What women want from financial advisors

Wealth Professional speaks to authors of report which suggests vast majority of women are unhappy with treatment by financial services industry

What women want from financial advisors
Sometimes statistics speak for themselves – 73 per cent of women are ‘unhappy’ with the financial service industry, while 87 per cent of females looking for a financial advisor say they can’t find one they can connect with.

These are the damning results of a survey by StrategyMarketing.ca pointing to a significant disconnect between what women want and what they are actually being offered from the financial services industry. Even though the industry has earmarked women as a valuable demographic, its efforts to actually retain them seem to be falling short.

So what mistakes are they making and what can they do to put them right? Wealth Professional spoke to Paulette Filion and Judy Paradi, the authors of the report and partners at StrategyMarketing.ca, to find out.

One of the biggest issues, it seems, is that financial advisors see women as a niche market and don’t develop a strong female friendly brand. Even though they may design marketing campaigns to appeal to women they aren’t actually doing the things needed to make them happy. Indeed when part of a couple, men are almost two times as likely to be approached by a financial advisor and the male partner is 58 per cent more likely to be seen as the primary contact.

“Male advisors still seem to have the deep down gut feeling that women are a secondary market – not really interested in finances,” commented Paradi.

“Financial advisors consider couples as one client, not two and that’s not true - they are two distinct people,” continued Filion. “With single female clients, advisors think how they’ve approached other clients in the past is the same for these female clients. It may not be. Women face challenges that male clients don’t face and have different communication styles that may appear to indicate hesitation, risk aversion or lack of trust when, actually, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Another issue it seems is that there is a deep-rooted belief in the financial community that women don’t have many assets and are risk averse. The study however, suggests the opposite – highlighting that women control $1.1trillion in wealth in Canada, something that is likely to grow when their husbands die. In addition, women are described not as risk averse but more focused on asking questions because they want to know what is happening and fully understand their investments.

Eighty five per cent of financial advisors are men, but this in itself is not the major problem in attracting female clients with 93 per cent of the women surveyed saying they didn’t care whether their financial advisor was a man or a woman.

“The implication seems to be that the solution to the issues facing women who invest is more female financial advisors,” said Filion. “But that’s not true. Women don’t care whether their financial advisor is a man or a woman, they just want someone who listens to them, respects them, connects the money to their lives and who builds their confidence.”

Paradi agrees: “Hiring more women is not the answer – basic interpersonal skills training (listening, body language, showing genuine interest, etc) for all advisors would be more helpful than simply trying to add more women to the mix.”

So what do female clients really want? Apparently it’s not about creating a different portfolio of investments, nor is it about wanting a different experience to men. In fact, what women really want is someone to listen to them; a focus on lifestyle goals rather than on money itself as a goal; and they want financial advisors to give them confidence in their own abilities rather than simply boasting about what they can do themselves.

“Never patronize women – we are all guilty of harbouring  unconscious attitudes sometimes – if an advisor goes into developing a relationship with a female client with the mindset ‘that I have to talk down to her’, he will be lost before he even gets started,” said Paradi. “The short answer is, he must be genuine in wanting to help her – not just thinking about conquering another client.”

What is your approach to female clientele? Do you treat them differently to men and if so, how and why? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.