The Power of the Purse: How First Horizon Helps Women Close the Wealth

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Almost 20 years ago, First Horizon saw an opportunity to engage women more effectively in the work of the bank and as a result has realized great success. 

John Kelley, former president of First Tennessee Bank, (now First Horizon Bank) in Memphis, must have seen the trend of women moving into the workforce early on and was interested in understanding the opportunity that existed for the bank to establish a women’s banking group. Susan Springfield, who is currently First Horizon’s chief credit officer, was one of the women asked to help with this initiative back then. 

“Although the research did not support the need for a special banking group, his idea was the catalyst for establishing the Women’s Task Force, which convened women from across the organization to meet to discuss key issues,” Springfield said. This group evolved into the Women’s Initiative Group, one of seven employee resource groups at First Horizon. 

Internally, the group has helped the company in identifying, recruiting, and retaining women. Women feel more empowered to share their ideas with senior leaders without fear of being criticized. 

Audrey Schexnailder, First Horizon commercial lending vice president and relationship manager, and Christina Blackwell, First Horizon commercial real estate vice president and relationship manager, founded the Houston chapter of the Women’s Initiative in 2017. Their goal was to provide a local forum for emerging women leaders at the bank, enhance brand recognition and develop business in the Houston market. 

“First Horizon is the first company that I have worked for that has seen the true value in promoting employee resource groups, specifically the Women’s Initiative,” Blackwell said. “Each year, it’s encouraging to see more and more women rising through the ranks, both at the bank and in our industry.”

 The original vision has now evolved from talent to marketplace, thanks to First Horizon’s Affinity Strategy. Now, the bank and its wealth advisory firm, First Horizon Advisors, are educating its relationship management teams to both understand and better serve this lucrative customer segment as record numbers of women are now entrepreneurs, primary income earners of their families and investment decision-makers. 

The realities are evident in research and consumer market information: 

  • Women fill 52 percent of management and professional positions in the country. 
  • Women control $14 trillion – or 51 percent – of personal wealth in the U.S. 
  • Women-owned businesses grew at a rate one and half times more than the national average between 1997-2015, and firms owned by African American women increased even more. 
  • Two out of every three mothers are either primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families. 
  • Women account for 47 percent of all workers in the U.S. 

“There is enough evidence demonstrating the benefits of diversity whether it’s how diversity positively impacts team and company performance or how it improves access to greater market share,” said Lynne Walker, executive vice president and director of affinity strategy for First Horizon. “Companies are remiss if they ignore the fact that women have extraordinary economic impact. We don’t want to make the mistake of treating customers as if they are monolithic.” 

To address this directly, First Horizon has a full plan that ensures women have access to the information, people, products and services they need to customize their financial lives.

Eliminate Assumptions 

“As women become a dominant economic force, we have to eliminate old internal assumptions about what a typical entrepreneur and breadwinner looks like,” said David Popwell, regional bank president for First Horizon. “First Horizon has prepared the structure and the programs to serve women as they smash old stereotypes, assume new roles, and clear financial hurdles.” 

Even with their growing economic power as participants in the workplace and marketplace, research shows women often face more financial obstacles than men. For example, borrowing money can be intimidating for some women business owners; however, it may be necessary for business growth. 

“If you want to own a business and you’re going to grow, you’ve got to have capital,” Popwell said. He encourages clients, including women, to diversify assets, do long-term planning and learn the power of compounding returns. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that women earn 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. “That salary gap could create a savings gap,” said Walker. Lifestyle, including marriage, divorce and caring for children or aging parents, can impact a woman’s ability to earn, save and grow wealth. 

Taking time off “might reduce your earnings potential, which therefore might reduce your retirement savings potential,” Walker said. “We want to help unlock the full potential of women in the U.S. economy and eliminate the wealth gap between women and men. That gap isn’t just about income, because women live longer and often have less money for retirement. We want to be a valued partner that helps create a path toward financial solutions that empower women to make their best decisions for their own needs and aspirations.” 

It’s clear: women need to be involved in money matters

 “Women still face financial discrimination that makes it harder for them to get paid what they are worth, access credit and business capital, and afford daily expenses,” according to wealth psychology expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury in an article entitled, “Women Need to Break Money Silence to Achieve Financial Parity.”

Life can bring a variety of personal and financial challenges including launching a small business, navigating a divorce, or facing the unexpected death of a loved one. How one prepares for those challenges can lessen the stress during difficult times. A trusted financial advisor can make the process easier, allowing you to take the next steps with confidence and clarity. 

Preparing to meet with the advisor may include: 

  1. Becoming familiar with your cash flow and spending plan 
  2. Reviewing your investments and your insurance coverage 
  3. Ensuring account beneficiaries are up to date 
  4. Organizing and storing essential documents in a safe and secure place 

Financial confidence is a powerful resource 

“First Horizon bankers get to know their customer’s unique needs, including those of women,” said Popwell. “Our lead is always with advice and not with product. We put the financial well-being of our customers first.” 

Helping women engage with their finances, make informed decisions and address their goals, is a priority for First Horizon. Successful financial planning is essential for achieving life dreams and ambitions.

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