Women Are at the Forefront of Wealth Management and This TD Wealth Advisor is Helping Them Navigate the Space
Michele Gomes, Investment Advisor, Private Investment Advice, TD Wealth, encourages women to step into their power when it comes to finances
By Hailey Eisen
Sometimes, being told you can’t do something is enough incentive to do it really well. For Michele Gomes, being told in the late 1990s that women “don’t make it” in the investment field was just the push she needed.
“I not only became a successful advisor, but I also chose to focus on women as investors,” explains the London, Ontario based Senior Investment Advisor with TD Wealth. “Women have unique needs when it comes to managing their finances and as one of only two women in our office of 25 advisors, I’ve been able to bring that perspective to our clients.”
Michele was born in Guyana, the youngest of nine siblings, and came to Canada for university. “My parents believed in the value of education and always told me that there was nothing I couldn’t do,” she says. “I was raised not to take ‘no’ for an answer.” So, in 1999, after a decade of working at a financial institution as a financial advisor, Michele was looking to move into the investment side of banking. “I wasn’t interested in senior banking, lending or mortgages. I wanted to do investments,” she recalls. “I was told that this wasn’t a path that women could be successful in, and in retrospect, I think that was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Unwilling to accept this as fact or helpful advice – and knowing that she and other women had a place in investing — Michele pushed even harder to land a role in her desired field. She approached Merrill Lynch Canada and was hired as an investment advisor immediately. “I had some great opportunities working for that bank, including a two-week training program in Princeton, New Jersey,” she says. Following 9/11, the bank was sold to CIBC Wood Gundy, and Michele stayed there until her Vice President transferred to TD Waterhouse in 2006 and convinced her to join him there.
“All of my clients followed me over here and it’s where I’ve been ever since.”
During the time she has spent building her career with TD Bank Group (TD), Michele is inspired by the organization’s commitment to women investors and women advisors. TD Wealth fosters women advisors and their career growth through different life stages and has proven to be a really great place for Michele to work and develop her expertise. “I’ve been extremely lucky to have always been treated like an equal and to have had access to wonderful mentors to learn and grow alongside.”
Today, Michele is part of the Lau & Gomes Family Wealth Management Group which includes her own son, Dominic Gomes. “My personal mission is to focus on women investors, helping them maintain control of their finances while dealing with everything else they have on their plates,” she says. “I’m happy to have my son working with me – he’s my succession plan and he’s also learning how to help support women investors and to work with them to ensure they’re being heard.”
Michele says she has a lot of faith in the younger generation of advisors, both men and women, to support and encourage women investors. “Times are changing and we have to keep up,” she says. “It was just under 60 years ago that women were not able to open their own bank account without their husband’s signature, but we’ve come a long way since then — and women are [in my opinion] unequivocally the new face of wealth.”
Though it is reported that only 15 to 20% of financial advisors are women, by 2028, Canadian women will control $4 trillion in assets compared to the $2.2 trillion they control today.
“Women absolutely need to be comfortable when it comes to investing their money,” Michele says. “What we are finding is many women may not be risk averse as much as they may be risk aware. They want to make the right decisions and determine what risk is worth taking.”
The key for advisors, she says, is to understand their clients’ unique needs and accommodate them accordingly. For Michele, this often means bringing her own perspective, experiences and challenges to the table.
As a mom of two grown children and one with special needs, Michele says she can relate to women clients who are struggling to balance a variety of responsibilities including work and family life. “Women have a lot on their plates, and sometimes, they put their finances on the backburner assuming they’ll worry about it later,” she says. “But that’s where an advisor can be really helpful.”
With many women, she says, there remains a confidence gap with investing — no matter how successful or well-educated the woman is. “The goal is to work with an advisor and develop a relationship where you feel comfortable asking questions,” she says. “The first thing we do with all new clients is set up a financial plan, understand your needs and goals, and determine risk-tolerance.” Starting a plan early on gives women the opportunity to adjust and change as things in their lives change.
“As a young person I was always interested in saving, but my parents didn’t talk about money at home,” Michele recalls. “I just intuitively knew that whatever I made, I should set some aside to have cash available.” Today, she explains, young people have more to think about. With rising education costs, credit scores to contend with, and questions around where and how to save, making time to understand finances early on can be extremely valuable.
Michele is a strong proponent of women having difficult money conversations at home and with friends, breaking down the stigma around money talk and gaining information they’ll need to feel less overwhelmed or out of control.
To help support her current and future clients, Michele hosts women-focused events in London, Ontario, which have become extremely popular. “What I’m finding is women would rather gather in a group of 40 to 50 rather than in a room with hundreds of other people. They like the intimacy to ask questions and discuss with people they can relate to,” she says. At her last event, which she held at a golf course, Michele says women were able to have a glass of wine and share their financial stories, ask questions, and connect. “I was actually quite delighted that at 8pm no one wanted to leave — they wanted to stay and keep talking.”
Through her events, she often partners with fund partners or leverages materials from the TD Wealth for Women program. The goal is to provide as much accessible information as possible while also having fun. “I like to pair education with entertainment, so at my next event, for example, we are going to have a travel agent come talk about travel tips for women.”
Knowing that women face different challenges and have different priorities than their male counterparts is a big part of the money management and investment process, Michele says. “These include longevity and the need to plan for a longer retirement, at times lower wages, even when in comparable roles, and different financial needs, including supporting their children and having money to leave to charity.”
Most women will likely come to control their finances. All women need to be prepared to do so. For women looking to take control of their finances and investments, Michele suggests the following:
- Start money conversations. Address questions such as, “what do I do to get started, how can I feel more informed and less overwhelmed with my finances, and how can I get involved?”
- Get organized by creating a financial roadmap.
- Understand your needs and goals, both short term and long term.
- Consider working with an advisor to support this process.
Throughout her career, Michele has dared to surprise people and prove them wrong, doing things many told her she couldn’t do — these courageous steps have opened up a world of possibilities and avenues to give back to others. Through her work with TD, Michele is hoping to educate, inspire, and encourage women to do what they may think they can’t do with their finances: get comfortable speaking about money, develop confidence when it comes to management and investing, start early, and pay it forward by building connections and community.