For Some Women, the Financial Services Industry May Be a Fulfilling Career Choice

By Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine

Not long ago, I was having a pleasant lunch with a young cousin of mine, Kristin Roesch, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2016 with a degree in political science and economics. We caught up on family news, chatted about her travels and her job–and suddenly found ourselves talking about hedge funds, private equity and other alternative investments.

Whoa, I thought. This is not your usual lunch conversation with a 24-year-old. But Kristin is a “registered client service associate” with UBS Financial Services in Vienna, Va., and she’s planning a career in financial services. She has already passed exams allowing her to trade stocks for clients and provide financial advice. Now she’s studying to be a chartered alternative investment analyst, with an eye to someday becoming a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

That’s music to the ears of the folks at the CFA Institute. Only 18% of CFAs are women, and the institute is going all out to attract more young women to investment management. Female investors don’t necessarily express a preference for female advisers, says Rebecca Fender, who spearheads the CFA effort, but “we find that diverse perspectives lead to better client outcomes.”

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has its own initiative to boost the percentage of female financial planners, which has remained flat for the past decade at 23%. To appeal to women, “we highlight that this is a helping profession,” says the CFP Board’s Kathleen McQuiggan. “Finance isn’t all about being good at math; you can help people achieve their goals with a sound financial plan.”

That’s the aspect that appealed to Danielle Margulis, my daughter’s childhood friend and swim team buddy. Margulis, 34, is a CFP with Meyer Capital Group in Marlton, N.J. While majoring in business at the University of Maryland, Margulis had a summer internship with J.P. Morgan–but she liked her gig giving swim lessons, too. “I love numbers, but I also wanted interaction with clients,” she says. “I wanted to be the teacher.”

Breaking barriers. Women earned nearly 60% of all bachelor’s degrees in 2016 and about half of business degrees, so they have many opportunities. The financial services field is trying to attract them by focusing on “awareness by women that this is a career,” says McQuiggan. “You can’t be what you can’t see.” In addition to professional mentoring programs, the CFP Board has launched outreach programs to college and high school students and to women returning to the workforce.

Family influence also plays a critical role. A study by the CFA Institute found that having a parent in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field, including finance, significantly increased the probability that a daughter would become a CFA. Kristin’s parents worked in the financial industry, and her father introduced her to investing in stocks “whenever I had a bit of money,” she says. Margulis’s father is a dedicated investor who encouraged her and her brother to select and follow stocks when they were kids. (If you’re considering buying shares of stock as a gift for children or grandchildren, see our Ask Kim column Get the Kids Started in Stocks for one way to do it.)

To make their businesses more wel­coming, some companies, including UBS, are changing compensation policies. “We’re giving trainees a larger salary for a longer period of time before they’re expected to build their own book of business,” says Maya Dillon, of UBS.

Margulis, the mother of Ezra, 3, appreciates the flexibility of her position. “If something comes up at my child’s school, I can leave early and finish my work later,” she says.

Both young women offer this advice to their peers: Talk to someone in the field to see if it’s for you. “It’s worth the time and effort,” says Kristin.

This article provided by NewsEdge.