Ignoring clients' wives can be costly, panel says

Nov 18, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Caitlin Mollison

Marie Dzanis, Heather Ettinger and Suzanne Siracuse (l. to r.)
+ Zoom
Marie Dzanis, Heather Ettinger and Suzanne Siracuse (l. to r.) (Gene X. Hwang/Charles Schwab)

Sobering data about women and their relationships with their financial advisers set the stage last Wednesday for a panel discussion on winning and retaining female clients.

Advisers who focus on their male clients while ignoring those clients' wives risk losing business, according to Suzanne Siracuse, publisher of InvestmentNews. She moderated the panel discussion “Engaging, Serving and Retaining Female Clients: Strategies for Building a Successful Practice” at the Schwab conference.

Ms. Siracuse cited data showing that 80% of women die single and that they outlive their spouses by an average 14 years. Meanwhile, women control $14 trillion in wealth, which is seen rising to $22 trillion by 2020.

Ms. Siracuse also noted that studies show that 70% of widows change advisers within one year of the husband's death.

Against that backdrop, she and two experts on working with women discussed five different segments of the female market and how advisers should approach each one. The segments are widows, executives, members of the so-called sandwich generation, divorcees and retirees.

Working with widows requires good listening skills, said Heather R. Ettinger, managing partner of Fairport Asset Management LLC.

“Something that is very important to women is not to be lectured to,” she said. “You have to talk about how the experiences are different for widows than other clients.”

Panelist Marie Dzanis, senior vice president and head of sales and servicing at FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds, said that advisers should adopt a tailored approach when dealing with up-and-coming female executives, particularly those under 30.

This group is technology-savvy, so it is critical to establish credibility by using social media, she said.

cmollison@investmentnews.com Twitter: @cmollison

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