What we learned at the first-ever U.S. Bank Women and Wealth Summit

November 04, 2020 | GET MORE : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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The virtual event brought together founders, philanthropists and executives to talk about money

Managing money may not be fun for everyone, but it’s also not optional. Getting smart about your money is a real boost to your confidence.

These words of wisdom – and many more – were all from the first U.S. Bank Women and Wealth Summit, a virtual event held in early October. 

The seed for the event was planted a few years ago, when Gunjan Kedia, vice chair of Wealth Management and Investment Services at U.S. Bank, began working more closely with the bank’s women clients. 

“Among women, talking about money is more taboo than almost anything else,” Kedia said. “Women often told us that they feel like they are being talked down to. So we thought, how can the industry do better for them?”

The result was a survey of 1,514 women and 1,486 men to better understand women’s relationships with money. The survey revealed a wealth gap between women and men – perpetuated in part by the lack of conversation among women about money, and many women’s dislike of engaging with their money. 

Closing that wealth gap – coupled with a goal of encouraging women to be more engaged, empowered and in control of their own financial destinies – was the impetus for the Women and Wealth Summit.

The event featured industry-disrupting female entrepreneurs and industry leaders, including Payal Kadakia, founder of ClassPass, Katia Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox, Tracee Ellis Ross, actor and entrepreneur, Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder of Rebecca Minkoff, and Divya Gugnani, co-founder of Wander Beauty. 

The extraordinary and inspiring speakers shared many tips on how to drive change, equity and inclusion for women.

U.S. Bank Wealth Management Strategic Wealth Coach Dr. Amy Zehnder led a discussion about how personal perspectives impact financial decisions. She discussed making logical, rational, “human brain” decisions about money instead of using your “bird brain” – a panicked, fight-or-flight reaction. She also recommended eliminating money messages that are no longer serving you (“I don’t have enough to start saving.” “I’m not smart enough to be responsible for my family’s finances.”) 

During a panel on closing the gender wealth gap, speakers discussed their own experiences with the gender gap, how they have worked to empower women to overcome financial obstacles, and how to take control over your own financial future. 

Divya Gugnani of Wander Beauty advised women to take ownership of their financial futures. “Advocate to get paid what you’re worth,” she said. “Spend less than you make. Share your financial knowledge with others.” 

Gunjan Kedia, who has worked in financial services for more than 25 years and currently leads a business responsible for more than $7 trillion in assets under custody and administration and $218 billion in assets under management for U.S. Bank clients, talked about leadership and the strengths women bring to the table.  

“Leadership is a mindset, not a title,” she said. “It’s fundamentally about everyone other than you.”

During a panel on building generational wealth for women, panelists discussed how they have developed confidence around money and solutions to bridge the generational wealth gap. 

“When I started my company, I didn’t think about wealth, I was thinking about the impact I wanted to make,” said Payal Kadakia, founder of ClassPass. Sarah Kunst, managing director of Cleo Capital, echoed that statement. “Think about your values and what you want to continue to see in the world, and invest against that.” 

During a panel on charitable giving, panelists discussed the importance of women learning from each other, powerful tools for change, and investing or giving to impact social issues. 

“We are part of a world that is far bigger than us,” said Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of Rebecca Minkoff. “When you invest in another woman or a community, you are creating a better world.”

Actor, entrepreneur and keynote speaker Tracee Ellis Ross wrapped up the summit, talking about the career path that led to her founding beauty company Pattern – from starting out as a model and then an actress. She shared her wisdom on money, fighting for what you believe in, and asking for help. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for support and ask for help,” she said. “You can be transparent. If you go somewhere to ask for support and they make you feel wobbly, try somebody else.”