Attention Financial Advisors: Ignore Women at your Own Risk

Financial Advisors Ignore Women at Own RiskIf you consider women investors as a minor or secondary market, you are missing out on an important business opportunity. It’s time for a reality check. Women comprise almost two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, and more than half of married women with business-related degrees out-earn their husbands. Women also wield enormous influence as business owners. As of 2013, it is estimated[1] there are more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people.

If these statistics don’t convey any significance to you, then consider this: [2]Women control roughly two-thirds of annual spending in the United States, which accounts for approximately $12 trillion. Approximately 80 percent of women will be solely responsible for household financial decisions at some point in their lives.

According to the Federal Reserve, women control 51 percent of today’s wealth. By 2019, it is estimated around two-thirds of America’s wealthy will be female. Over the next 30 years, it is estimated women will be the primary recipients of between $42 trillion and $110 trillion of inherited monies – the largest transfer of wealth in history.

So why have you not focused on this emerging client base?

Women do not have a gender preference when it comes to the advisor they choose. They are more confident as an investor when working with an advisor, but they are looking for more than just an investment strategy. Women want collaboration with their financial advisor and are looking for customized solutions to meet their life goals.

To work with women, Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, principal of KBK Wealth Connection and author of How to Give Financial Advice to Women, suggests advisors get personal quickly through stories. Avoid jargon. Communicate using feeling and collaborative words. Be thoughtful, making them feel at home, from having magazines women like in the lobby to using technology like CRM, to never forget the kids’ names. Define the success of the advisor-client relationship to her as being “indispensable.”  Be a coach to coach them along the way.

“Women fire advisors for many reasons, but it usually boils down to a failure to listen,” says Kingsbury, “Many female clients complain about financial advisors not listening and try to sell them products and services before they really get to know them.”

Her advice? Listen carefully. Ask open-ended questions. Do your best to put yourself in the client’s shoes.

Like any potential client relationship, you need to build it. “Women are neurologically wired for connection. They get a biological boost from connecting,” Kingsbury says. “The pleasure centers in the brain light up when they do.”

Women want to tell their story as part of the financial planning process and they want to know something about you: your background, clients and what you can do for them.

Building a relationship also builds trust. “Women are slower to trust than men,” says Eleanor Blayney, president of Directions for Women, a Virginia firm which trains financial advisors to work with women. “They want to understand the context and how it affects those they care about. Unfortunately, financial services is a bottom line-oriented business, and many advisors are impatient with delays.”

Be consistently honest and transparent about your products and services. Transparency affords your clients the ability to know and trust what you are doing with their money on their behalf.

It’s also important to understand how women make decisions, which is different from men. Women tend to process more information, so their decision-making process is slower. Give women the time they need to make decisions and don’t pressure them before they’re ready.

Women have higher expectations than men regarding service quality. They are less likely than men to forgive poor service, but more likely to promote those who do it well. “I often hear complaints from female colleagues that a financial advisor was going to check on something, but then failed to follow up,” says Kingsbury. “For many women, such unreliability is unacceptable.”

If you have difficulty with follow-through, develop a support system. “Following up shows you care, that your client is important to you, and you are working on her behalf, even when she’s not in your office,” says Kingsbury.

Women are engaged and want to learn the financial business to take better control of their finances and future. You would be wise to engage these women – as they grow, you’re sure to grow.

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[1] “Startup Phenomenon Women.”

[2] Press Releases | Pershing.”


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