to tune in. They want to hear you.”