A few decades ago, Wall Street knew comparatively few female investment bankers, especially those climbing the ranks to partner. But in 2022, women are rising to the most senior levels in investment banking, including M&A advisory firms focused on the wealth management space.
One woman who has achieved partner status in a wealth management M&A institution is Bomy Hagopian, WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Women Dealmakers in Wealth Management winner and Partner at Berkshire Global Advisors who both co-leads the firm’s Wealth Management Advisory group and heads the firm’s San Francisco office.
Hagopian led Berkshire’s advisory team on numerous transactions in 2021, including advising female CEO-led RIAs such as 6 Meridian, with $2.1 billion in AUM, in forming a strategic partnership with Hightower Advisors and Pillar Pacific Capital Management, with $1.6 billion in AUM, in a strategic sale to Wealth Enhancement Group.
We sat down with Hagopian to discuss what drew her to financial services M&A, the barriers women currently face and the future for women in M&A.
WSR: How did you decide to aim at a career in M&A and the financial services industry? What inspired you or led your thought process?
Hagopian: Early on in my career, I sought a position where I would have a steep learning curve and could dive into live deals. I was fortunate to find that and more at Berkshire given the colleagues, culture and career development opportunity. I was motivated by my partners to take on as much responsibility as I could, which fueled my appetite for an M&A career.
What I find appealing about the financial services industry is that it involves human capital businesses. I am inspired by the leadership teams of the companies that we work with. The people element of the industry and the client relationship aspect of M&A are critical factors behind why I have stayed committed to this space.
I am focused on M&A in the wealth management sector, where I see more women involved in various roles at the RIAs than in other sectors, which is highly encouraging.
WSR: What barriers do you see for women in the world of M&A and financial services? What can companies and the industry do to remove those barriers?
Hagopian: The culture of a firm and the mindset of the leadership team can set the tone for what barriers will exist – or not – for women in an organization. Barriers include initially getting hired when it is a male-dominated firm or industry and securing the right path to a fulfilling career while building a family.
Companies should be proactive about recruiting qualified women to diversify the team. There should be a strong support system to develop, mentor and retain women for the long term. A woman mentor can have a meaningful impact on a female colleague’s career development. This is the responsibility of women to each other.
The industry should facilitate opportunities for women to come together in group settings to discuss topics that are most relevant to women, exchange ideas and find ways to collaborate, support and celebrate the success of women in the industry.
WSR: How do you see the M&A world evolving going forward for the women working within it?
Hagopian: As the industry evolves towards more women working in financial services, M&A advisory firms should adapt to this trend by retaining advisors who can relate to female clients. Women bring a different perspective to advisory teams that can be valuable to clients and the outcome of transactions.
The pandemic has shined a bright light on the efficiency of virtual meetings and hybrid work environments, which for women – and for that matter, men – in M&A with children has led to less travel, greater work/family balance and higher productivity.
To have more women working in M&A, it is important to find a way to balance family with the high intensity and demands of the advisory role.
As the M&A world evolves, this trend towards greater efficiency and a hybrid work environment may continue, which could lead to greater retention of women in M&A along with the higher productivity demonstrated during the pandemic.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org