Loraine B. Tsavaris, head of client services at U.S. Trust Company of New York, learned that lesson from a survey it sponsored of the richest women who own businesses. Of the richest 1% of women, 18,000 own businesses, she said. And surprisingly, only 15% of these women inherited their businesses, the survey indicated. Those who started their own businesses "can probably see through a service provider better than someone who is not self-made," Ms. Tsavaris said. That's a trait that bank-affiliated money managers may want to take note of in their efforts to capture the assets of this target market, she said. The study - based on interviews with 150 female entrepreneurs whose businesses generate annual sales of at least $2.5 million - found that 77% of them grew up poor or middle-class. The survey also found that these women, who had annual incomes of $200,000 or net worth of more than $3 million, are more educated than their male counterparts. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they had college degrees. Only 45% of male business owners surveyed for U.S. Trust in a study published last month had college diplomas. The survey of female business owners was U.S. Trust's ninth in a series that began in 1993. The series is meant to profile affluent Americans and find out their opinions on various financial issues. The latest survey was the first in which the bank studied wealthy women who own businesses. Like their male counterparts, these women are looking for banks to manage their company pension plans and advise them on business succession, estate planning, and retirement planning. But these women are a tough market to crack. What banks really need is detailed demographic data that help you "get them down to their street address," said Michael Casey, manager of private banking at Norwest Bank, Minneapolis. That's because these entrepreneurs are hard to find. Mr. Casey has lots of women customers who are partners in law firms or are doctors. "Those you can get by opening the yellow pages," he said. But he must rely on networking with current clients to find women entrepreneurs. Highlighting how difficult a market this is to break; only 10% of the richest business owners are female entrepreneurs, Ms. Tsavaris said. Still, "if you look at the characteristics of this person, she is someone you want to do business with," Ms. Tsavaris said. For instance, they generally start their businesses at younger ages than men, so they more chance of being customers for a long time. And the ranks of wealthy female business owners are likely to increase. The number of woman-owned business has increased 43% since 1990, to 7.7 million, according to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. Ms. Tsavaris wouldn't reveal how much of the $41 billion of assets under management at U.S. Trust come from business owners - male or female. One comparison between U.S. Trust's two surveys runs counter to a common stereotype. A higher percentage of women (21%) than men (15%) own construction, trucking, or industrial machinery companies, the surveys indicated.

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