Firing line 

I want to be able to show how it can be done and be a model

I want to be able to show how it can be done and be a model

Brittain Prigge, president and head of relationship management at US-based wealth management firm Balentine, wants to be a role model for other women coming into the financial advice industry.

She has been in the industry for 27 years and wants to encourage other women into it, claiming it is a good place for women to be successful.

“I do think women and men are different, but working together can enhance the client experience,” Ms Prigge said. 

“Women listen more – and I want to be careful about generalising – but I totally believe that we have different perspectives and different values. It’s proven that women have a higher emotional intelligence than men, they are better at the soft skills.”

However, she has had her experience of sexism during her time in the industry. “When we were bought by Wilmington Trust, it was very male-dominated. There wasn’t anything overt that was negative in terms of inappropriate actions, but more a lack of respect for ideas, [as in] not even considering that I might have some ideas.”

Ms Prigge revealed she went to her boss, and said: “I can do some things that can make this job even better, and he said ‘Why would you do that?’”

Even worse, she recently hired a woman from Goldman Sachs. “It’s 2018 and I’m absolutely floored at the way she was treated. She was at a meeting and the prospect made overtures to her,” Ms Prigge revealed. She said the woman reported this to her manager, but instead of firing the prospect, the manager instead told her she was no longer handling that relationship.

“In a way, that’s punishment. That stuff happens all the time,” Ms Prigge said.

“You have to be thoughtful and you have to be careful and be strong. I think there’s not even a consideration or wanting to understand a different way or have a different opinion, or to see it’s unacceptable to treat people that way. I think a lot of people don’t grow up with the right values or understanding, and I think male chauvinism is very real.”

Change in attitudes

A big driver for changing attitudes would be bringing more women into the industry, and Ms Prigge, who is married and has two children, said this was the reason for her wanting to talk to more women about coming into the financial services industry.

She said: “A lot of it is that there aren’t enough women like me. We’re going to universities and recruiting from there and saying ‘this is doable’ and it’s easier because the flexibility is there to be able to do what you need to do.”

Part of her mission is to persuade women that becoming a registered investment adviser is not the same as a broker dealer, which is a more bonus-driven sales culture. 

She recently spoke at a conference to a group of women and asked them about their perceptions of the workplace. “I said, ‘how many of you think that having a child will end your career?’ Every single person in the room raised their hand. Not only do I need to do something at Balentine, I need to do something [generally].