Financial advisers understand that nurturing a mutually productive relationship is the nature of the business. Twenty years ago, investing was more of a man's game and though the number of female advisers is meager (only 14%), the number of female investors has skyrocketed, with American women projected to control upwards of $22 trillion by the year 2020. These days, there is a very good chance that a woman will be the primary decision maker in the household regarding finances.
Here are several ways financial advisers can reexamine how they serve female clients.
I made a quick trip with a co-worker to a car dealership. The sales rep automatically assumed we were husband and wife and literally didn't listen well enough to hear us mention co-workers. He proceeded to ask me multiple questions about my preference in various car colors (interior colors, exterior colors). He gave me the impression that he thinks women only care about insignificant decisions like paint color, and while his stereotyping may have seemed like a good sales strategy to him, it hurt his business. Women, just like men, want to be individuals. Everyone has different goals and it is off-putting when someone suggests, simply based on gender and age, that they know your life story.
My mom is a 65-year old former teacher. She is now a yoga instructor and international traveling retiree. The most popular topics of conversations between my mom and her friends (fellow retirees) are yoga classes, wine drinking and traveling. Gone are the days of a boring "old person" retirement. She is still curious and dynamic. How do you, as an adviser, help your female clients like my mother live the lifestyle they want in retirement?
Fidelity's 2015 "Money Fit Women's Study" confirmed that women are looking for an educator, someone to explain the complicated idiosyncrasies of the investment world without making them feel stupid. Advisers will benefit by simply switching from a "talking at" strategy that concentrates on selling and closing the deal, to asking questions and listening carefully. Women are looking for active dialogue, a give and take in conversation that creates an atmosphere ripe for question asking.
Along with educating their clients, some in the financial services sector could stand to be educated themselves about soft skills: reading facial expressions, interpreting tone of voice and understanding there is more being said than the words uttered.
To improve your work with female clients, consider finding a female adviser to be your mentor or asking a female friend about her business-related pet peeves. Understanding your clients by seeking out the female perspective can lead to dialogue that will bridge the gap.
Acquiring a woman's business may be more difficult, but once you do, they often become loyal advocates of your services. A 2016 marketing study conducted by Christine Corelli stated that women make 26 referrals a year on average, while their male counterparts only make 11 referrals. At the end of the day, the future is female.
Elizabeth Griffith is a senior vice president with Jackson National Life Distributors.