One of BMO’s most senior women leaders shares her advice for success

By Sarah Kelsey

As Group Head at BMO Wealth Management, BMO Financial Group, Joanna Rotenberg is one of the bank’s most senior women leaders. She’s on BMO’s Executive Committee, sits on several boards, is active in the community, and is also a mother of three. How did she do it? We asked Joanna to share the key lessons she’s learned on her path to success.

There are two parts to success, Joanna Rotenberg, Group Head at BMO Wealth Management, BMO Financial Group, explains to me as she waits to catch a plane to Europe for business. The first is embracing risk. “I could not have predicted any of the twists and turns my career was going to take,” including a shift in focus from law to business. But in 2010, at the end of her first maternity leave, she got a call that changed everything. 

“I was contacted by a board member at BMO about a position within the organization that was different than what I was doing,” she says. At the time, she was a partner at McKinsey & Company’s Toronto office and led the organization’s Wealth Management and Retirement practice. BMO was one of her clients. Though she knew changing careers and juggling a young child was a huge risk, she realized the opportunity was something she “couldn’t pass up.” 

Today, Joanna is one of the most senior women leaders at BMO, the program executive sponsor for BMO for Women, and is widely recognized as a champion of women in finance. She sits on several boards, was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network, and in 2018 was named ‘Women in Capital Markets Champion of Change’ for her focus on diversity and inclusion. And she’s a mom to three. 

How she’s been able to accomplish so much at such a young age is in large part due to the second part of her success equation: surround yourself with great people. “Some of the best work I’ve done has been because of the people I’ve worked with,” Joanna notes. “Find people who complement your skills.” 

She encourages everyone to live by the “airplane test.” Before taking a risk on a new job or project, ask yourself if the people you’d be working with are folks you’d want to spend five hours stuck on the runway beside. If they’re not, the opportunity may not be the right fit. 

“For BMO, our best-kept secret is our people. It’s something I saw a little of when BMO was my client,” she says. “People are generally very smart and collaborative, and we attract those who think about the community.” 

 

“Never underestimate the impact your voice and actions can have, I think it’s the little things that matter just as much as the big things.”

 

The “airplane test” also applies to sponsorship — something Joanna is a huge advocate for. She actively works to create the conditions for success for those who are keen, ambitious to deliver impact and growth, and will pay it forward to sponsor others to win. “I make it my business to sponsor men and women inside and outside of the wealth team,” she says.

Case in point: she recently coached a woman she’d been sponsoring to take a risk on a career opportunity that would be a stretch for both her knowledge and experience. But Joanna knew she’d excel in the position (which she did). “It’s about giving people that ‘at-bat’ — a seat at the table, to challenge our views, and opportunities to shine or fail in a safe environment.”

It’s here that Joanna pauses to very helpfully explain the important distinction between sponsorship and mentorship; they involve different levels of risk and one is more impactful than the other. 

“A mentor will give you the advice, but a sponsor is someone who will knock down the doors for you,” she notes. “Sponsorship shows you have some promise — someone will be taking a chance on you — so do the best in every situation.”

She says everyone should know the difference before asking a person they admire for career guidance or support. But it’s also important for leaders to recognize each for what it is, and to remember the power they have to grow and build the next generation of high-performing employees. “Never underestimate the impact your voice and actions can have,” she says. “I think it’s the little things that matter just as much as the big things.” 

Joanna also encourages leaders to check their biases at the door when choosing who to work with, especially when it comes to women. “When my daughter comes of age, I want her to have the same opportunities as her twin brother. No more, no less. I want her to not think about gender equality as an issue,” she notes. 

Her last piece of advice applies to everyone — whether they’re in finance or the arts — and is tied to her first requirement for success: don’t let fear of failure prevent you from taking risks. 

“Everyone fails in their personal and professional lives at some point… if you’re not failing enough, you’re not pushing it enough,” she says. “Failures are setbacks in the moment. We’re not surgeons, they’re not irreparable — they’re usually things that can be corrected, fixed and learned from.”

How Lisa Milburn reinvented her career — and is helping BMO reinvent how they communicate with women

 

 

Lisa Milburn is the chief operating officer at BMO Insurance, a role she took on after pivoting out of a career in communications. She’s also the executive sponsor of the BMO for Women program, an initiative that’s changing the way the financial institution interacts with their female clients.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

Lisa Milburn is an expert in communications. She spent over 20 years in the field, first on the agency side and then in three different industries: pharmaceuticals, insurance, and banking. But when she moved into her first business management role — chief administrative officer of Canadian personal and commercial banking at BMO Financial Group — she realized she had to leave her personal brand as a communicator behind.

“I was very deliberate in my upfront conversation with the person I was going to work for. We agreed that any advice around communications would be given behind a closed door, so that I could transition my brand into being seen as a credible business leader, versus how people had traditionally seen me, in my communications capacity.”

Being honest with herself and others about what her brand stood for and the other strengths she could bring to the role enabled her to achieve credibility in the transition. Taking inspiration from the many incredible global leaders she’d supported throughout her career, Lisa became an authentic and successful business leader.  

Two years ago, she moved on from personal and commercial banking to the position of chief operating officer at BMO Insurance. Lisa credits the bank’s culture for enabling her to begin her journey in a specialized corporate function and then pivot into C-Suite roles in two different lines of businesses. “It’s a culture where they take chances on people to grow and develop, and have a long career,” she says.

It was also the culture — and the brand that goes along with it — that attracted her to BMO in the first place. “I was drawn in by the BMO brand. The focus on making sure that our client experience is really the exemplar, and that we truly are passionate about being here to help our clients,” Lisa explains. “That transfers over into our culture, and how we work internally with each other every day.”

Having worked in three different capacities during the ten years she’s been with BMO, it’s not surprising that Lisa was tapped to be the executive co-sponsor of the BMO for Women program, representing the interests of BMO’s Wealth Management businesses. The initiative is helping to evolve client engagement strategies across the bank by recognizing that women want to approach their relationship with their financial institution differently.  

 

“We are earning more, and we need to consider how to protect that earning power in a different way than we have in the past.”

 

“Research has shown that women aren’t satisfied with the way that they are developing relationships with their investment advisors or their bankers today, so there’s a great opportunity to change that, to really listen to our female clients,” says Lisa. “We’re doing it in a thoughtful way, and we’re not trying to exclude men from conversations. The program is focused on the way we build relationships with women clients to differentiate their experience with us and serve their unique needs, both as an investment firm and as a bank.”

Lisa also says that there are parallels from an insurance perspective, noting that many of the same stereotypes that people have around investing persist when it comes to purchasing insurance, making men the focus of the conversation. That’s layered with the fact that most Canadians are underinsured, plus a tendency for women not to see themselves as part of the equation, especially if they are not the primary breadwinner.

But the situation is changing. According to the latest Statistics Canada census, women are the primary earners in 17% of households — a number that has doubled in recent years. And even when women aren’t the main breadwinner, Lisa stresses that they still need to be a part of the decision-making in their own financial future, thinking about insurance for themselves as much as they’re thinking about protecting their families with insurance for their husbands.

“As women, we often think about everybody around us, but it’s important that we stop and think about ourselves too,” she says. “We are earning more, and we need to consider how to protect that earning power in a different way than we have in the past. Women can be more modest about their success, but it’s okay to have that confident conversation and have the right advisors around you.”

Helping to provide that confidence is just one aspect of the BMO for Women program — and it’s a commitment that goes beyond the realm of clients. Lisa sees the potential to influence positive change outside of the company by breaking down the barriers women can face, from developing relationships with their investment advisors to growing their businesses with funding.

“It’s much bigger than just BMO. We see it permeate across many different industries,” says Lisa. “In our research, we’re finding lots of parallels in the barriers that women face, whether you are an investment advisor, an aspiring lawyer, or developing a career as a CFA. If we can start the conversation in banking, I’m sure there’s lots we can learn across multiple industries to bring these barriers down.”

In the meantime, Lisa has personal advice for women experiencing a barrier to their success — like figuring out how to reinvent their career, as she did. “As women, we can fall into scenarios where we are helping others to be successful. Helping others is phenomenal, but the key to advancing is determining what are the few things that you can be recognized as driving in your role that are creating a significant impact — and that can make you stand out.”

 

What’s it like for a woman in the investment field? Three female investment advisors share their stories.

 

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.

 

 

 

Money Talks: How investments are playing a role in the push towards gender equality

 

There’s growing attention on the issue of gender equality, but many individuals and institutions are at a loss for how this can be translated into action. A rising trend in Canada is offering a solution: impact investing with a focus on gender diversity. Experts from BMO Global Asset Management weigh in on why it’s not only a powerful tool for change, but also a sound investment.

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

Over the past few years, the issue of gender equality has been moving into the spotlight, with growing media coverage, action by the government and private sector, and grassroots initiatives taking on everything from the wage gap to world politics.

We know that women have made incredible strides from an education, work, and wealth perspective. We also know that there’s still a long road ahead, which includes Canada, where women’s participation in the labour market may be growing, but a man is still two to three times more likely than a woman to hold a senior management position, according to a report from The Conference Board of Canada.

Like the Fearless Girl statue staring down Wall Street’s bull, this heightened awareness isn’t going away. So how do we satisfy the desire for change? Some individuals and institutions are choosing to put their investment dollars behind their beliefs.  

The method is impact investing. It’s similar in definition to responsible investing (RI), which incorporates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into the selection and management of investments. But it takes the idea a step further, investing in companies, organizations, and funds with the aim of creating a measurable social and environmental impact. While RI follows the principal “don’t cause harm,” impact investing aims to “do some good.”  

In the context of gender diversity, investing in companies that support women in leadership roles not only brings more awareness to the issue, it also shifts investments away from businesses that are behind in women’s advancement, and lack a gender diverse leadership team. It can be a powerful tool for change, and in recent years the investment industry in Canada has begun to step up. In fact, BMO was the first Canadian bank to launch a mutual fund focused on gender diversity. 

 

“Investing in companies that support women in leadership roles not only brings more awareness to the issue, it also shifts investments away from businesses that are behind in women’s advancement, and lack a gender diverse leadership team.”

 

Launched in April 2016, the BMO Women In Leadership Fund (the “Fund”) invests in North American companies that have a female CEO, or a board of directors with at least 25 per cent female representation. It is comprised of large, well-recognized North American companies, which includes BMO Financial Group, thanks to their board being 36 per cent female. According to Lisa Catherwood, VP of Sales Strategy and Support with BMO Global Asset Management, it was the bank’s own commitment to gender diversity that led to the decision to launch the Fund.    

“We, as a firm, recognized that women were underrepresented in senior leadership roles. The need was there, the opportunity was there, and we wanted to be at the forefront,” Lisa says. “Plus, BMO holistically has taken on the initiative to be the bank for women, so from an asset management perspective, a retail solution was really a natural extension of that.”

It’s easy to have a positive outlook when looking at the various studies linking gender and cultural diversity to a greater capacity for creativity and innovation; greater employee productivity, commitment and satisfaction; and a stronger focus on responding to customer needs.

“When we launched the Fund, one of our objectives was to give investors the ability to align their social values with their investment goals,” says Mckenzie Box, Senior Product Manager, BMO Global Asset Management. “When clients look at the Fund, they see that it’s full of household company names with strong fundamentals. It gives them the opportunity to participate in driving social change while also seeking financial returns.”

This applies to socially responsible investing beyond gender as well. There’s growing evidence that the prudent management of ESG issues, as well as the following of best practices in these areas, can have an important impact on the creation of long-term investor value by reducing risk. So as long as you are meeting your investment objectives, Mckenzie sees impact investing as a great choice, and advises individuals to talk to their advisor to find out if it’s right for their portfolio.

Jennifer So, Canadian Equity Analyst at BMO Global Asset Management, also notes that from an investment perspective, one of the key considerations they assess before investing in a company is the quality of the senior management team and the board of directors, and one of the factors that goes into the quality assessment is diversity. “A team with different perspectives and experience often results in a better run company, which translates into shareholder value,” Jennifer explains. “The world is changing quickly, and having a broader thought base and idea base in strategy is increasingly important.”

Jennifer also notes that there are many ways to define diversity, “but with women representing 50 per cent of the population, that’s a big bucket to draw from.”

With more and more products available each day, if investors look around, they can find things that will resonate with them. According to the Responsible Investment Association the responsible investing industry in Canada has grown tremendously over the past two years, coming from both institutional investors such as pensions funds, and also from individual retail investors.

A study by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing shows the demand is being driven by two key groups: millennials and women. Millennials, the generation born in the last two decades of the twentieth century, are twice as likely to invest in companies or funds that support specific social and environmental goals, and 84 per cent are open to sustainable investing. Comparably, 76 per cent of women show an interest in it — as opposed to just 62 per cent of men — and they are nearly twice as likely to consider the impact of their investment alongside the rate of return.

The younger generation of investors will be an increasingly important demographic for the investment industry going forward, as they are set to inherit billions over the next few decades. According to figures compiled by research group Investor Economics, women already control about $1.1 trillion in personal wealth, and a study from the Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy found that seven out of every ten dollars will be inherited by women. Needless to say, the outlook for impact investing is looking up.

“In places like Europe, ESG and socially responsible investing is already well established,” Lisa points out, “and at BMO globally, we have a thirty year legacy and strong expertise in responsible investing. But from a Canadian perspective, we feel this is only the beginning.”

 

 

 

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Why estate planning is important for all women — and how you can get started

 

As vice president and regional director, Lydia Potocnik leads the Trust and Estate Services team in Ontario for BMO Trust Company, which provides individuals, families, and businesses with valuable estate, trust, and incapacity services. She believes it is important for everyone to have an estate plan in place and for women, there are times when it needs to be made a priority.

 

By Lydia Potocnik

 


 

Women find themselves in a different situation today than they did fifty years ago — a time when it was assumed that women couldn’t and shouldn’t be in charge of financial decisions. Now, women are not only empowered and capable, their personal wealth is also growing. They are in a strong position to be making decisions around estate planning on their own if they are single, or collaboratively with their spouse as an equal partner.

So why do so many women avoid the estate planning conversation?

My experience points to a few reasons. Far too often, clients wait until they have a health crisis, which is not ideal for a process that requires well thought out decisions and time to do it right. Many feel that it is a topic related to death, which they find difficult to have to deal with, or they erroneously believe that estate planning is not necessary for them. Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need to own a big house or have millions of dollars in an investment account to warrant putting an estate plan in place. It also doesn’t matter what age you are, your marital status, or if you have kids. For all women, estate planning is just as important as financial planning. And in some cases, it needs to be made a priority:

 

If you’re married.

While it’s unpleasant to think about your spouse passing on, it’s a reality that you may one day have to face (thanks to female longevity, this is especially true if you have a husband). It is critical for women to be involved in the estate planning process, to ensure you agree upon how assets will be distributed after your partner’s death, and that your own well being as a widow is secure. This also means you will have the last word on what ultimately happens to your shared  assets. Deciding how to divide things up amongst family members or philanthropic causes should not be a last-minute process.

 

If you own a business.

The number of female entrepreneurs is growing in Canada. In fact, self-employment among men has remained relatively flat since 2009, while it has been increasing among women. If you are part of this new wave of entrepreneurs, you not only need to consider protecting your assets, but you also need to plan for the succession of your business should you die or have a health crisis.

 

If you have custody of your kids.

In the event of a divorce, a lot of women become custodial parents with either primary control or shared custody of their young children. If you have kids under the age of 18, you’ll want to make sure that they are not only financially taken care of, but also that you have appointed a guardian in your will to look after them.

 

If you have a blended family.

Blended families that include children from a previous marriage have become more commonplace, and this can mean special estate planning considerations need to be taken into account. What a woman will often want to do is provide for her second spouse, but she may also want her wealth to ultimately end up in the hands of her kids from her first marriage. A spousal trust, in that scenario, is one planning solution to consider.

 

If you’ve experienced a major life change.

Even if you already have an estate plan in place, major life changes — such as the birth of a child, the acquisition or sale of a business, or the death of a beneficiary — means your estate plan needs work. And if nothing eventful has happened, you should still be revisiting your estate plan every three to five years, to account for things like changes in tax laws.

 

If you already recognize the importance of estate planning, you might be wondering how to get started. There are many individuals offering estate planning services, but it has become such a niche area of expertise that I encourage you to only sit down with someone who has strong experience in the field.

When working with BMO Trust Company clients, I ask that they come to their first meeting armed with a list of everything they own, as well as how they want to divide it up. Beyond that, the estate planning lawyer should be able to offer guidance, ensuring you are making decisions around critical issues, and focusing on four components: your will, which is the cornerstone of the estate plan; power of attorney documents, both for property and personal care; setting up trusts, as needed; and reviewing beneficiary designations on investment vehicles, such as RRSPs, Tax-Free Savings Accounts, and life insurance policies.

Communicating your estate plan to your executor and your beneficiaries is also critical when it comes to estate planning. Women often are concerned about preserving family relationships and ensuring that their children or beneficiaries get along after their death. As such, discussing your wishes and sharing with your family what your ultimate estate plan looks like is a good idea.

Whether it be to your children or your favourite charity, transitioning your wealth comes down to your ultimate wishes. Documenting those wishes in an estate plan is critical, no matter who you are and what you own, so don’t put off this important exercise until it’s too late.

 

 

Like this? Discover the four myths that are holding women back from successfully managing their finances.

Four myths that hold women back from successfully managing their finances

 

Melanie McDonald is the Vice-President and Regional Director of Trust and Estate Services at BMO Trust Company in Western Canada. As an expert on estate planning, she assists clients with some of the most challenging issues that they and their family will face in their lifetime. She’s also accustomed to handling her own personal and family finances — and believes women should be encouraged more to get involved. As she points out, you don’t need to be a financial expert to feel confident about managing your money.

 

By Melanie McDonald

 


 

More than once, my husband and I have been in meetings with financial advisors who have focused their attention on my husband, and when there are decisions to be made, they ask him to respond, until I say, “Based on my background I take the lead in our family on investment issues, so how you work with us to make investment decisions needs to change.”

It isn’t a surprising situation. The assumption that one person in a couple, often the man, is the one who makes the financial decisions is common — not just in the industry, but outside of it as well, and men are not the only ones to subscribe to this idea. It sometimes comes along with the stereotype that women can’t handle the risk or complexity involved with making financial decisions. I shouldn’t have to explain that this is absolutely untrue — every woman is capable.

And every woman should be capable. Investor Economics projects that the share of wealth controlled by women will grow to $2.7 Trillion by 2024. Whether they are self-made — building wealth from their own businesses and careers — or have inherited wealth, women are an economic force.

So what is holding women back from confidently taking charge of their finances? In my work with hundreds of clients, I’ve identified four myths around women and money that need to be dispelled.

 

Myth #1: You need to know everything about investing to get started.

Often people think they need all of the answers before meeting with a financial advisor. But that is exactly what Advisors are there for — to provide not only the options, but information to make an informed decision. Depending on your role models or life experience, you may not currently have the skills to deal with financial issues, but a great advisor will help to educate you and guide you through the experience. Have the confidence to ask questions and learn.

 

Myth #2: Once you’ve started investing, you need keep up to date on everything to make informed decisions.

Fully understanding the wide world of investing is a daunting task — and a task that you can leave to professionals. When your advisor listens to your priorities and presents you with options, you can focus your personal research and learning. You’ll be informed enough to make key decisions, without being overwhelmed. A helpful tip for identifying these priorities on your own is to think about your finances not in isolation, but tied to your day-to-day life and major milestones. Ask yourself, “What’s most important to focus on this year?” That’s where you can focus your learning.

There are numerous books and online resources for further educating yourself on specific topics. BMO also offers workshops across Canada for women clients, including seminars for entrepreneurs, becoming more confident in financial life and investing, and dealing with major life events such as divorce or losing a partner.

 

Myth #3: You’re stuck with the advisor you have.

Seeing your financial advisor shouldn’t feel like going to the dentist. Even beyond this extreme, you shouldn’t settle for someone who isn’t connecting with you, or giving you the advice and support you need. Some advisors tend to focus on their expertise, or what they want to accomplish in a meeting based on what they think the client wants. A great advisor listens and learns, ultimately focusing on the immediate and long-term needs and priorities of their clients. They also understand that the risks of investing can be stressful, and will not only help to make decisions, but will also work with their clients to implement them, make sure they feel right, and make changes if necessary.

If you’ve invested a lot of time and effort with your current advisor you might be reluctant to start the search again, but the relationship is simply too important not to get it right. Your advisor helps you with the foundations of your life, and you could be working with them for years or decades. Make a change if you need to. Or, as I have done, have a frank discussion with your advisor about what you need to have happen to improve the situation.

 

Myth #4: You can wait as long as you want to get started.

Thanks to the compounding effect of money, the sooner you budget for investing, the greater the returns — and the peace of mind. Even if your partner is currently handling the finances, there’s likely going to be a point in your life that you are going to be in charge. It’s always better to get comfortable and learn while there’s stability in your life, rather than when there is a significant life change that forces control upon you.

Any myths that are out there should not be barriers stopping from getting your financial and estate planning started or getting more involved in the decision making. It is empowering to take steps to feel more control of your financial wellbeing and your plans for the future. There are many great advisors who are passionate about ensuring that their clients are on the path to success — I encourage you to take one step forward today to get closer to having your financial goals achieved.