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The investment industry is obsessed with numbers, from interest rates to the S&P 500 Index to the price of oil and more. Yet, tellingly, there is no definitive figure for the percentage of financial advisers who are women.

Fidelity Investments estimated in 2012 that, of both US brokers and financial advisers, 13 per cent were women. Yet in 2013 The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that 26 per cent of personal financial advisers were women. Other organisations have estimates in between.

Whatever that elusive statistic, it is clear women make up 51 per cent of the US population and are under-represented among financial advisers.

No one can claim a lack of ability is the reason. A 2011 report from the BLS found 23 per cent of young women held college degrees, versus 14 per cent of young men. Could it be a lack of mathematical acumen? No, the BLS found women made up 60 per cent of accountants and auditors in 2011. Professional fulfilment? Again, unlikely: the Fidelity survey found women advisers were “generally more satisfied than their male counterparts”.

Unfortunately, the real reasons are simple: money and sexism.

The Department of Labor notes that female financial advisers are paid considerably less than male advisers. And in some companies, men are favoured for promotions and choice client assignments.

Organisations are working to improve opportunities for women. Brokerages have created mentoring programmes and networking groups, and service providers offer education programmes to help women advisers’ professional development. But more needs to be done.

In this inaugural edition we decided it was time to highlight women financial advisers. We sought to highlight the many who have built large, successful practices. So this inaugural edition of the FT100 Women Financial Advisers provides a snapshot of the best across the US.

The FT’s sister publication, Ignites Distribution Research, set a minimum of $200m under management, then invited brokerages, private banks, and registered investment advisers to submit candidates for the list. The team used advisers’ self-reported data, regulatory disclosures and research to score attributes such as assets under management, growth rate, and credentials.

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There is no attempt to rank advisers – differences are minor

Size is a key indicator as bad advisers rarely attract and retain clients, but it did not determine who made our list. Longevity matters: established professionals offer reliability and perspective.

Advisers were also awarded points for certifications, including the CFA, CFP and more. And advisers whose information is accessible online were awarded small bonuses, as transparency should be the norm.

There is no attempt to rank advisers as differences are often minor. Many advisers narrowly missed out this year, edged out by slightly better profiles. Sometimes the difference was a few more years of experience or an additional professional designation. Many more were outstanding than we could list.

The result is grouped by state – there are 25 plus Washington DC – and those with more people and wealth have greater representation. It is not surprising that New York City, a centre of wealth, has the biggest concentration, with 20 advisers.

So what does the list look like? An elite. The average female financial adviser manages just over $1.8bn (the smallest manages $400m) and saw assets under management rise 18 per cent in the year to mid-2014.

The average has been advising for 24 years, with 43 per cent from registered investment advisers, 41 per cent from broker-dealers and 16 per cent from private banking.

Knocking down a stereotype, women were only 44 per cent of clients: 41 of the 100 had more male clients than female. The vast majority, 96 per cent, serve only clients with more than $10m, but a smaller number, just 76 per cent, service those with $1m-$10m.

A variety of services is offered: financial planning (56 per cent), advising retirees (27 per cent), trust and estate work (25 per cent), socially responsible investing (just 4 per cent), and more.

Within those services, advisers pursue many paths. Among the more popular, 30 per cent of their $184bn in assets follow a “core-satellite” strategy, in which most reside in plain-vanilla portfolios such as stocks and bonds, while the rest are in less traditional “satellite” areas such as commodities and hedge funds. The second most popular strategy, accounting for 20 per cent of assets, is tactical investing – frequent, short-term shifts. Most employ two to five strategies.

Just over 27 per cent of assets are in mutual funds, the most popular investment. The second most popular category is separately managed accounts, with 23 per cent of assets, and third is individual stocks and bonds, with 22 per cent.

We aimed to provide a picture of leading women financial advisers for discerning readers: it is not comprehensive, but as good as one can find.

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