Any astute financial adviser knows that when a woman is going through a life transition, she makes a good prospect. In fact, 70% of women fire their advisers within one year of the death of their spouse. And women who get divorced often find new advisers around the time they say goodbye to their partners. If you are on the receiving end of this asset transfer, all is well and good. But what if you are the adviser she is leaving in the dust? What can you do to retain her?
The best tactic is to build a solid foundation of trust now, before a life-altering event occurs. This requires an investment of time and resources and a commitment to be more female-friendly in your practice. When done well, this strategy can make the difference between keeping her assets in your book of business versus watching her walk out the door.
Here are five strategies you need to employ today to reduce the risk of losing her assets tomorrow:
1. Invite her to the table. Clients are loyal to advisers who are empathetic and outwardly show that they care about clients as people first, and assets under management second. This is especially true for female clients who often select their advisers based on good chemistry, not just technical expertise. Go out of your way to make sure you are inviting women in couples to meetings. If they decline your invitation, find out what is keeping them from meeting with you and then educate them on how they are an important part of the couple's financial team. Be determined to not take “no” for an answer.
2. Avoid taking sides when meeting with her and her partner. It is human nature to gravitate toward one member of a couple more than another. As an adviser, it is vital to stay neutral when advising couples, and never take one partner's side in a financial disagreement. Instead, help each member of the couple verbalize their thoughts on the matter and then mirror back the key areas of agreement and discord. While taking sides may help the couple come to a resolution faster, it may just put you in the doghouse with the female client and ultimately do the couple a disservice.
3. Understand she is more than her gender. There is so much chatter today about how best to serve the “women's market.” What has been lost in the conversation is the fact that women represent 51% of the population and are diverse in terms of personality traits, career aspirations, financial needs and lifestyles. Fight the urge to pigeonhole your female clients simply by gender. Instead learn about gender differences and then use this information as a way to ask open-ended questions to find out exactly what makes the female client in front of you tick.
4. Notice the details of her life. The female brain is hardwired to notice details and have more verbal access to feelings than the male brain. Make sure you take the time to ask your female clients about their lives, their loved ones and how they are feeling about their financial situation. Then really listen to their answers. Women are very good at detecting the difference between those professionals who actively listen to understand versus those professionals who listen to sell. The latter ones are often fired.
5. Celebrate important events with her. Recognize important accomplishments in her and her family's lives by sending small gifts that speak to her unique interests. For example, if she is a wine lover and she gets a promotion at work, send a bottle of her favorite red wine. Or when her son scores a hockey scholarship to college, mail her and her partner a hockey puck with a picture of the family on it to say congratulations. No matter how you decide to celebrate these events, know that she will appreciate the gestures and remember these good deeds for a long time to come.
The best way to make sure female clients retain you as their adviser after a divorce or the death of a partner is to “wow” them every step of the way — before a family transition. Go the extra mile each and every time you meet. Not only will this specialized attention make your female client happy, it will keep her partner satisfied as well.
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, and the author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. Kathleen is a faculty member of the Certified Private Wealth Advisor program of IMCA and teaches a psychology of financial planning course at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University.