Women, Wealth and Investment Migration

An article written by Edward Beshara FIM, Managing Partner of Beshara Global Migration Law Firm, Jennifer Lai, Managing Director at DL Holdings, Alexander Varnavas FIMC, Managing Partner of Varnavas Law Firm 1978 and Anthony Williams FIMC, CEO of La Vida.

Women’s economic power and financial independence are growing rapidly around the world, yet they are often overlooked by the financial and wealth management industry. The IM Yearbook asked four experts: how well are women served in an investment migration context?

Investment migration – much like the entire wealth management industry – is geared towards a predominantly male clientele. Since, historically, men were the main income earners and entrepreneurs, they were also making most investment and financial decisions.

However, women’s wealth is growing. McKinsey found out that women already control more than a third of total US household assets, and their portion is expected to grow throughout the coming generational wealth transfer. In the UK, 60% of wealth will be in female hands by 2025, according to a forecast by the Centre for Business and Economic Research.

In recent years, financial service firms and wealth advisors have made a concerted effort to attract more women investors, who today are assuming more powerful roles in personal and family investing and decision making. This raises the question: have investment migration consultancies also noticed a rise in female clients?

On the rise

Alexander Varnavas, managing partner at Varnavas law firm in Greece, comments: “For the past two years, women have formed 40% of our clientele, which is an increase from the first years operating in the investment migration industry in Greece. Even though the rest of the 60% is technically male-dominant, this does not imply that their significant others had no major role in the planning and execution of their investment plans through our services.”

He adds that his firm had “executive-level men entrusting their sisters, spouses or daughters to manage million-dollar investments on their behalf, or more accurately, with minimum involvement from them, as they entrust women in their lives to manage the whole process”.

Paul Williams, CEO of La Vida, said he hasn’t noticed a particular shift.

“We treat everyone the same and find their needs are similar,” he said. In family applications, “the main applicant is sometimes the husband, sometimes the wife”. However, in terms of single applications, women are in the minority. “I would say far less than men, possibly 10%.”

Jennifer Lai, Wealth & Residency Planning Managing Director at DL Holdings Group, says that around half of her clients are women. She adds that traditionally Asian culture considers ‘men as breadwinners’ and ‘women as homemaker’. However, migration is seen as a family matter, and she has had many cases where the husband started the initial conversation and then leaving it to his wife to follow up.

In addition, she says that among her clients she has had many successful female entrepreneurs, professionals and executives in senior management, either married or single. “They are the decision-makers on many aspects, including investment migration.” Lai concludes that women are playing a more important role in investment migration, not only as a result of the gender equality debate, but also because they have become more successful in business, which, in turn, has strengthened their position when it comes to family decision making.

Different attitudes

In the US, Edward Beshara, Managing Partner of Beshara Global Migration Law Firm, also saw the percentage of female clientele growing from around 25% a few years ago to 35% today. But the change is not just in the numbers: “While female and male clients usually have the same business and immigration goals, women are detail oriented in regard to the particulars of the investment and will always use dual diligence to the extreme by reviewing the details and processes of investment migration,” he said. Lai also perceives women as detail-oriented, assessing and analysing every step of the process. Male clients, she says, do not focus so much on the process but look more into the end results.

Analysing women’s relationship and attitudes towards the wealth management sector, EY pointed out that many women view the industry as male-oriented and unwelcoming. Meanwhile, a research study commissioned by Merrill, “Seeing the Unseen: The Role Gender Plays in Wealth Management,” took an expansive view of the subject, delving into the stories of women investors and their financial advisors. Among the study’s findings are that only 8% of women investors have experienced negative gender assumptions from their financial advisors and that such incidences of bias are usually subtle. But, as the research emphasises, there are multiple areas of unconscious bias, underscoring the need for advisors and executives to evaluate their own behaviors.

The status quo

Varnavas says “a lack of accommodation for women” in an investment migration context would not surprise him. “Unfortunately, women still have to deal with misogynistic practices. For centuries it had become normalised to underestimate them, and many professionals up to now have not adapted and openly accepted that businesswomen have a profound position in every industry,” he adds. He believes his firm is on a solid path. “Even though it was not deliberate, our establishment is made mostly of female professionals,” he adds.

While most women do not explicitly look for female advisers, many place a high value on establishing a personal connection with their adviser. Varnavas’ firm contracted 80% of the businesswoman who approached the firm in 2022. “Our corporate strategy is about taking every inquiry seriously. We communicate with all of our clients promptly, we do put the time to answer thoroughly, and we ensure that we respect the intelligence and boundaries of clients in our follow-up routines.”

Lai also said her firm has “successfully connected with women on the personal level and on the coroproate level”. However, she does not think she needs to change her service provision to “serve by gender”. For her, it’s always about providing quality and professional services that are in tune with the client’s demands and interests, irrespective of gender.

A long list of male-focused industries, such as automobiles and real estate, have revamped their product and service models to meet women’s needs in recent years. As unprecedented sums of assets shift into the hands of women over the next decade, consultancy firms in the investment migration space have no choice but to ensure they attract and retain women investors.

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