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Helping women build their investing confidence

Christine Zalzal, SVP, Head of Online Brokerage and Digital Wealth

In January I was thrilled to be a panelist for “Women, Work & Financial Wellness”, a virtual event hosted by the Globe & Mail’s Women’s Collective. This event featured a great panel of women sharing their thoughts on how organizations can address gender disparity and included a lively audience Q&A session. The audience had so many great questions that we unfortunately didn’t have time to answers them all. Since I had so much to share and say, I requested the audience questions we didn’t have time for, so I could continue this very necessary conversation. 

Reading through the questions, I was struck by how many women were looking for advice when it comes to saving, investing and retirement planning.  As someone who has spent most of my career in financial services and now as Head of the Online Brokerage and Digital Wealth business for Aviso Wealth, I sometimes take for granted how fortunate I am. I have spent decades in an industry where I work so many people shared their financial knowledge and unique expertise with me.

I hope to pay this forward by continuing the conversation that started that day, so I can give you my perspective, insights and advice that can help other women succeed. 

What percentage of financial advisors in Canada are women and how does this affect the confidence and ability of women to invest?

Women, Work & Financial Wellness Attendee

As of 2019 about 23% of advisors in Canada were female [1]. We can boast that Canada’s representation is slightly higher than the U.S. but I think this just shows how the industry is still trying to catch-up. Women are also about to be the beneficiaries of a huge generational wealth transfer that will put them in charge of billions of dollars. Given how quickly women are taking on responsibility for their family’s financial affairs, there should be more female advisors to service their unique needs.

When it comes to picking an advisor, there are a few reasons why women may feel more comfortable working with a female advisor. Men may be more focused on investment returns and fees, but multiple case studies report that women’s primary concern is finding an advisor who treats them respect, who listens to their needs and answers their questions [2]. Women become more confident investors and more confident in the relationship when they understand how they are progressing towards their goals and what they need to do to reach them. I suspect in many cases advisors don’t even realize their own unconscious biases may be impacting their behaviour.

Finding the right advisor that you trust, respect and can speak honestly with is important regardless of their gender. However, the good news is that there are many ways to save and invest outside of the traditional financial advisor model. Our online digital wealth businesses are just a few of many that are dedicated to giving Canadians access to different ways of investing.

The accessibility revolution

It wasn’t until I got my first job out of university that I began investing. My first job was at an insurance company and as a new employee I happened to attend an information session about the different investing vehicles I had available to me. Of course, at that time there wasn’t nearly as many investing vehicles or account types (TFSAs and ETFs both didn’t exist yet!), but that got me started in thinking about saving, investing and setting goals. Through my employer I started allocating a certain amount each paycheck to an RRSP that would go into a Canadian Bond Fund. Of course, yields were very different back then. As I continued to learn about more investment vehicles and markets, I started to build a more diversified portfolio, but it was that Canadian Bond mutual fund and a group RRSP that got me started.

Today things are totally different. For example, my daughter recently got her first job out of university and has also started her investing journey. We did teach her the importance of budgeting, setting financial goals and taking a disciplined approach to saving since that isn’t taught in school, but I have to give her credit for taking the extra initiative. She has started her investing journey by going the DIY route through an online brokerage.

Like many in the Generation Z cohort, she is very influenced by her friends, social media and the internet. She absorbs so much information and is always curious to learn more. Doing her own research, she is already picking stocks and funds she wants to invest in. She is slowly but surely building her own portfolio. I love to see her and her friends starting early. Technology has made markets so much more accessible and there are so many opportunities for younger people to invest than there was when I started my career. We can see from our own data we see there are many more young investors than there ever has been before.

Building your confidence

The whole goal of Qtrade Direct Investing is to help investors build confidence and that is something I truly believe. We don’t call our platform “A Confidence Building Machine” for nothing. The key to  becoming a confident investor is building your knowledge. I know it can feel overwhelming when there is so much to learn, and you don’t know where to start. I think focusing on your goal is a great motivator. Everybody has goals for the future, but when you’re young investing for retirement is difficult because it feels so far away.  Saving for a goal in the near future—like saving for a vacation or a car— may be more helpful when starting out. Start slowly by understanding the different ways you can make your money work for you, so you can reach your goal.

Learning about investing or anything can be a life-long process. Looking back now it’s amazing how much I’ve learned since that initial information session at my first job. I am so thankful I began my investing journey when I started my first job because it’s the power of time and compounding that drives growth and returns. Even though I started early enough, I still wish I started even earlier!  

My advice to women of all ages is that it’s never too late to start. Being curious and seeking out resources that can help you build your confidence will pay off in the future and you won’t regret it. There are so many more great resources out there than there was when I got started so I encourage you to take advantage today.

In my next article I will provide an overview of the many ways you can start your investment journey.

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[1] Why so few female financial advisors, from Strategy Marketing [Source]

[2] Why women leave their financial advisors: and how to prevent it, from Strategy Marketing [Source]

Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Direct Investing, a division of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. QtradeQtrade Direct Investing, and Write your own future are trade names and/or trademarks of Aviso Wealth.