“InvestmentNews” Features Women’s Choice Advisor Award

Women-Friendly, With the Seal to Prove It

Investment News

InvestmentNews
July 26, 2013

About 60 advisers and advisory firms have sought a new Women’s Choice Award that’s meant to act as a seal of approval to identify them as entities women can trust to help them with their finances.

WomenCertified Inc., which provides such recognition to women-friendly hospitals, baby products, home brands and car dealerships, teamed with the Women’s Institute for Financial Education to create the vetting process for the award. It includes 17 criteria, including a review of regulatory history and a survey of the adviser or firm’s female clients.

Seven firms and advisers have attained the award so far. Some have not qualified, for various reasons, such as filing for bankruptcy, having too many complaints against them or not being a practicing adviser for at least three years.

“The stamp says these people do the right thing for women,” said Laura Mattia, a principal with Baron Financial Group LLC, which has been given the award. “It helps them know we’ll answer every little question they ask.”

Ms. Mattia said her firm didn’t plan to make women the focus of their practice, but it found that women responded well to its focus on educating clients and hand-holding through the financial planning process. Today, Baron Financial helps many single women, divorcees and widows — many of whom have never handled their own finances. It also produces a monthly podcast, “Financially Empowering Women,” which attracts between 800 and 1,000 listeners.

The Women’s Choice Award was designed to meet the compliance requirements of every firm, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission advertising rules, said Candace Bahr, an adviser who co-founded WIFE.

In creating the award, its planners looked at all types of designations and recognition, and found some based only on adviser or broker production, and others based on research, but none that speak directly to serving female clients, she said.

“We wanted to create a program that the consumer can feel comfortable with,” Ms. Bahr said. “For the adviser, the award says, ‘I’m working actively in the women’s market and I understand women’s needs.’”

Ginita Wall, an adviser and co-founder of WIFE, said the top question the group gets from consumers is how women can find an adviser they can trust. Many women ask friends and family members for adviser recommendations, but that’s not always an option, she said.

“Often people look for a financial adviser because they are facing a transition or come into money, and they may not have a friend or family member in that position, or they may not want to reveal that they want to talk with somebody,” Ms. Wall said. “We are a trusted resource.”

About one-third of the applicants seeking the award so far are men, as it isn’t meant only for female advisers but for advisers who work well with female clients.

Attaining the award costs $595 for the client survey, which must be completed every other year and is performed by consultant Advisor Impact. Additionally, using the seal for marketing costs $795 a year, the groups said.

The award is open to planners, registered investment advisers and wirehouse advisers. The first 100 firms and advisers approved will be included in a full-page ad in USA Today, Ms. Bahr said.

Article by By Liz Skinner

Original Article: Investment News

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