Transcript | Women redefining wealth management

Sarah Widmeyer: Welcome to Conversations on Wealth, a podcast dedicated to helping Canadians with your total financial picture. I'm Sarah Widmeyer, Director of Wealth Strategies at Richardson Wealth, and I'm so thrilled today to introduce three amazing female Investment Advisors and Portfolio Managers at Richardson Wealth, all of whom have a long list of success, awards and experience. 
Alexandra Horwood, who leads Alexandra Horwood and Partners joins us from Toronto. Welcome, Alexandra. 

Alexandra Horwood: Thank you. I'm so happy to be here. 

Sarah Widmeyer: Kathy McMillan heads up McMillan Wealth Solutions in our Calgary office. Welcome, Kathy. 

Kathy McMillan: Thanks, Sarah. Awesome to be here. 

Sarah Widmeyer: And last, but certainly not least, Ida Khajadourian, who leads Khajadourian Wealth Management. And she joins us from Toronto as well. Welcome, Ida.

Ida Khajadourian: Thanks, Sarah. thrilled to be here today. Thank you. .

Sarah Widmeyer: This is going to be fun. I can't wait to get into this. So thank you for joining me today. Every woman has unique life circumstances and a different approach to money matters. But as an increasing number of women create wealth, more of them are demanding greater involvement in conversations surrounding there wealth. Kathy, I'm going to start with you. Tell me about your experience with your female clients and how these conversations have evolved, particularly over the last 14 months. What would you say has changed?

Kathy McMillanWell, Sarah, I started way back when, almost 30 years ago, and the conversation has completely evolved and completely changed because I think we've evolved. I'd say years ago, the conversation was dominated by money, investments. Now the conversation is dominated around life planning, financial planning, what matters to women, what their value and belief system is, what their concerns are - their children, their elderly parents. The conversation is so much more robust and so much more meaningful. And from those robust conversations, I feel the investments are much more suitable. So the conversations are awesome. And they matter and they make a difference.
In particular, I would say in this last situation that we're in, the conversations are either one of two ways. The first conversation is almost, I'm at home, I'm bored. So it's more around, I read this offshoot article, what do you think about this odd investment? What do you think about this? What do you think about that? They have time on their hands. The polar opposite are people that are staying home, trying to work from home, homeschool children, and have the mechanics of life going on around them. The conversation is just tell me the long and short of it and tell me what I need to do. People are working full out and wear many hats in the day. This is where our job becomes even more important in these difficult, challenging times.

Sarah Widmeyer: Thank you. Yeah, I agree with you - multiple hats. I have one person on my team who's a young mom. And there's not one video call with her where some child isn't coming in and sharpening a pencil asking for a snack, pulling at her hair. I don't know how she does it. Anyway, Ida, I'm gonna ask you now. Have you noticed new priorities or different questions? Are your female clients thinking differently about their lives, and therefore about wealth planning? 

Ida KhajadourianYes. So what I've noticed is just the greater interest in getting organized and cleaning up their financial house. So more discussion surrounding financial planning, estate planning, wills, looking at different situations with their children, helping children, and really just planning for the future, and really taking a look at what's gone on in the last 14 months with this pandemic. And in some cases, people have really changed their priorities and their goals. So that's really impacting the way we look at the short term, the medium and the longer term. Some of those goals are changing and so we have to be flexible and adapt to some of these changes.
I think another focus area has been budgeting. A lot of people sitting at home and not spending their money, the way that used to, looking at what they have been easily living without, and readjusting to that situation and taking some of those assets and thinking of different strategies of what to do with their money, whether it be different saving strategies or buying different investment properties or now helping their kids. So again, just a general change and reevaluation of where they are in life and where they're going.

Sarah Widmeyer: It's a real reset, isn't it? It's like cleaning out the financial closet and organizing and resetting. Alexandra, you are one of the busiest women I know, balancing so many plates on top of your head, and nothing seems to fall. So let me ask you, as a mother of young children yourself, what have you noticed in terms of how women have navigated through the past year? And how has that affected what they look for from you, as their Advisor? 

Alexandra Horwood: Yes, as a working mother of two toddlers, life is challenging at the best of times. And then you throw in a global pandemic and mandatory virtual learning and it's a whole new ballgame. So I often use the analogy of, I'm like a monkey on a bicycle juggling eight balls at the same time trying not to let anything fall. And I feel that many of my valued clients are trying to do the same. It's harder now than it ever has been. And I think it's taking a big toll on people's mental health, especially women, and especially moms too.
So how are we handling things? It's a challenge. There's a lot of women that have dropped out of the workforce to try to manage these increased demands on them and on their family. There are also families and parents who are working in shifts and parenting and shifts, which is really challenging as well. And I think that the best thing that I can do as a trusted Advisor is just really listen to my clients, empathize with them, acknowledge how hard of a time this is for them and offer my support in any way that I can. And it's a very, very challenging time for many reasons.
I think as women, we have so many running to-do lists. I personally have five to-do lists on the go at all times. And the last thing that I want is another person I need to manage, or another thing that I need to do. So I think that women, and myself included, we all value reliable, intuitive help from people that we trust. And I find that in the past year, so many families that I'm working with are just getting really concrete about what their retirement looks like. How much longer do they need to work for? What does it look like to them? What do they need to do to get there by the time that they want? And like what Ida said, it's about getting organized. It's a great opportunity, we're home all the time, it's a good time to get into our paperwork, to clean out our financial closet. I sometimes use the analogy of cleaning out the fridge and you often find one moldy thing back in the back of the fridge. It's been there forever, and you just got to clean it out. And it feels great when it's all fresh and clean. But I really think that there's a lot to be said for an Advisor who anticipates the needs of our clients, before they even know that they need it. And I listen, I take really good notes, I take initiative, I act, I'm organized, and I follow through for them. The last thing women want, as I said, is someone else to manage. They know they can trust me, and they know I'm going to get the job done. And they know that I'm going to contact them and let them know it's done. And I think that provides them with a lot of peace of mind and a time where they really really need that. 

Sarah Widmeyer: Yeah, wow. Awesome.
We recorded a couple of podcasts on the mental health impacts of this pandemic, in particular, how it is impacting women. Dr. Nasreen Khatri was our expert and she was talking about the echo pandemic. So, we're all living through the pandemic right now but there are going to be long, long lasting impacts that we need to anticipate. And I think we need to help our clients prepare for and deal with and understand. I think next to helping them with their financial matters, it's probably the next important thing that we can do is be their friend and listen and help coach. So well done to all of you.
Alexandra, I'm gonna stay with you for a moment. Women often underestimate themselves when it comes to investing, leaving them less confidence sometimes in their abilities than their male counterparts. What types of wealth strategies and any other advice can be offered to support them in getting what they want out of their long term investment goals?

Alexandra Horwood: I find this point interesting and in my experience, although women may feel less confident about their knowledge or experience when it comes to investments, often they know just as much if not more than their partner or men that I work with for that matter. And I find that women we sometimes start a question like this may seem like a silly question. This might be, you know, a dumb question. And it never is. Why do we downplay ourselves like that? Why do we invalidate ourselves in our questions, which are great questions. If it's important, it's not silly. I think that as a woman, I encourage all of my female clients when I start to see that trend come up, and I say, be confident in yourself, you know a lot more than you think that you do. Ask as many questions as you want. I'm always going take the time to answer every single one of them in a way that is relatable and hopefully easy for you to understand and grasp. And if it's not, I want you to tell me that, and I will try another way to make this concept resonate with you. And I encourage my female clients as well to ask for educational material. If you really want to learn more, ask the questions, ask for more material, read through it, ask questions, and ultimately choose an Advisor who is going to walk you through those and who you feel actually cares about what's important to you and will take the time to do that.
I think that just from the get go, I think it's really important to work with a wealth manager and define your goals, your risk tolerance and set really clear expectations from the start about what's important to you. A good wealth manager will understand what you want to accomplish and will build a plan to achieve those goals. And a big part of the responsibility as well is is on our valued clients. We are both working together as partners to achieve your goals. And I think that what really helps my female clients who are very busy as well is just to automate things. Set up an automated savings plan, we pre schedule in advance our quarterly meetings or biannual meetings, whatever is most convenient for their schedule. It's in the schedule, it's not one more thing you have to remember. It's there, it's automated, it happens organically and naturally. And we stay really, really organized in the meantime, and are always available for questions in whatever manner is the easiest way to communicate. 

Sarah Widmeyer: Thank you.
Ida, a larger discussion needs to be addressed around complications that come with going through divorce, losing a spouse, I call it suddenly single, or other major life transitions. Feeling unsure about the future of their wealth. What can you say to the 60% of women between age 45 and 54 that don't have a written financial plan? How do you start that conversation when they come to you in this type of situation?

Ida KhajadourianSo many women have relied upon their significant others to handle their finances. But more and more, we're seeing many female professionals who are doing extremely well in their careers. And so we've seen everything evolve in that situation where women are taking charge, and/or their situation has changed and it's time for them to really get educated and start planning and meeting with people who know how to help them throughout this process. So it's actually a fairly easy conversation to have. Women are really becoming, in often cases, the breadwinner in households and have to really manage not only the household, and children and their careers, but really grasping budgeting and household planning. And so we're getting really involved, we're starting from the beginning, we're educating them about their investments, we're discussing their goals and putting a plan in place, we're having everything down on paper, we're reviewing their tax returns their insurance policies, we're getting right into the wills.
So really digging down deep and starting from the beginning, and developing that with them right through. So that way when you have this plan in place, and you have these projections, and you can see visually, some of these charts and some of the numbers, you can really get a good grasp of where you are today and where you're going. And we can build different scenarios and different life events into these plans as well so that if we're planning for a child's education, if we're planning for different situations down the line. We can really project those in these plans. And it makes it very easy for them to understand and see where we are and where we're going.
Education is a big part of that. So again, like Alexandra said, we're definitely supporting with different articles, and putting them in front of tax and estate specialists where we need to, in terms of getting additional support and advice. So we do have quite an amazing team that can help us with these plans and projections and with tax advice.

Sarah Widmeyer: Kathy, as we've been talking I see your head moving and you're agreeing with everything you hear. I know from previous conversations that you have a practice that is very much based in financial planning, wealth planning, but also transition planning and I know that you use visualization as a way to help people see what's beyond. So my question for you is, we often hear that women see money as a means to an end, and therefore expect conversations to focus on wealth in terms of what money can do for them. Not necessarily the dollars and the cents and the numbers. But what can this money do for me? For example, if something happens to me, can I stay in my home? How can more advisors help female clients visualize their goals beyond the numbers and the performance charts?

Kathy McMillanIt's kind of a two part answer to this question, Sarah. It's really good question. And my colleagues, here - their answers. I'm just going yeah, yeah. Just so much in sync with my beliefs, the way I run my practice, and in turn, the way we run Richardson Wealth. It's holistic, it's about things that matter in your life. But I would say as women, it's built into our DNA not to be all hung up on performance charts. We're more hung up on what's going on in our lives, what's crucial in our lives. The difference of say, 1% rate of return in your RSP, we've just not really had these discussions. We've had discussions around, I'm trying to juggle elderly parents and the health care system, and also young children. That is more crucial than a performance chart. How do we deal with those? And in particular, when we're talking about women that are on their own, there's a trauma around transition, around life's transitions. It could be a positive transition, like getting married, having a baby, but there's trauma around that. And when you're in front of someone that's received, say, a severance pack, or they're exhausted from a new little one in their lives, you have to listen to them first. Have the cortisol in their minds come down, because as soon as you're worried, anxious, scared, afraid, change, don't know what to do, thinking is challenged. You go into that primitive brain. So our job is good planners is to listen thoroughly, diminish that stress. And it's true, I love those one pagers, because when you tell me you're worried about XYZ, I write it down. So you know that I won't forget it, it will be part of the plan. One of the most interesting things I see is that people in trauma get hung up on stuff that is not that important, but they worry about it. So we do a mind map around the person. And then we start a list of the things that are important, when they're going to be done. And who's going to do it with them. For example, if it's, say a severance pack, which is what's happening in Calgary, has been happening for quite some time, quite often the first thing to do is not worry about your dental plan (as people's seem to do) but perhaps it's consulting with a lawyer. We're going to do it this week, and I'm going to come with you, and then we're going to cross it off the list. So it's that fear of forgetting something, missing something.
So those transitions through thorough listening and creating those lists and helping people with them addressing things one by one, I think are much more important than did I get 1% more in my RSP or less. I think the question really is should that money be in the RRSP or should it be in the TFSA? It's about what's the right vehicle for your goals and your objectives? So it's much bigger conversation, then what's my performance? Don't get me wrong, performance is really important. But the other pieces of the puzzle that we're so well equipped to deal with in our firm in our training, I think is more important. 

Sarah Widmeyer: Okay, awesome.
I could go on for hours with you guys. So I really want to just give you all an opportunity to tell me any last thoughts about women redefining wealth management, what's important to women and how we can best support women who are clients and women in our lives. And Alexandra, I'm going to call on you first.

Alexandra Horwood: I think that the most important thing is, is really listening to people. It's really understanding what they want to accomplish and it's developing a plan to support them and getting there. It's doing what you say you're going to do. Always putting their interests first. Always caring about what's important to them and being organized. And I just loved listening to Kathy say check that off my list. That just makes me feel so good. We don't generalize at all in what we do. Everything is hyper personalized, everyone is different. And it's important that as Advisors, we go into every conversation with an open mind and an open heart. And we don't make any decisions for our clients. And that we keep them on track, we keep them up to date, often we find a way to have a personal relationship and connection with them. And we just truly show them that we care about them, and we want what's best for them. And we execute, we take care of it, we follow through and they know nothing's gonna fall through the cracks, because their wealth manager's got it handled.

Sarah Widmeyer: Yeah, very good. Ida, I'm going to put you on the spot. She's looking at me like no, no!

Ida KhajadourianHow do you top that? [laughing]

Sarah Widmeyer: [laughing] You can, you can, you don't have to top it. You compliment it. 

Ida KhajadourianNo, what I mean is, she's covered quite a bit of exactly what we're trying to achieve. We listen to our clients, we understand what they need, what their goals are, what they care about what's important to them. We put a plan in place to get them through all of their goals, transitions and take it up a generation, looking at their parents. Can we help them too? How do we look at the older generation and the needs that they're going to have? And then we look down, we look at their children. How are we going to deal with the tax and estate side, and the wealth transfer and protecting the assets. We're helping them and their children with domestic agreements, if they're getting married. There are a lot of different situations to think about.
The financial landscape has really evolved in the 20 years since I've started my career. And so we're doing complete top down, bottom up, organized. And as Kathy said, performance - it's not that it's not important, but there are so many bigger topics and issues to consider and think about when you're helping your clients, or trying to really stay away from the granular discussions and the line-by-line statement. You know, what's going on here, what's going on there and focusing on the big picture. And just trying to get our clients from point A to point B in a very smooth manner, especially when dealing with professionals who are busy. We're just trying to help and ease their mind and let them focus on what they do best. So really, allowing people to do what they love to do and letting us professionals take care of and do what we do to help them.

Sarah Widmeyer: I love it. All right, Kathy, bring us home.

Kathy McMillanWell, I going to finish off with a call to action. Women are fabulous in this business. I think the ratios are 12% of us are in this career, at this calling. We are really, really good at it. And I think a lot of young women, whatever age women, don't realize how fulfilling this career is, how much of a difference you make in people's lives, how valued you are. How you see people's kids grow up, you start their grandkids on their first investments. You don't have to be a genius in mathematics - the computer does all that stuff. You have to like people, you have to be able to think on your feet, you have to be able to help people come up with solutions, engage other professionals. We're just plain curious. We ask questions. We're empathetic. And we love, as Alex says, we love those lists. And I'm just going to put a call out there to anyone that slightly interested in this industry, in this calling, in this career, to give us a buzz. I would love to mentor a young lady! I would love to. And I think all of you would because you're very giving, all of us on this call. So that's that's my call to action ladies.

Sarah Widmeyer: Awesome, awesome.
Well, I'm happy to report we're at about 16% at Richardson Wealth in terms of women. And there's a saying in the industry that says particularly when it comes to women, if I can see her I can be her. So you ladies are seen, you're herd and you're making an impact. It is a pleasure to work with you.
There is a clear trend towards wealth and financial empowerment for women in Canada. We have a number of outstanding Advisors at Richardson wealth who recognize this and want to help our female clients grow your financial knowledge base and build confidence in your goals. If you would like to learn more about wealth strategies for women, visit our website and follow Richardson Wealth on LinkedIn for updates. Conversations on Wealth is available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you all for listening. Thank you to my guests, Alexandra, Kathy, and Ida, and please join me again for our next conversation.

The opinions expressed are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson Wealth Limited or its affiliates. Past performance may not be repeated. Richardson Wealth Limited is a member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Richardson Wealth is a trademark of James Richardson & Sons, Limited used under license.