In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about the recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor René Nourse, whose educational offerings for women include the Smart Women/Savvy Money Club and the Women’s Summit.
The following article includes edited excerpts of René’s discussion with Sean Bailey, Horsesmouth editor-in-chief, or you can watch the full interview below.
I started my firm, Urban Wealth Management, back in 2012, so we recently celebrated 10 years. But before that, I was in the major wire houses for 25 years. All of these major firms obviously are focused just on asset management, but I found at the last firm I was at, I was so engaged with the clients. The majority of them were women who wanted financial advice and that’s when I said, “You know what? I really want to be able to give some financial advice.”
Guest: René Nourse
El Segundo, Calif.
Years in business: 35
Firm: Urban Wealth Management
What’s working now: Offering financial education to women through the Smart Women/Savvy Money Club and the Women’s Summit
So, I started my own firm, with that primary initiative. We came up with the name Urban Wealth Management because our primary goal is to focus on working with professional women, who are in major cities, urban areas, all across the country. So we have identified a variety of women and women have identified us. Women are searching online for women advisors to work with.
We want to help women build up and grow and maintain their wealth. Because often, unfortunately, a lot of women, though they may have access to wealth later in life, they never learned how to manage it during their lifetime.
And so, after the first couple of years of managing a firm, I came up with the idea that we needed to have a smaller group to focus on and let women know that this is our primary objective, not an exclusion of men, but we wanted to create a group that would focus specifically on women’s initiatives and help them to become more confident about how they’re going to manage their lives and finances—that is where the Smart Women/Savvy Money Club began.
Smart Women/Savvy Money
Well, we want all women to know that they are smart. You are smart, you’re multi-taskers, you do a lot of things, but we want you to get savvy. We want you to get savvy about your financial life. And so we call it Smart Women/Savvy Money, but it’s just not about their money. It’s about how they’re going to manage their financial life.
So I started that organization and we do have a group where we post on a monthly basis (except for the month of December, since that’s holiday time, everybody’s busy). We host webinars and all of them are still listed on our site from years ago on a variety of topics, and there are blogs that are about lifestyle-related issues.
And so if somebody wants to know what’s the difference between an HSA and FSA type of account? Or what’s the new rules for how much I can contribute to my retirement accounts for next year? What’s the difference between a will and a trust? We have all of that information in there, whether it’s a blog or a webinar—and those are free. So it’s a way that any woman can be provided with the background at any time that they want. They don’t have to be a client to access all of that.
So it’s all about providing women with the ability to get trained at their level, at their timing and when they’re available. They can access that through our sites at any time. We also have a Facebook page too, for Smart Women/Savvy Money, but people have to sign up to be able to be allowed to come in there because we do post some personal things in there.
Funneling people in through education
For the Smart Women/Savvy Money, they’re learning about it through our marketing efforts, putting on webinars and just sending out emails to our email list and then inviting people to get more involved by going into the private Facebook group.
We have thousands that are in that network group for Smart Women/Savvy Money where we send out notifications, not only for the webinars and the blogs, but monthly newsletters. So it goes out to everyone in that group. And maybe they haven’t signed up with us yet, but they want to be part of the group and they do get these notifications and they typically do follow up and say, “I want to work with your firm.”
And so that [marketing funnel] has been really essential for us getting clients. We’re also getting referrals and women are googling, they’re looking to work with women and they find us that way. We get a lot of that. Or they’re getting a referral from someone who has worked with us already.
The Women’s Summit
So in addition to Smart Women/Savvy Money, we have the Women’s Summit. It’s an all-day event where we have a variety of speakers. It’s not only focusing on women as clients, but also as presenters. I’m also very supportive of women business owners. And we’re supporting women who are estate planning attorneys, who are accountants, who are mortgage brokers, who are insurance people. So we have them come and speak and it’s a great way for them to also build up their business based on the connections that we’re providing them.
While we don’t offer this to everybody, we do it on a broad scale and don’t just invite clients. We do charge people to come to make sure we can pay for the room and lunch or breakfast. In addition to those costs, we make sure that what is charged will take care of all of those charges and if there is anything left over, we tend to donate it to a non-profit or foundation.
And we post that to let them know any additional funds will go to this particular group, we specify what that organization is. And so that’s been a big plus. So, the last one we did, which was in 2019, the Women’s Summit, we had about a hundred people attend. We would start by 8:30/9 a.m. and would typically end by 3 p.m. In the morning, we would provide coffee, juice and some pastries, but we did provide a full lunch.
To market the Women’s Summit, everything was sent out electronically and we sent out the notifications months in advance. The last one we had was in May and we sent out notifications beginning in February, to say please sign up by X date. But initially, it was just to say this is what’s coming up, these are the topics. And then we would highlight each one of the speakers there so they could see. And we even asked some of the speakers to do a quick short video to show who they are and that was a good way to promote them as well.
Presenters and topics
When creating the schedule for the day, we made sure that each one of the team members spoke on their areas of expertise, and then we had a variety of other speakers to present as well. So my primary initiative is to make sure to promote each one of my team members so that people will know what they specialize in, what their background is. And then the other speakers that we had were not affiliated with the firm, but they were people that we had reached out to and asked if they could speak on a specific topic.
And ironically, we didn’t pay anybody anything. We just said this is a way of promoting you and your expertise and your business. And they raised their hand and said, “Yes, I would love to be there.” And the topics are broad enough, they’re just not about finances, but also how you build up and make sure that your lifestyle range is being protected and making sure that you understand the elements of the steps that you need to incorporate in your life.
At our most recent summit, we had someone talk about yoga, things to consider when you’re starting a business, college planning, estate planning, retirement planning, and more. When we sent out the invites, we informed our invitees on the different topics, so they knew what was coming.
Of course Covid put the brakes on the summit for a couple of years. Hopefully, we will be doing the Women’s Summit in May 2023 and we’ll start focusing on that soon. We already have designated about three different speakers that will have some appropriate topics that will be relevant for 2023 that we want to make sure that everybody is aware of and gets prepared for 2023. We have been very cautious around Covid: We still haven’t allowed clients to come into the office, but we are now going to be changing that for the first time in three years.
3 challenges women face
Women are multi-taskers, which I think is the first big challenge they are facing. They do a variety of things all the time.
Second, what we have discovered and definitely have confirmed is that women tend to be overlooked and underserved [in the realm of personal finance]. For example, oftentimes, women go with their spouse to meetings with their financial advisor. And that financial advisor does not pay attention to the questions that the wife asks or when she says, “I don’t understand this, can you help me?” They don’t get any assistance with that.
Third, the majority of women, who statistically live longer, they typically don’t have the sufficient funds set aside and understanding about retirement goals and how they’re going to meet them. Of course we don’t call it retirement here, I call it the “third act” life stage. Because people are still super busy!
Unfortunately, what occurs is that when women lose a job, or get divorced or are widowed, now they’re a survivor and they didn’t know anything about their financial life because their spouses took care of it. Or when they were working, they didn’t really pay attention to the benefits they should be taking advantage of.
Women are a major network!
Women are not a niche! We are a major network. Women are going to control three-quarters of the country’s wealth in the U.S. by the end of this decade, whether it is from an inheritance or they’re building up a business, income, divorce settlement or other means, they’re going to be getting all of these assets. Because of this, it is extremely important for women to understand the steps that they need to take. For this industry, this is an opportunity; even though they may have just a little bit of assets right now, they’re going to have a lot later.
And to be able to provide them with a higher level of confidence, consultation and training is key. Women need to know this because they’re going to get a bunch on their plate soon. I’m a boomer, and boomers compared to our parents in their generation, they had very limited amount of assets. But now as boomers, we do.
It’s also important not only to understand what the rules are and how to manage their assets, but they also need to let their siblings and their children really help them to build up their wealth from an estate planning perspective. That’s also a big part of the conversation that we have too, is to start training your kids and make sure that they have an understanding about how to manage their current investments, their current professional life, their incomes and budgeting, because they’re going to get a big chunk of assets. And so, we want to make sure that those two generations are aware of how to manage and maintain their wealth.
Cultivating deep and long-standing relationships
Women are relationship-oriented. My clients have been with me 20-plus years—not just women, men, too. We ensure that we take a deeper dive into all aspects of our client’s lives. We know how their family is doing, when they need to make updates to certain documents, we know and understand what their employee benefits are, etc.
And that has made a major difference in being able to maintain those relationships for a very long time because they always call back and say, “Oh, I’m getting ready to sell my house. Do you know what the tax impact is going to be?” Or “I’m going to be changing jobs and this is the offer that I’m going to get, should I wait?”
And a big one is on retirement planning. So, this is a perfect example. I have a client who is 76, has been working in the medical industry for a while on the administrative side. And so with her 401k, she hasn’t had to take her RMD yet. So, she called me and says, “OK, I’m planning to retire in November.” And I said, “No, wait until January 2023, otherwise you’re going to have to take the money out of that. And if you wait, you will get a pickup in your pension as well.” Plus, she had an IRA with me, that’s going to duplicate, and she has a pretty high level of income. And she said, “Oh, thank you so much. I didn’t realize that.”
Why we reference the ‘third stage’ and not retirement
So really doing that background has really made a big difference for women who are doing retirement planning or preparing for the third act. We call it the third act because I say you don’t really retire, you resign from working full-time, but you’re still pretty actively engaged. The majority of people are on boards, they’re volunteering, they’re taking care of families, and they’re doing a lot of things. And so it is really knowing what at that stage is important for everyone, women and men alike.
We call it the third stage because there’s 30 years for the first 30 years as a kid up until the time you’re 30—you’re still considered a minor! Between 30 and 60, that’s when you build up your professional life and you’re building up your assets and your income. And then beginning at 60, going out to 90 (but that’s probably more like 40 years now), you really do need to know how you’re going to manage that stage of your life. And as I told people, no matter what your age is, you could be 32, you better be thinking about what your longevity timelines are going to be and how you’re going to be prepared for that.
We don’t have an ‘ideal client’
Each member of my team has an area of specialization, and it is all professional women. Depending on which person they want to work with, we have advisors who specialize in self-employed/business owners; single women who’ve never been married; recently divorced or widows; and more. Instead of thinking of the “ideal client” we try to focus on what our clients’ needs are.
And we do provide, no matter what their background is, the same types of services. But obviously, we’re going quite a bit more in-depth if somebody has their own business. And if they’re self-employed, that’s more complex, but you still need to combine it with their personal life, not just the business side of it. So that’s why it is a little bit more complex.
How we’ve adapted in recent years
We have a very diverse team of women, diverse meaning in age. And I want to expand and get Gen Y, and Gen Zers more on there, because we are getting women of all ages reaching out to us. And at the end of the day, women want to work with women who have had similar backgrounds and experiences. And so, if we have more Gen Y, and Gen Zers on there, that is really going to kick up and expand it.
The other one that I added for this year is that I now have a tax planning expert, someone who is a CPA. She’s not an employee of our firm, but we have a contract with her, and she is working primarily with high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth people who are more complex, may have their own business, whether it’s small or large, or they have had a change in their lifestyle for this year. And that has been an exceptional and a very, very important service to add.