Advisers still struggle to attract women, IN survey shows

Women are focused on retirement issues, yet advisers don't always get their messages across

Aug 15, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Advisers are still struggling to attract women clients because their marketing efforts sometimes fall on deaf ears and their firms don't actively recruit female advisers, according to an InvestmentNews survey released Friday.

Nearly a third of the advisers responding to the survey said the lack of women working as advisers at their firm was a hindrance to finding new female clients. Three-tenths of the respondents also said that not understanding how to market to those clients is holding them back.

Still, 44% of the respondents said their firms has no plans to recruit more female advisers.

The 2014 InvestmentNews Women and Investing Survey was conducted online between Aug. 11 and 14, with responses collected from 377 financial advisers and brokers. The survey respondents are self-selecting, so the results are not scientific.

Nearly 24% of the advisers responding to a question on client attrition said some portion of their female clients who had gone through the death of their husband took their business elsewhere. Nearly 29% of the respondents said they had similar experiences with women who had gone through a divorce.

Two-thirds of those who lost business said they felt there was nothing they could have done to retain that client.

Edward J. Kohlhepp, an adviser who took the survey, said he lost a widow as a client three years after her husband died.

(Related: How advisers can nurture women through life changes)

“I had a very, very good relationship with the husband, and I thought it was a good relationship with the wife as well,” said Mr. Kohlhepp, whose eponymous firm is based in Doylestown, Pa. “She left, I believe, mainly because she didn't feel as strong a relationship with me after her husband died.”

Now Mr. Kohlhepp's daughter is starting her career as an adviser. Female clients tend to feel more comfortable opening up to her than they do with male advisers.

On average, advisers said they are highly comfortable working with both men and women. But newly divorced men are the clients they are least comfortable with. Those clients earned a 4.18 out of six, where six was most comfortable and one, the least.

“They're very private about the divorce,” Mr. Kohlhepp said of men. “They don't want to open up and discuss finances.”

As to what women are looking for, 69.5% of advisers said women's top financial concern is maintaining their lifestyle in retirement. More than half said their female clients are “less confident” in making investment decisions.

But the poll respondents also portray women as being more deliberate investors and planners. A plurality said women take more time to make decisions, are more aware of how much they need to retire and are more conservative about making financial investments.

“Women tend to object to being lumped together because they have unique needs and they want you to take the time to get to know them,” said survey respondent Kathy Henningsen, senior financial adviser at Retirement Asset Management in Bellevue, Wash. “They're tough. They take more time to form an opinion about you before they trust you. And they better feel a connection and you better take the time to get to know them and hear their story because if you don't, you're not going to get far.”

That may explain why nearly half of the advisers in the survey said women require “more time of our firm's financial advisers.”

And while women resist easy stereotyping, Ms. Henningsen said her women clients like having clarity about their future. She described an encounter with a client who told her, “I don't want to be 82 on a Sunday morning, getting up to serve samples at Costco. I just want to know that I'm OK.”

More on the female clients' psyche from advisers working with women

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