July 17, 2023: Empowering female fortune: Insights for family offices and wealthy women

Jul 13, 2023
10 months ago


The question we’re posing for this week’s newsletter is this: How do family offices ensure that women have full decision-making capacity when managing wealth? It’s not an easy one to answer, but Erin Chan Ding tackles this complex topic of how we, as a collective, can empower female fortune — whether it’s helping women who create wealth, those who inherit it or those who manage it. A recent UBS study coined “Own Your Worth” pointed out how women still feel uncomfortable being the main breadwinners of their homes and taking the reins of their wealth. The overwhelming consensus is that more early education is needed. Families of wealth need to make sure that their female children are informed about finances and investments and that they empower them to make decisions for themselves and their future families.

Anyone in the high-net-worth world knows that deals are done around the proverbial dinnertable. New York City is often seen as the global foodie mecca, so we compiled our own list of today’s power lunch scene. Alyssa Shelasky has done the heavy lifting for us, curating a list of the top seven restaurants to dine in this year in the Big Apple. Places like downtown’s American Bar and Midtown’s The Consulate made the cut, so be sure to read on to discover the others and determine where you should be booking your next reservation.

As always, we appreciate any comments, ideas and insights that would make this newsletter more useful. I look forward to growing this family office community with your help. Please email me at [email protected].


HANDPICKED: Empowering female fortune: Insights for family offices and wealthy women  


As women contribute more financially to their families than ever and move increasingly into the ultra-high-net-worth space, how do family offices ensure that they have full decision-making capacity when managing wealth? 

A key to increasing the financial awareness and involvement of women is for family offices to focus on gender diversity in recruiting and retaining workers.

Heather Jablow, head of the North American private-client practice for Boston-based Cambridge Associates, said it’s vital that family offices act intentionally when it comes to gender representation. 

“Family offices who aren’t approaching gender diversity with intent aren’t only doing themselves a disservice by passing up excellent talent, but they’re also potentially limiting client satisfaction,” Jablow said. “In our private-client practice, we often hear from women principals that they value working with a senior woman adviser. That reinforces the need for firms like us to ensure we have talented women at every level to meet the desire of women principals to partner with women advisers.”

Righting this imbalance involves both increasing financial awareness among women and ensuring that more of them have thriving careers in wealth management. Research in 2021 by Agreus, a global family office consultancy, found that only about 20% of family office professionals in the U.S. were women; in Europe, the number is 11%. 

Jablow said the pipeline of family office talent tends to come from the senior ranks of financial and legal firms or from the leadership of family-owned businesses, making parity at those levels key for better gender diversity in family offices.

“Representation of women in senior leadership roles is essential to making progress,” she said. “This is true both as a retention tool, so women who are early in their careers can envision their future at your firm, but also to eliminate unconscious bias that comes with having a homogenous workforce.”

Gender representation is especially important as more wealth continues to transfer to women. Research by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicts that by 2030, American women are expected to control $30 trillion in financial assets possessed by baby boomers, compared with $10 trillion in U.S. household financial assets in 2020. 

“It’s essential for all stakeholders to understand and be comfortable with the long-term goals and how assets are invested,” Jablow said. “Building this level of comfort requires work upfront to understand all of the factors that influence decisions, including key inputs like long-term spending needs. It’s also critical to align on risk tolerance so that all partners are comfortable with the way assets are invested and may behave through different market environments.”  

But building this comfort level will take resolve. A report released in June by the financial services firm UBS found that although one-third of women in heterosexual relationships are the primary breadwinners, less than half feel comfortable in that role. 

The UBS survey, its sixth annual “Own Your Worth” report, queried about 800 women and men in heterosexual and same-sex relationships about their income and finances and found that 87% of men preferred being the primary earner, compared with 49% of women who were breadwinners. 

“That was probably the most surprising — the huge difference between the percentage of women breadwinners who say they prefer being in that role,” said Carey Shuffman, head of the women’s segment at UBS.  

The disparity in comfort with managing wealth, Shuffman said, can be traced to such factors as ingrained traditional gender roles, as well as the way people have watched their parents handle money.

“This ambivalence with or even discomfort with being the breadwinner speaks to all of these sorts of factors, challenges that conspire to make this something that is not necessarily met with the same enthusiasm or pride that I think it rightfully should be,” Shuffman said. “I think that women earning more, their growing career advancement, their increasing financial clout, purchasing power, it's all something that should be celebrated and supported.”

The study found that women breadwinners are less likely to handle short-term financial tasks such as bill paying and day-to-day expenses, as well as such long-term decisions as investments and estate and financial planning. While 75% of male breadwinners say they consider themselves highly knowledgeable about overall investing, just 53% of female breadwinners do.  

A key takeaway from the UBS report also focuses on ensuring that women know about the risks of disengaging from the financial process. Shuffman underscored how unexpected life interruptions — be it significant medical bills, the passing of a loved one or a divorce — can cause significant financial stress and destabilize women who are uninvolved in their finances.

With hundreds of women interviewed who had been divorced or widowed, she said: “They overwhelmingly said that they wish they had been involved in their finances while they were part of a couple. Many found what they would call financial surprises after the passing of their spouse or after the divorce. So certainly, we want to help women avoid financial surprises; we want to help them avoid being caught off-guard if an unforeseen event occurs.” 

In families with multigenerational wealth, Jablow of Cambridge Associates said she has seen more gender parity in financial management — and its resulting benefits. 

“Families of wealth need to prioritize educating and engaging their daughters and sons equally on investments and creating space on investment committees and other decision-making roles equally,” she said. Higher engagement across beneficiaries increases the likelihood that the family will continue long-term investing together, Jablow said.

“The perspective of men and women in the family, who may have different perspectives on risk, ultimately strengthens investment decision-making.”


Here is this year's power lunch list

The Consulate

Ultra-high-net-worth individuals, family offices and advisers alike all have one thing in common — besides, well, the art of money. They are accustomed to the best of the best in food and drink. And oftentimes, that higher-level taste translates perfectly into the power lunch.

Whether you’re there to close a deal, devour a club sandwich or drink a dirty martini, nothing is quite as exciting and emboldening as the power lunch. Fortunately for New York City, the table options are as plentiful as a hot plate of steak frites. From new destinations to old faithfuls, from hamachi carpaccio to popped Champagne bottles, here are our favorite power lunch go-tos.

American Bar

This timeless downtown hot spot delights everyone who walks in. And Chef Carolina Santos-Neves can do no wrong. She recently created the perfect power lunch menu — which includes their signature chopped salad as an entree with cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, chickpeas, red onions, soppressata, sun-dried tomatoes and queso fresco. It’s available in half or full size. For the picture-perfect power sandwich, try their turkey club with fries. Of course, it wouldn't be a meal at the coveted American Bar without an impressive beverage. Try their American Bar Lemonade or the Club 55 with Seedlip spice and grapefruit soda.  

Nami Nori

This chic little West Village hub, founded by three Masa vets, offers the perfect tamaki lunch experience, with beautifully sourced fresh fish, prepared creatively. They offer tamaki sets for lunch — such as their Signature Set, which features five tamaki including the tuna poke with crispy shallots; x.o. scallop with tobiko and lemon; coconut shrimp with green curry, lime and cilantro; salmon serrano with ginger, myoga, and tosazu; and cucumber black sesame with shiso plum. Wash it all down with an iced matcha latte with ceremonial matcha and oat milk for the post-power lunch caffeine fix.

Zou Zou's

This is a powerful restaurant in Manhattan West that legitimately has the “it factor.” Chef Juliana Latif has created a weekday power lunch menu that includes entree-sized salads of filet mignon fattoush with shaved red cabbage and candied pecans and seared tuna tabbouleh with quinoa, roasted beets and sorrel, and larger entrees like grilled branzino with shiso chermoula and escarole. Order a glass of wine, or, alternatively, there are several nonalcoholic drinks like soda with housemade sumac bitters and spiced pineapple soda.

The Consulate

For a lovely, easy lunch in a location that pleases everyone, check out this newly launched restaurant, equidistant to Rockefeller Center and Bergdorf Goodman. Their tuna tartare is light and fresh, and their French onion soup is the soup that afternoon daydreams are made of.  And while The Consulate is definitely a lunchtime flex, don’t miss their happy hour, either.

Le Crocodile at The Wythe Hotel

Three words: best bloody mary.  Three more words: best Caesar salad. Simply put, The Wythe is still where all the cool, creative and powerful people are hanging out, whether they’re Brooklynites or not. The food lineup is stellar, and lunch is buzzing. Back to that Caesar salad, it comes with chicken and avocado, and it’s crunchy heaven. Share the chocolate mousse with your lunch date; you’ll both remember it forever.

Parker & Quinn

Stylish, fabulous and yet totally unpretentious, this is where you go if you don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard but also want to eat a good meal in a beautifully lit, very New Yorky environment. Try the steak frites or the risotto, and don’t sleep on the hamachi carpaccio. The service is super-friendly, and the vibe is consistently great.

Boqueria West 40th

Located across from The New York Times, this is a hot spot for both hungry journalists and powerful business leaders. The scene is lively and tapas-centric, with a paella to make grown men cry. If you’re a discriminating carnivore with a spicy side, this is your Midtown power lunch.



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Help us with a conference panel: We are looking for a family office that invests in or has invested in the cannabis industry to sit on a panel moderated by our editor, Kristen Oliveri, in August in New York City. If you have any comments on the topic, reach out to [email protected]. .