The financial industry is huge and saturated with products and providers. Industry players of all shapes and sizes have spent years and millions of dollars targeting women. Still, most of us don’t feel well served by the status quo. Most people’s general dissatisfaction with the industry has resulted in under-participation and under-utilization. They’ve opted out.

I know this in part because industry data reflects it, but also because I spent the first 15 years of my career in financial services. Over the decades, I have continued to advise close family and friends informally —“around the kitchen table.” I understand the need that people have for sound financial advice. I’ve always wished everyone had more access to advice they could trust.

How can such a big industry get it so wrong?

Eighteen months before SUM180 existed, my partners and I began to see the glimmerings of an answer to this question by tuning in to conversations on Vibrant Nation. (Vibrant Nation, SUM180’s sister company, was established in 2007 by Stephen Reily, SUM180 co-founder, and is now the leading online influencer network and community of women age 35-65.) On, members regularly had astonishingly open, supportive conversations on a range of topics that matter most to women at midlife – from fashion and beauty to health and fitness to family and relationships but practically never about their money.

As we tuned in to the occasional post about their finances, we began to understand exactly how the financial services industry had come to so badly misunderstand what their women clients need and want.

My husband has mostly managed our money since we had anything extra – but our investment advisor is my husband’s golfing buddy – and that seems to be his only qualification for the job! I’ve gotten tired of his ignoring my questions. — A Vibrant Nation Community Member

At 58 I’m starting to take the lead in managing our money (my husband seems willing to let go), but I need some advice on how to find a financial advisor who will listen to me and help make a plan that works for me and my next 30+ years.— A Vibrant Nation Community Member

Women tell us what they need and want. Do we listen?

For eighteen months, we gathered industry research and insights from our online community to determine how the current financial advisory model falls short of what women clients need and expect. Along the way, we learned that there are no shortcuts. The answers are there, but we need to be willing to listen. We need to be willing to set aside old assumptions and be open to a different way of serving our clients. We have to build something entirely new.

The company SUM180 exists today because we talked to the women who have been traditionally underserved by the financial services industry and they helped us identify the key elements of a better solution for people who:

  • Have  felt ignored or dismissed by the financial services industry
  • Are anxious or confused about your finances and don’t know how to take the first step towards feeling better
  • Are too busy to tackle all the work it usually takes to sort out your financial picture
  • Are reluctant to find and engage a financial adviser or coach because you don’t feel confident about where you are.

It takes a lot of confidence to say I believe we can finally start giving people what they need and want in terms of help and advice in dealing with their money, but I have that confidence because SUM180 was built and is being continuously co-developed with our clients themselves. You, our clients, understand your needs and priorities best. We’re committed to honoring those needs and priorities, and committed to the ongoing development of a solution that works best for you.

For me, this blog will be a way of sharing that ongoing exploration and development with you, our clients and co-developers. In my next posts, I’ll share some of the key ingredients that went into the creation of SUM180.

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