A Tailored Approach to Women Investors

A Conversation with Carey Shuffman, UBS

In this episode of our Wealth Management Leadership podcast series, SIFMA President & CEO Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr. sits down with Carey Shuffman, Head of UBS’s Women’s Segment, for a discussion on the unique trends and approaches to serving women investors.

Eight of 10 women will end up solely responsible for their financial well-being, and each has unique financial needs across their lifetimes. We look at the benefits of taking a tailored approach to serving women as a population, as well as take a deep-dive into UBS’s 2021 Own Your Worth report for data and insights on the relationship between women, men and money.


About SIFMA’s Wealth Management Leadership Podcast Series

The financial advisor-retail client relationship is critical to helping retail investors accomplish their unique financial goals, including saving for retirement, funding a child’s education, buying a home or creating a legacy.

In this podcast series, SIFMA President & CEO Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr. speaks with wealth management industry leaders for an insider’s look into the advisor-client relationship. The financial services industry deeply believes we must boost retirement savings, enable Americans to save more, promote financial literacy and support a strong retail investor culture. This exciting new podcast series looks at how SIFMA member firms have enhanced the client experience by exploring innovative approaches to drive client engagement including teaming, exploring demographic trends and the role technology plays in wealth management.



Edited for clarity

Ken Bentsen: I’m Ken Bentsen, president and CEO of SIFMA. I want to welcome you to another episode of the SIFMA Wealth Management Leadership podcast series where we speak with industry leaders on different trends and approaches to enhancing the investor-client relationship.

Today we’re joined by Carey Shuffman, head of the Women’s Segment at UBS, for a discussion on UBS’s unique approach to meeting the needs of women investors, as well as current trends and observations pertaining to the decisions women make when planning for their financial future.

Carey has served as the head of UBS’s Women’s Segment for the last four years where she leads the development and implementation of UBS’s strategy to address the unique financial needs of women with a focus on financial education and research, client engagement, and creative content. As a subject matter expert on the topic of women and wealth, Carey travels the country speaking at seminars and events on women’s financial empowerment and financial wellbeing. She earned her BA in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and holds her Series 7 and 66 licenses.

Carey, thank you for being with us today, and why don’t we jump right in? You have really carved out a niche as an expert on women investors. What drove you to focus exclusively on women and what inspires you in this role?

Carey Shuffman: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on today’s podcast, Ken. And thank you to SIFMA for inviting me and UBS and join you. It’s a pleasure to be here and I’m looking forward to our discussion.

To answer your question, I really am so grateful to have this role and to be able to focus on women’s financial and economic empowerment every day in what I do. And I really have to credit UBS and our leadership team with the evolution of the Women’s Segment and for allowing me the opportunity to work across the firm to lead our efforts focused on women investors over the last four years.

UBS really saw the need to build out a tailored strategy to address the unique financial needs that women have across their lifetimes while also recognizing that women are ultimately a population, not a segment. And then all women are different as it pertains to their unique financial situation, their goals, and their financial journey.

But the reality is that although women are a population, not a segment, there are unique trends and factors that do tend to, on average, impact women differently from their male counterparts. In particular, we know that actually, 8 out of 10 women in the U.S. will end up solely responsible for their financial wellbeing. This is due to increased life expectancies, rising rates of divorce, and decreasing rates of marriage. So, our goal at UBS is really to understand the trends that my impact women investors so that they can be prepared for whatever the financial future holds.

And then in terms of what inspires me, the second part of your question, I see it both as a whole in terms of the difference that we can make in helping more women achieve greater financial, and thus overall, wellbeing. And then I also see it on a personal level how much financial matters impact my own loved ones, friends or family, who might be navigating a life event like marriage or starting a family, career decisions, retirement.

And I even think about my own grandmother who was widowed actually five years ago, and she really fit into many of the statistics our UBS research has uncovered, having never previously handled any of the finances while she was married, and seeing how she had to take over the finances and learn how to manage that. We want to make sure that we can help women be prepared before a potential life event occurs so they can really unlock the life and legacy that they desire for themselves and their loved ones.

Ken: Yeah, that’s really something. UBS clearly values the unique financial needs of women with a separate Strategic Client Segment specifically for the demographic, which you’re leading. Would you say this is unique to the industry? And also, how does having a women-specific segment enhance the advisor-client relationship for your female clients?

Carey: Sure. Well, I can’t say for sure if this is purely unique to the financial industry. Because I do think realistically in many cases across other industries statistically that women’s needs may differ from men’s from a strategic perspective, even just, for example, the healthcare industry immediately comes to mind.

But as we think about it within the lens of the financial services industry, and particularly in the lens of the advisor-client relationship, to your question, I do feel strongly that having a Women’s Segment in our team and what that entails, whether it’s they have a robust amount of resources for our advisors, materials and intellectual capital for clients, all on the topic of women’s financial wellbeing, but very much tailored, again, recognizing that women are a population, not a segment.

So, we have different content depending on where women might be in their financial journey, what life event they may be going through, what might be most important to them. And I fundamentally believe that that really helps to set UBS apart and demonstrate our commitment to this topic and our commitment to women’s financial wellbeing. But it also allows our financial advisors across the country to leverage that content in their own practices and in how they serve their female clients and their families, women and men.

For example, over the last year-and-a-half in this virtual environment during the pandemic, our team was able to offer a series of really great virtual events with notable women from across entertainment, sports, media, business, academia. And we heard from clients that these were really well received, and from advisors who really appreciated being able to share this additional content, despite the challenging remote environment, with their prospective clients and broader network.

And I really have to say, one of my favorite parts of my job is hearing from our terrific financial advisors across the country at UBS and how they work with our team and leverage the content form the Women’s Segment in their own practices to support their female clients and prospective clients and their families.

Ken: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I noted, as we’ve talked to different industry leaders over the last 18 months, and particularly, say, the last year as everything transitioned to remote working and Zoom calls, and even as things are going back, that it’s interesting to hear, as you just pointed out, how advisors and their clients were able to leverage technology and almost enhance and increase the amount of engagement and communication with their clients, and something that I think many think is going to continue even when we get to a post-pandemic environment.

UBS puts out an annual Own Your Worth report, and the 2021 report explores the relationship between women, men, and money. What are some of the findings in this report regarding the different roles men and women play, particularly among couples, when making decisions about their financial future?

Carey: Well, thanks for that question, Ken. Because the Own Your Worth research that we’ve been doing at UBS, we’ve now been conducting for four years, really exploring how women approach the major financial decisions within their household. And this latest report this year in 2021 went even further by also including men in our research to really understand, as you said, the relationship between women, men, and money.

And perhaps the most fascinating highlight from the research that I like to share is the disconnect between people recognizing the importance of women’s financial participation, and then what actually happens within households. And what I mean by that is that the large majority of both women and men when surveyed over the last two years said that they believe that to achieve true gender equality as a society that women need to participate more equally in the financial decisions that impact them and their futures.

And what’s more, if we take it a step further, almost all couples, so 96 percent of women and 98 percent of men in our survey with heterosexual couples, said that they agreed women should be more involved in these decisions. So, overwhelming we see that both women and men, all different generations, marital statuses, recognize the importance of women’s financial participation as a key component of gender equality. And then when we actually ask women and men in couples, they also agreed that women should be more involved.

But when we actually ask them who takes the lead, who’s involved, how do you handle these financial decisions, what was particularly shocking was that only about 20 percent of couples, or 1 in 5 couples, said that they actually do share in the long-term financial decisions equally, with about 70 percent of men saying that they take the lead, and about half of women agreeing with that stat and saying, yes, their husbands took the lead and they themselves deferred on making those long-term financial decisions.

And then, of course, the natural question is why? Right? Why does this dynamic exist? What did people say about why that’s how this division of labor has evolved. The biggest reason that we heard for why men took the lead or why women deferred, again, in that majority of couples where that was the case according to our research, both women and men cited that they thought the husband, that they thought men, knew more about financial matters, which is simply not the case, Ken. Financial literacy scores between the genders are relatively equal, and this is not a competence issue whatsoever. So, I think a lot of it does more so come down to confidence.

And then men and women also cited women’s other responsibilities within the household, childcare, as main reasons for why she wasn’t involved. And then a large majority of men and women also cited that their wives or that women themselves were not interested in these matters. So, those were three of the biggest reasons that we heard for why, in many cases, men said they took the lead in handling these decisions and why many women said, “I’m not involved.”

Ken: So, maybe taking that a step further, and you touched on this at the outset of our conversation, why is it important that women play an equal role to men in planning for their family’s future?

Carey: Sure. And there are so many reasons why it’s important for women to participate in the financial planning within their household and for their and their family’s future. And to start, as I mentioned before, statistically 80 percent of women will find themselves in a position where they are alone and have to manage their finances independently at some point in their lives in the U.S. due to some of those trends I mentioned earlier. So, it really is critical to be prepared for when that day may come.

And we also know that women control more wealth than ever before here in 2021 and are on track to control an additional $20 trillion by the end of this decade, by 2030. And so, if you think about the tremendous amount of wealth that women control and are on track to inherit and build, and you couple that with the tremendous advances that women are making across the country and the world, whether in the public or private sector, in their communities, in their companies.

We also want women to be able to harness that economic power and feel confident in how they manage their financial lives and achieve greater financial wellbeing because we know that financial and overall wellbeing are so interrelated. And I’m not saying that all women have to become experts in all of the financial and investing considerations in their households, just like all men don’t have become experts, either. And it’s okay to delegate. We all can’t do everything.

But abdication as we say at UBS, or a complete lack of involvement and deferral of those responsibilities is where there can really be tremendous cost. So, it’s really a question of being involved and aware of what’s going on and participating and having a say in those decisions that really can have a tremendous impact on your future in the long term.

In our research, many women told us that by deferring those decisions, not having to worry or think about them in the short term, that it felt freeing. It allowed them to focus on other things. But in reality, a lack of financial involvement can really trap people, women or men, and make it more difficult to achieve your life’s goal or your [unintelligible]. And really by participating, you’re able to make those decisions and be a participant in unlocking the life and legacy that you envision for yourself and for the people and causes that are most important to you.

Ken: Yeah. The evidence is pretty overwhelming when you look at it. We’ve been talking about women, but what can and should men be doing to encourage their partners to play an equal role in long-term financial planning and investment?

Carey: Yeah, I’m really glad you asked that, Ken, because I always say that this is not just a women’s issue. This is an issue for all of us: men, women, and as a society regardless of your marital status, age, sexual orientation, background, financial situation. And if we can help more women take their seat at the financial table, everybody wins.

And so, the good news is that our Own Your Worth research did show that men and women are actually very open to changing this dynamic. So, 90 percent of men who took the lead on the long-term financial decisions told us that they wished their wives were more involved.

And so, when we asked both women and men how can we encourage more women to get involved, how do you think you would be more open to getting involved, or how do you think your wife would be more open to getting involved when speaking with men, again, in the context of heterosexual couples? Both women and men cited many of the same examples including just making a pointed effort to encourage her involvement, setting a designated time to go through financial information or documents together.

At UBS, we like to say setting a money date where it’s really a designated time and specific time to go through some of these financial matters. Including her in meetings with a financial advisor, ensuring that both women and men and really anyone within a family has a strong relationship with any trusted advisors, be it a financial advisor or accountant, other trusted professionals in their lives. And then, of course, just speaking more openly about money and having financial discussions more often.

And you can start small. You don’t need to focus on or do everything at once. If you’re listening and you’re a couple who recognizes that you’d like to focus on more equal participation and involvement, focus on one or two things that are important to you, or simply sit down and have that discussion about your values, your goals, and your concerns around money to kick things off or take that next step.

And then in terms of one other thing I’ll mention, I think this is a good time to share that our research actually showed that there are significant benefits to both spouses within a couple when there is shared financial participation. So, couples who actually shared equally in those financial decisions, that 20 percent of couples I mentioned before, actually reported feeling more confident in achieving their goals.

They said they were more satisfied with their current financial situation. And they also said that they were less stressed and argued less about money. So, the benefits of encouraging women’s financial participation extend to the entire couple and the family.

Ken: Yeah, I could certainly see that. Given all the work that you’ve done and UBS has done and all of your research and engagement, how do you think we as an industry can engage more women to participate in financial planning? What are some more of the things that your team would be doing to advance this objective?

Carey: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think as an industry, and this was something that we really focused on when we were first starting our research and really starting to build out the Women’s Segment at UBS and our focus and commitment in a more strategic and specific way, is we really wanted to recognize and account for the fact that for a long time, the reality is that the financial services industry tended to cater to men and was a very male-dominated industry.

And so, thinking about the historical, societal, and personal reasons why many women may not participate fully in long-term decisions is really important while also, of course, supporting those women who are participating and are involved and those women who want to become more involved.

And so, just as an example. It wasn’t until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act made it so that women no longer needed a male co-signer to apply for credit, and that’s less than 50 years ago, 47 years ago. And we did hear that these traditional concepts of gender roles really did run deep, even today in 2021, and even among Millennial couples as well.

So, trying to break from some of those traditional gender roles and recognizing, again, the historical, societal, and personal context for this topic I think is really interesting. And then as an industry, we have a responsibility to bring more women to the financial table and to really recognize that inextricable link, as I’ve mentioned a few times, for all investors between financial wellbeing, financial health, and overall wellbeing and overall health, and the benefits that that brings.

And so, through our UBS Own Your Worth research, I think this statistic is really interesting. We found that 70 percent of women believe that women as a whole overestimate what’s required to be financially engaged. And so, it’s important for us to think about what that means as an industry and with what our team is doing at UBS. We’re really trying to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to be meaningfully involved in your own financial life and the financial decisions that impact you and your future. Because as I like to say, no one knows your life better than you do.

And as an industry, that means being mindful of what we put out there: references, jargon that can be often used, being mindful to include women in the financial discussions and to not rely on a singular relationship when serving couples or families. And we really believe that in doing all of this and focusing on this topic and making it a priority moving forward that we can get to a better place where in the future, many more than just 20 percent of couples will say that they share in the financial decisions equally.

Ken: Yeah, this is a fascinating conversation and a lot of incredible data insight. Before we wrap up, any final thoughts or advice that you would have for women who want to become more engaged or take charge of their financial future?

Carey: Sure, absolutely. I would encourage anyone who’s looking to take that first or next step, male or female, to figure out the way in which they learn best. Maybe that means watching videos, reading articles or books, listening to podcasts, talking to trusted loved ones or experts. I would encourage everyone to figure out the best way that they like to learn, and then figure that out and just tackle it one step at a time.

Again, you don’t need to do everything overnight. Figure out where you’d like to start or jump back in. Maybe you have a major purchase coming up or a major decision, approaching retirement, or thinking about maybe you’re getting married, or maybe there’s a life event that will help you think about your financial situation in the context of that. That can be a great place to start. As we approach the end of the year, that’s also a great time to think about your finances this year and then moving into the next year.

And for women who are involved in the finances, for many women, we’ve heard through our research that actually women and men wish it were easier to talk openly about money and would find it helpful to be able to do this more. So, this is really a great opportunity, too, for anyone who is involved and engaged in their financial life to share what they know. A rising tide lifts all ships, whether it’s your friends, loved ones, the next generation. Because I really do believe that we all know more than we think we do and have valuable wisdom to share.

And lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about any of the research I’ve discussed today or accessing any of the materials that UBS has on this topic, I’d encourage everyone to visit UBS.com/women, that’s UBS.com/women, or our financial participation website which is UBS.com/mymoneymove to see a ton of great resources on a variety of topics related to women’s financial wellbeing that we’ve talked about today.

Ken: Great. Carey, thank you so much for joining us today and for your comments and insights. It’s really interesting and very important. And for more information, please visit SIFMA’s website at www.SIFMA.org on the advisor-client relationship. And again, Carey, thank you for joining us.

Carey: Thank you so much, Ken, for having me.

Carey ShuffmanCarey Shuffman is the Head of the Women’s Strategic Client Segment for UBS. She is responsible for the development and implementation of UBS’s strategy to address the unique financial needs of women, with a focus on financial education and research, client engagement and creative content.

Chantelle CoubaKenneth E. Bentsen, Jr. is President and CEO of SIFMA. Mr. Bentsen is also the CEO of the Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA), SIFMA’s global affiliate.