Client Relationship & Service
Forget pink. Building a practice that serves women better, with Heather Ettinger


It’s well past time wealth management firms ditch the pink-hued swag and take women seriously as clients. So says Heather Ettinger, who runs Luma Wealth, an advisory firm created out of Fairport Wealth in 1990, and is dedicated to empowering women and their families. The Cleveland-based enterprise has about $4 billion in assets under advisement.

Using the framework of “learn, connect, celebrate,” Luma aims to provide women with advice and resources to help her run their lives, not just build an investment portfolio. For example, in addition to estate planning attorneys, Luma will connect women clients to resources that can help them care for aging parents. Why? “We know that over 80% of elder care, for example, is managed by women,” Ettinger says.

Time equals money

Women, as breadwinners or not, are typically responsible for the lion’s share of running their families, Ettinger says. So they don’t have time, for example, to review the multiple benefits providers they have, much less attend meetings about them. “We interviewed over 1,000 women, and almost 40% said: ‘I know I’m leaving benefits on the table,’” Ettinger says. 

Given that reality, Luma will ask the client for permission to interact with her company’s HR department, review her benefits and put those into context with the rest of her financial picture, such as the interest rate on her mortgage. “If we’re truly holistic advisors, if we’re truly wealth managers, we should be looking at all of her assets — whether we manage them, whether we don’t manage them,” Ettinger said. “We provide an overview, and we save her time.”

One size fits none

“Women are not a niche,” Ettinger stressed. Instead, advisors should focus on what problems they can help women clients solve. Stop to consider what her particular life circumstance is and how you relate to it. 

“I clearly relate to breadwinner women, because I am one,” she said. “I love the practice of working with widows. And it may be because I watched my mom go through it.”

While shared experience can be a good way to relate to women clients, Ettinger cautions against making assumptions about other profiles of women. Consider “PANKs,” (or “professional aunts, no kids”). “If an advisor comes in and sees ‘not married, no kids,’ they could be missing a six-figure-plus number over time,” Ettinger said. 

“About 32% of PANKs were actually supporting children in the next generation,” she added. “Every woman is different, and how she chooses to be engaged with her own family, or friends, or community can be completely different.”

Ettinger stresses that men also have a role in serving women clients. “We actually, most ideally, have a male-female partnership on every engagement. Not every woman wants to be working with a woman, and not every man wants to be working with a man, right?” she said. “And by looking at body language, you can often understand more about them and what their preferences are.”

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