Is investing still a boys’ club? Is there an opportunity for women to succeed? Joni Ganderton, Kavaughn Boismier, and Michelle Crouse from investment firm BMO Nesbitt Burns give their honest take on how the industry is changing, why it has been a fit for them, and why more women should get involved — both as advisors, and investors.

By Marie Moore


 

There’s a common perception that the investment industry is a boy’s club. And with estimates of the number of female investment advisors ranging between 12 to 16 per cent, it’s undeniably male-dominated. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for women to succeed. And according to Joni Ganderton, Kavaughn Boismier, and Michelle Crouse — who all work with investment firm, BMO Nesbitt Burns — that opportunity is growing. With their own thriving practices in cities across Canada, and over 40 years of combined experience in the field between them, they’re providing an inside look at what it’s like to be a woman in wealth management, and their observations on how gender plays a role for investors, too.

 

Michelle Crouse began her career with BMO Nesbitt Burns in 1996, specializing in wealth management strategies for individuals and their families. As a Wealth Advisor, she provides comprehensive wealth solutions to clients in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. 

My favourite part about my job is the connection I make with people. Some of my clients have become my very good friends, and I truly value those relationships and the learning that comes from meeting such a wide variety of interesting people, that are often outside of my usual social circle. I really get to know my clients on a personal level, as my approach has always been to listen and engage in an attempt to understand what matters to them. Because the fact is, investing is not the end, it’s the means to the end — it’s how you get to where you want to be.

How do I help my clients get there? Investment decisions are determined by a client’s situation and objectives. My female clients, for example, are often in transition, either because of the death of their spouse or divorce. They can sometimes be overwhelmed if they haven’t previously been responsible for the management of their own financial lives, so they need to have a high level of trust with me, and feel like I’m walking shoulder to shoulder with them.

We can do a lot to alleviate any unease that women may have regarding managing their finances or making investment decisions. Fortunately, in my experience, they aren’t afraid to ask questions, they respond well to coaching, and they appreciate open and honest conversation about financial planning and how it fits in the big picture. As advisors we need to do a good job ensuring that our clients are confident to ask as many questions that they need to.

Back in the day it may have been a boy’s club, but I’ve been in this field just over twenty years, and I’ve really found everyone I’ve worked with — including my clients — to be extremely supportive and respectful. The industry has truly evolved today, and it’s now a very attractive choice for women who are looking for flexibility from a work/life balance perspective, or who want to control their own destiny

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the percentage of women in the industry. There definitely is a need to engage more women, because they are only about 16 per cent of the advisor population, and that’s a disappointing statistic. I’m proud to say that attracting female advisors to our firm is a priority, and there is a strong commitment to supporting women.

 

Based out of Salt Spring Island, B.C., Joni Ganderton has been providing wealth management services to high net worth investors since 1993. She’s a licensed Certified Financial Planner and Wealth Advisor.

I have always had an interest in investment management. After completing an MBA in finance and marketing, I managed a private banking office for a while, which gave me the opportunity to work with both individuals around their family needs and corporations around their commercial needs. The experience led me to realize that I most enjoyed relationships with individuals and families — and so I took the leap into wealth management. When I started in 1993, I didn’t really pay attention to the boy’s club that existed, as I was squarely focussed on success. Even now, it’s still a bit of a boys’ club — in that there are just so many more men than women in the industry — but there have also been many advances and efforts made to make it more inclusive for women. And there’s absolutely room for women to be successful.

In general, female investment advisors have a listening approach that really comes from a place of care. And that translates into a great opportunity to build a business in today’s wealth planning environment, where success comes from taking the time to hear your clients’ needs. I believe women clients in particular really appreciate and quickly recognize the listening approach. And with the continuing increase in the share of wealth controlled by women, the opportunity is growing to work with female investors in a way that meets their unique needs and approach.  

That growth excites me. The highlight of what I do every day is bringing in new clients. Not only because I enjoy interacting with new families and businesses, but I also love the thrill of closing the deal. If that excites you, the industry might be the right fit for you — but you should also know it’s an all or nothing kind of business. Because it is traditionally your own practice, you’ve got to be able to live and breathe it, 24 hours a day. Make that decision cautiously and be ready for that change. 

 

Prior to jumping into the role of Investment Advisor and Financial Planner in January of 2017, Kavaughn Boismier spent over two years as a Private Wealth Consultant. She’s based out of Windsor, Ontario.

I approach my role as an investment advisor differently. This can be explained by three reasons: I am a millennial, I come from a wealth management background, and I am a woman. Like many other female investment advisors, I place a great emphasis on certain areas that I think many of my male colleagues might call “fluff” — like visual appeal, branding, technology, process, a holistic conversation, and strong intuition and listening skills.

Each one of my client’s, male or female, approaches investing differently, too. It comes down to education, previous investment experience, and trust. I tailor my conversation and approach to match my client’s expectations on an individual basis. Among my female clients, I’ve noticed some common misconceptions regarding managing their financial future. That it will be hard. That it will be confusing. That they are not capable of making strong, sound, investment decisions.

Where do these misconceptions come from? Naturally, many women need to understand it all. And this need leads to anxiety, fear, and restlessness — and often avoidance. I believe that once we as women realize that we can trust our financial advisor to guide us in making the right choices, the experience becomes very enjoyable.

It’s certainly enjoyable for me. Offering premier wealth solutions to the people in my community is a very fulfilling experience, and I am propelled by a deep passion to be a strong source of information and a thought leader to those around me. Plus, I love owning my brand.

Based on my experience so far, I wouldn’t call our industry a boys’ club anymore. I would say that it is definitely male dominated — with a refreshing female presence. The industry and its professionals acknowledge that the number of female invest advisors needs to increase. BMO Wealth, for one, is placing a high level of focus around finding good female talent. It’s a win for clients — especially the growing segment of female investors — and it’s a win for the women who become financial advisors. I’m certainly proof of that.