Advisors must 'adapt approach' to wealthy female clients

Senior manager at Manulife tells WP the two sexes often think differently about investments and industry has to catch up

Advisors must 'adapt approach' to wealthy female clients

Male advisors have been urged to adapt their approach when it comes to wealthy female clients, according to a senior manager at Manulife Private Wealth.

Research has revealed that men and women often think differently about investment decisions, with women tending to be long-term thinkers and putting more priority on their family’s future. About 80% of Canadian women in the affluent segment also switch advisors within a year of their husband’s deaths, while 87% can’t find a financial advisor they can connect with.

The need to build relationships with female clients, therefore, can’t be ignored, with women now controlling $50.4 trillion of total global private wealth.

Leslie Brophy, AVP for Manulife Private Wealth, heads up its sales and investment team at a firm where the staffing is deliberately split 50-50 men and women.

She told WP that advisors who adapt to female clients, and recognise their different views and situation, are the ones who succeed. She outlined three points where this can be done:

1, adapt the conversation to the educational and cultural background, and the career, of your client;

2, consider that women tend to express themselves differently so the advisors need to adapt their style of communication – allow for pregnant pauses and allow for women to ask questions before they come out with a comment of opinion;

3, ask open and aspirational questions about what women want to do with their money and how they incorporate their family values into the wealth they have.

Brophy said the latter is particularly important in the wealth industry and something that should be implemented more.

She said: “I think the financial service industry in Canada is changing and Manulife is a part of that. We are working very hard to bring more women into management and into those various positions and functions. That’s all very encouraging.

“A lot of it has to do with adapting the conversation to women clients – or male clients to women clients – to think more about what the long-term aspirations are for the wealth they have accumulated. How do they want to bring in the family values to their wealth and should you talk to women in a different way because women traditionally express themselves differently than men?

“It might take them longer to get an idea out – there might be some pregnant pauses in the conversation where I find that some advisors rush in to fill the gap when the woman just wants to describe their point of view or their opinion, and it just takes them a little longer to do that.”

Brophy’s career has taken in clients from a variety of cultures, having spent eight years in private banking and investment counselling in Switzerland and two years working in Uruguay. She returned to Canada to focus on international strategy at her former employee before joining Manulife earlier this year. She recognised that the two sexes often view investments through a different lens.

She added: “Women, in general, are longer-term thinkers, not just thinking about the immediate satisfaction of having, say, beaten the benchmark with their portfolio.

“More of them think of how they can make this money last and help them in the decumulation stage but also for their children – how can they set them up for future success when I’m no longer around?”

The statistic about widows leaving their advisor the majority of time has been repeated a number of times and is well known. Brophy believes a lot of this problem is down to unconscious bias and people reverting to stereotypes in meetings.

Some advisors, she said, may adopt a condescending fatherly tone or try to be more in control when faced with a woman, despite the fact they may be the primary household breadwinner. Women also have different attitudes to money, with some preferring to take time off after having children and some going back work immediately. Brophy said: “I don’t think, in general, that that’s been cottoned on to within our industry.”

Dealing with widows comes down to how you begin and develop the relationship.

She explained: “If you are constantly in communication with only one of the two partners, the other partner will begin to feel disenfranchised. We see it so many times; the wife doesn’t want to attend the meeting because the conversation doesn’t include her and her understanding of the situation.

“We come to these conversations from so many professional backgrounds and often financial professionals are so entrenched in their lingo and jargon that they don’t anticipate that people around the table may not be able to follow along with all the charts and graphs. We need to make those conversations as inclusive as possible.”

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