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Wall Street needs women, younger clients to compete: Krawcheck

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 8 Nov 2011 12:59 PM
Author: Suzanne Barlyn and Ashley Lau
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By Suzanne Barlyn and Ashley Lau

   NEW YORK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Wall Street must raise its appeal to the next generation of investors and female professionals to remain competitive in the wealth management industry, the former head of Bank of America's wealth management unit said on Monday.

   The securities industry "doesn't do a great job for women or being appropriate" for the next generation, said Sallie Krawcheck, who was ousted as head of Bank of America's global wealth and investment management unit in September.

   "We talk about stock market returns. We're not talking as an industry about protecting the downside," said Krawcheck, speaking at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in New York.

   More conversations need to focus on planning and asset allocation, she said.

   Indeed, becoming more relevant to a younger generation of prospective clients and building more diverse teams of advisers are among the changes Wall Street will have to make to compete in the future, Krawcheck said during an interview at the conference with PBS host Charlie Rose.

   Younger prospective clients have become skeptical of the industry through press images of advisers being untrustworthy and repeated messages to avoid the markets, she said.

   "They typically think that these organizations don't add value," she said.

   The average wealth management client is about 63 years old, said Krawcheck, higher than the mid-50s average age of clients when Krawcheck started in the field during the 1990s.

   Still, strategies for attracting the next generation of investors are fairly straightforward.

   "The number one thing is 'Return my phone call,'" said Krawcheck. Other tools the industry can provide to clients, such as liquidity management, rank lower in priority.

   "Clients typically say investment performance is important, but it's usually about 8th on the list," she said.

   Often described as one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, Krawcheck said the dearth of female advisers posed one of the biggest challenges for the wealth management industry.

   Women make up 16 to 17 percent of advisers in the industry today, she said. In senior management positions, that number is smaller - about 15 percent.

   "Our industry does not do a great job for women," she said at the conference. "We do have large groups of people - women - who are underserved by our business."

   Krawcheck said she visited the Harvard Business School last week, where she spoke to a group of young women interested in pursuing careers in the field, and felt apologetic about how the advancement of women advisers had been slow over the past decades.

   "I kept wanting to say, 'I'm sorry - I feel sort of sad that, when I was your age I really wouldn't have thought that 25 years on, that we wouldn't have made more progress than we've made'," she said.

   Indeed, the diversification of people working in the wealth management industry is key to tackling the challenges of a complex economy, Krawcheck said.

   "You need a broad range of perspectives in order to navigate through."

   (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn and Ashley Lau; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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