Scores of articles have been published on women financial planning clients in recent years, aimed at improving the state of advisor-female client relationships. And yet, problems remain, the latest research shows. Thus, we offer a much needed refresher on the issues surrounding the advising of women clients, a list you and colleagues might want to scan periodically to make sure your gender approach is appropriate and effective.
Taking the time to understand how to connect with women could be one of the best business moves you ever make. The obvious win is adding more women-run households onto your book. But just as important is making sure you have a solid line of communication with women in households you currently work with, even if the man is your primary point of contact.
Beyond the solid case for making sure both clients are fully on board with your services there’s simple demographics to pay attention to: Chances are it’s the woman who will survive the male. If you want to keep that business, now’s the time to be building a relationship with the entire household.
Besides, just because you have a relationship with the male, doesn’t mean the female wouldn’t like to be in the mix. A survey of high net worth women conducted for Schwab in 2012 found that nearly 70% think it would be a good idea for all financial matters to be shared equally.
And you definitely need a different pitch when working with women. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Women Don’t Like You. And by You, We Mean Male Advisers.
When women interact with a financial adviser it’s typically a man, as less than 30% of investment advisers and 20% of financial planners are women.
And those interactions aren’t going well. A survey from the Boston Consulting Group reported that 73% of women don’t like the investment services they have access to. Another survey by the Center for Talent Innovation found that two thirds of women feel misunderstood by their financial adviser. That said, it’s not your gender that’s the problem; in Schwab’s survey of high net worth women, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents said the gender of their adviser was irrelevant. It’s the advice that’s being judged.
2. To be fair, it’s also the subject matter.
New research from Fidelity found that nearly 8 in 10 women are comfortable talking to a doctor about a medical condition, but fewer than half of women said they are comfortable talking to a financial pro about money and investing. Yet in the same study the vast majority of women— more than 80%-said they want to be more engaged, and more than 90% said they want to learn more about financial planning. A disconnect? Nope. An opportunity. Respect that money is not the easiest of topics for women to broach, but they are well aware of the need and advantage of being more on top of matters. You can be their catalyst if you meet them more on their terms. Ask questions; about their goals, about their concerns. Listen. Don’t just prescribe, or, even worse, tell them what to do. Spend a little bit more time on the “why” behind your strategies and recommendations.
And to the extent you are qualified to deliver 360 degrees of financial planning, make non-portfolio issues a focus. Nearly 9 in 10 high net worth women surveyed for Schwab said they want an adviser who “looks at my whole financial picture, not just my investment portfolio.”
Carla Fried is a freelance journalist who covers personal finance for media including Money Magazine, The New York Times, and CBS MoneyWatch.com. Prior to launching her own reporting and writing business in 2002 she was a senior writer at Money and the managing editor of Quicken.com.