Convincing women to build a stake in their financial future

Provide timid clients incentives to gain knowledge about money

Jan 28, 2014 @ 10:57 am

By Liz Skinner

An Ohio adviser is using a formal incentive program to encourage her female clients to boost their financial education.

Paula Chesser, an adviser with Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. in Akron, Ohio, created a Savvy Women's Club that hosts eight workshops or seminars for her female clients on topics such as confronting risk in a portfolio and a “Guide to the Financial Markets.”

She also holds an annual awards event where the club's members are recognized for meeting certain criteria that signify they've committed themselves to improving their ability to make financial decisions.

“That's where we celebrate the women who have really become engaged and grown their knowledge and confidence in regard to financial decision making and financial topics,” Ms. Chesser said. “It's wonderful to see the women flourish and gain that confidence level.”

Female clients, who are automatically a club member, can bring guests to the event for a nominal fee, and some of those individuals have become clients of Ms. Chesser since she started the marketing program in 2011.

Overall, Ms. Chesser's business has grown 15% to 20% a year over the past several years, she said.

New members are given a pin, and they receive an embossed folio for their notes after their first educational session, she said. Diamond Members receive crystal paperweights.

Incentive programs appeal to some women because many are community-oriented and typically want to increase their financial acumen, said Adri Miller-Heckman, a financial industry consultant with an eponymous firm who helped Ms. Chesser develop her program.

“An incentive program gives a woman the option to learn without making her feel stupid,” said Ms. Miller-Heckman.

The first step in creating an incentive program or women's club involves defining what individuals have to do to achieve membership or a certain status within the club. This may include attending a certain number of workshops, completing online financial quizzes or being able to describe the investments in one's portfolio, Ms. Miller-Heckman said.

It's also important to offer creative and worthwhile incentives for those who meet the program's criteria.

“If it doesn't say 'wow,' don't do it,” Ms. Miller-Heckman said about choosing an incentive or gift.

She mentioned gifts from Tiffany's or a red leather binder for financial organization as possibilities.

Ms. Miller-Heckman said many advisers are nervous about focusing on women clients because they fear they'll offend men and miss prospects who aren't women, she said.

But given the preponderance of wealth women are set to inherit and generate for themselves in the next decade, all advisers should be reaching out to women in some way.

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