"Women are the largest overlooked natural resource in the world," says Conger, for whom single, divorced and widowed women make up about 70% of her client base. (The other 30% is married couples.)
Conger knows something about a specialized practice. From 1985 to 2005, she was co-founder and president of the Arkansas Financial Group, a practice focused on the medical profession. Even today, many of her clients are physicians; among the couples she works with, women are often the primary breadwinners, and several clients are female radiologists married to stay-at-home fathers.
But there are different issues involved with her female clientele. Half of all her clients are widows and divorcees living solely on their investments, so Conger works to manage various income sources and develop a budget, including an account she calls "savings to spend" for pricier discretionary items like travel and entertainment. There's also an emotional component with her female clients, she says: "I'm a big nurturer and women respond to nurturing."
Conger, who says she prefers to run a small practice, serves 46 clients with a bit more than $47 million in assets under management. She serves as lead planner and tax preparer as well as chief investment officer; her staff also includes one other CFP and one support person. Conger tries to keep everyone's workweek to 32 hours, she says. That's to stay in line with the firm's mission - "to help our clients live the life they want."
An integrated approach to tax preparation is one reason she left Arkansas Financial Group, she says. "My partner and I disagreed on the future of our practice." But Conger says she "loves doing tax returns"; she boasts she has never had a physician's tax return audited. As a result, Conger screens for clients who like their financial planning, tax returns and investment management bundled together in one firm, as well as those who want her to manage all their assets, including their 401(k)s and 403(b)s.
Her annual fee structure includes the firm's full menu of services and is layered: 1.5% on the first $500,000, 0.75% on the next $1.5 million, 0.5% on the next $3 million, 0.33% on the next $5 million and 0.25% on the next $10 million. The firm's initial financial analysis - which covers employee benefits, insurance coverage, estate planning and investment strategy - gets billed as a flat project fee based on projected hours and complexity.
Conger Wealth Management develops a customized asset allocation for each client, based on risk tolerance and the portfolio's risk capacity (and factoring in women's longer life expectancy). Conger believes in modern portfolio theory's ability to protect client assets on the downside, using AdvisoryWorld's optimization software to determine that allocation.
Most client portfolios are 50% to 55% in equities, generally in ETFs. She does not follow individual stocks, but will hold them if clients insist. Conger also limits any one asset class to 20% of a portfolio and limits industry sectors to 5% of a portfolio (or less), depending on the volatility of the asset class.
The balance of a client's portfolio is held in cash and fixed income. She buys individual bonds for portfolios in excess of $600,000 and uses target-date ETFs for portfolios under that amount. Conger avoids alternative investments and hedge funds of any kind, although she likes to use Invesco PowerShares' alternative energy ETFs within the natural resources sector of portfolios.
One investment that often appeals to female clients: Conger sometimes puts up to 2% of a portfolio in the Pax World Global Women's Equality Fund (PXWEX). The fund invests in companies around the globe that are leaders in promoting gender equality in the workplace and beyond; as Conger explains, it singles out companies with a significant percentage of women on their board of directors and in upper management.
As part of her buy-sell agreement with Arkansas Financial Group, Conger took 31 clients with her to start her new firm. The group was primarily made up of single women, in part at the suggestion of her former partner.
Recently divorced and widowed clients also need someone to cry with, says Conger, who admits she herself cries easily. She keeps a big box of tissues and a big box of chocolates in her conference room. And when clients face really big decision moments, like signing new estate documents, she brings out her British tea set to celebrate the occasion.