To be successful with female clients, make it personal

Advisers should create trusting relationships, not put sole focus on investment performance

Apr 10, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

By Liz Skinner

Financial advisers seeking to attract and retain female clients should focus on connecting with them personally instead of trying to dazzle them with investment performance promises, according to two advisers who have been successful with such clients.

Women are looking for advisers who care about their lives, not just about their finances, said Cathy Curtis, owner of Curtis Financial Planning, during an InvestmentNews webcast yesterday (Listen to the archive of Women and Investing: How to build, maintain and grow relationships) . They want an adviser whom they trust and depend on to be a financial partner.

“Especially with single women, they are looking for a 'financial spouse' because they are busy doing other things in their life,” said Ms. Curtis, who focused her advisory practice on female clients five years ago.

Women appreciate personal openness and want transparency, particularly around fees, according to Ms. Curtis. On her website, she details the cost of her services because she knows women appreciate knowing upfront what they can expect to pay for her advice and planning work.

One way that Sheryl Garrett, founder of The Garrett Planning Network Inc., creates a connection with her female clients, whether they are part of a couple or single, is to ask them in-depth questions about their lives. She also shares with clients details of her own life to build a trusting relationship, an approach that works best with her female clients.

“It's just more natural for women to share things about their lives,” Ms. Garrett said during the hour-long webcast on women and investing. “Men tend to compare, whereas women share.”

Ms. Garrett has even changed the way she dresses, in an attempt to more quickly put clients at ease and help them open up about their financial and other priorities.

Unless she knows clients are coming to meet with her directly from work and may be in suits, she dresses more casually because that's how clients are typically dressed when they come to see her.

“I mirror my clients' appearance to let them know that we're going to get intimate very quickly with our financial planning work,” Ms. Garrett said.

Garrett Planning's offices and website are filled with family photos and pictures of other people pursuing their passions to show clients Ms. Garrett's personality and to encourage them to discuss their own family and interests.

The pair of female advisers recommend that advisers interested in building a practice that caters to female clients consider speaking to groups or hosting events that tackle issues that women care about and are looking for solutions, such as “Entertaining on a Dime.”

Women really appreciate a networking opportunity, Ms. Curtis said.

Both advisers acknowledged that it may be easier for a female adviser to reach out personally to female clients. However, they agree that men have the ability to connect personally with women and discover what matters to them.

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