(Corrected Feb. 10, 2014)
Financial advisers who want to attract female clients must carefully craft a message designed for that particular woman's knowledge and interest level.
"Women are not a niche market and you need to be deliberate about the type of sub-segment of the women's market that you're going for," Eileen O'Connor, founder of Hemmington Wealth Management, said at the TD Ameritrade Institutional national conference in Orlando on Thursday.
During a session aimed at helping advisers engage the female client, former adviser Marie Dzanis said it's especially important to use the right tone and language when addressing women.
"You don't want to come across patronizing or be completely over someone's head," said Ms. Dzanis, who is a senior vice president with Northern Trust Co.'s FlexShares.
An adviser in the audience said he has trouble getting his older female clients to take an interest in understanding their finances, even though they are likely to end up as widows.
"Don't take no for an answer," Ms. O'Connor told him.
Explain investments and the purpose they play within portfolios by tying the explanation into whatever that woman is most concerned about, she said.
Suzanne Siracuse, publisher of InvestmentNews and moderator of the conference panel, said women often feel ignored and misunderstood by the male-dominated financial industry. She said research shows women have more negative feelings about the financial industry than the car-sales business.
Ms. O'Connor described tales her female clients have told her about their former male advisers explaining an investment to her husband, and then turning to her and repeating the same description, "only slower."
Many of the women with these stories had convinced their husbands to switch advisers, she said.
Both women said advisers need a thorough discovery process with a new woman client to assess her financial knowledge, what communication form she prefers, and her risk tolerance.
Financial adviser Benjamin Tobias, a conference attendee, spoke of finding an interesting way to address women clients. His wife, a school teacher, began sitting in on client meetings with female clients and couples a few years ago.
"She'll stop me in a meeting and say, 'Wait a minute,' then she will explain that the client heard something very different than what I was trying to say," Mr. Tobias said.
Since she first started coming to meetings, the firm has seen significant increases each year in assets under management, and Mr. Tobias attributes the success to her role.
"We call her the translator," he said.
Mr. Tobias learned the importance of making sure women have some financial independence and knowledge after his uncle died many years ago.
"His wife literally didn't know how to make a bank deposit," he said.
(This story was corrected. The original version misspelled Hemmington Wealth Management.)