By Abaneeta Chakraborty. Private Banker, Financial Content Writer & Guest Faculty.
If you ask Private Banking/ Wealth Management leads whether they are perfectly happy about the bio-diversity in their team, a majority of them will complain. At an experienced level, there are surely lesser women doing this job.
This seems ironical. I have often heard my men colleagues say that women have a higher chance of getting a meeting and a higher chance of conversion. In general, women seem to have a higher chance of getting anything done because the other gender treats them preferentially. Intuitively then, women should have taken over and crowd pushed their men colleagues out of this business? We all know that this is not true.
Ceteris paribus, i.e. with a good boss & with manageable work pressure, women still feel on a daily basis, subtle discomfort in a job like this one. The job, by its very nature, entails soliciting relationships, regular face to face meetings, sometimes on a holiday, sometimes late and not all prospects turn out to be pleasant. To be fair to women, they often feel intimidated – even the stronger ones do. That edgy feeling is not easy to get rid of.
I have been a manager of people in the wealth management business and have been managing clients directly well over a decade now. I have been in uncomfortable situations, have seen my team members swim through similar situations. To young girls who want to make a career in this field, remember, there is ALWAYS, a way to get around this discomfort.
When I was very young, a relationship was handed over to me with the pretext that the client only warms up to women relationship managers. If someone said that to me today, I would react a little differently. Anyway, I was made to feel that I was given a great chance to meet a difficult client and convert him. We met a couple of times. The gentleman’s demeanour was extremely pleasant. He lived away from the main city and offered to meet me at a widely frequented restaurant in town and I was relieved. During the course of the meeting, he showed me pictures of his horses. Two beautiful black horses, new additions to his stud farm – gifted to him by some Maharaja. He kept showing me pictures of what seemed to be a gorgeous farmhouse. They reminded me of some Bollywood movies I had watched in my younger days. Then, out of the clear blue sky, he asked if I would like to come with him to his farmhouse over the weekend.
When I look back, I think I deserve a pat on my back for being able to calmly come back to office without making a scene. I was lucky to have met my senior leader out of turn that day because he wanted to chat up over some other agenda. He told my manager later that he asked me what was bothering me because I was looking a little pale. I blurted out the story and the client was promptly taken out of my books. I frankly don’t know what happened to him after that. I would not be surprised if he was downgraded.
On another occasion, a prospect and his weird friend insisted that my team member and I drink an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant. On declining, he whispered something to the attendant and two strange mocktails arrived at the table. I remember refusing to have it and his face turning red. I remember his telling my junior colleague that I was rude. I remember his stare. I remember his friend’s leer. I remember us walking out, excusing ourselves, sensing his car coming after our taxi. We reported to office the next day and kept the management informed. It haunted us for days.
The truth of the matter is, women need and deserve a little bit extra consideration at work. Managers can help. There needs to be free flowing dialogue & it has to be made clear that in case of need, the set up will back up the employee.
One however, needs to be very sure before raising an alarm. If in the course of the investigation, one is found guilty of acting out of bounds, that will pretty much be the suicide of one’s reputation.
I have always had supportive managers and in turn have been one. Remember, if one doesn’t have one, the choice to walk out is still one’s own. The chief message is – One need not take ANY nonsense. If you care about you, others will as well.
Saying NO is NOT losing. Saying NO is winning – because to my mind, feminism is not about declaring that women are equal to men. It is about knowing our differences, using our strengths and avoiding pitfalls due to our weaknesses.