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How Financial Professionals Can Better Cater to Women

Historically, women have been viewed as secondary decision makers in financial situations – a sorely outdated posture that’s quickly evolving at most financial institutions. However, the insight alone isn’t sufficient enough to attract and retain more female clients. Many financial professionals are still struggling with their approach to working with and catering to women. What has traditionally worked with men isn’t necessarily ideal for their counterparts.

The need for financial institutions to adapt is apparent now more than ever, as women are increasingly taking on the role of household CFO, playing a much greater role in both daily money management and long-term financial planning. Data from the May 2013 BMO Private Bank Women’s Study reveals:

  • Seventy-six percent are either primary decision makers or share ownership of decisions related to savings, investments and retirement
  • Fifty-two percent of Arizona women work with their spouse or partner to decide which banks and financial institutions they will use
  • Ninety-four percent of Arizona women take charge or share decisions equally with their spouse or partner regarding groceries, children’s clothing and other everyday necessities

Yet even with this financial clout, many women are still lacking quality financial guidance. The BMO study also found 66 percent of women do not use the services of a financial advisor – even though women tend to outlive men and may require much more financial support in their elder years. A recent study from Boston Consulting Group found that once a woman’s spouse passes away, one of the first things she does is fire her financial advisor. There’s an obvious gap that needs to be filled, especially as a record number of women are earning graduate and professional degrees, launching new businesses and rising in the corporate ranks.

To better cater to women, financial professionals need to consider the following:

  • For women, money is a tool to accomplish goals; it’s not the goal. Women typically focus on preserving wealth and protecting their family’s financial future, whereas men tend to be more concerned with the acceleration of wealth, such as the rate of return and performance of investments.
  • Women reject traditional “sales” approaches and value relationships. Women like to ask questions and be part of the financial conversations. They do not want to be talked “at,” as is often the case. They reject typical sales approaches and prefer to engage in a meaningful, two-way dialogue, and connect by sharing personal stories. During the decision-making process, they gather information from many sources, consult with friends and may take longer to make decisions than men.
  • Women communicate differently than men. Women are looking for clear, honest and relevant communication. They want to be spoken to in a conversational style and treated with the same respect and dignity that their male counterparts receive.

When dealing with couples, both women and men need to be engaged. In situations where a spouse or partner is present, it’s important to bring both into the conversation. Financial professionals also need to overcome misconceptions that women are not as financial or investment savvy as their spouses or partners. Condescending tones, words and body language – whether intentional or not – is a surefire way to turn off women.

When financial professionals take time to understand women’s needs and outlooks, all parties benefit. Individuals and couples can find more comfort and security with their financial advisor, and in turn, women are more likely to remain loyal to their financial institutions and provide referrals.

 

April Ward is Regional Director, Wealth Advisor for Stoker Ostler, a part of BMO Financial Group. The Scottsdale wealth management firm provides comprehensive financial planning services to affluent individuals, families, small-to-medium-sized institutions and non-profit organizations. She can be reached at april.ward@stokerostler.com or (480) 890-8088.