Stereotypes die hard. The position of men as the primary breadwinners and financial decision-makers in families was probably broadly true only for members of the Silent Generation. While this dynamic occurs less often for Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Millennials, the old perceptions still linger. To effectively serve women, it’s important to let go of any misguided assumptions. The following steps can help you ensure that your practice is attuned to the needs of women investors.
1. Test for unconscious biases
When it comes to women’s preferences as investors, the myths are abundant. They’re more risk averse. They’re less likely to have an in-depth understanding of complex and sophisticated financial markets. They’re more focused on the quality of relationships than data and supporting facts. All these perceptions are outdated and may have never been accurate to the degree that they were believed.
At the outset of every new client intake, it’s essential to do all you can to get to know that individual and not make any assumptions based on their gender. A female client, for example, might have no interest in making small talk and want to get right down to the numbers demonstrating how well investments you recommend perform. Telling yourself to avoid gender-based assumptions isn’t enough for the very reason that they are often unconscious and manifest themselves in ways you might not expect. Ensuring that everyone in your practice takes unconscious bias training is a better way to root out these easily made mistakes. Even if you’re a female advisor, the training might help uncover some biases that could surprise you. Another critical step is to ask your women investors for honest feedback about how they’re treated at your practice. Their comments will help you uncover if they are encountering any gender-based biases from members of your team.
2. Have an inclusive practice
No matter what you say or do, women might not feel comfortable seeking out advice in an environment that is male dominated. Building an inclusive practice, where women have key roles beyond the support staff, will demonstrate your understanding that women today have leadership roles at organizations and are often the key financial decision-makers for their families. It’s not enough to talk the talk. You have to walk it.
3. Have women-centric events
Even for younger generations, it is still often true that men dominate the conversations and women defer to them in group settings. Teachers of students of all ages understand this. Offering women-centric events is an effective way to avoid this common group dynamic and provide a forum for women to speak and ask questions more freely. Pitch seminars and online presentations on topics like “Retirement Planning for Women” or “Savings Strategies to Overcome the Wage Gap.” These will draw primarily women audiences without you having to set any restrictive attendance requirements.
4. Develop content that focuses on issues of primary concern to women
Behavioral and lifestyle differences between the genders do persist. For example, it is more common for women to be caregivers for elderly parents. Women also often end up in worse financial circumstances after a divorce than men. Writing blogs or offering online or in-person presentations that focus on meeting the challenge of caregiving or navigating post-divorce finances will attract women investors and demonstrate you’re attuned to their needs.
5. Build relationships with every member of a family
In families, when a man is the primary breadwinner and key financial decisionmaker, advisors often focus exclusively on that person when delivering their services. It should be no surprise, then, how often adult children and surviving spouses switch financial advisors after their father or husband dies. When meeting with couples, it is always important to address and ask questions of both partners, regardless of who seems to be in control of financial decisions. Similarly, it’s important to get started early with children by offering financial literacy training or providing guidance on managing money as they begin their careers. Even though those additional services might not generate significant or even any revenue, the time you take to build those relationships with family members will foster client loyalty. The personal connection you make could prove to be very rewarding for your practice later, as those spouses and children take control of the family wealth.
Staying in tune with the shift in wealth control
The trends are clear. Women control an increasingly higher percentage of the household wealth in the United States. Advisory practices need to serve women investors effectively and constantly improve that support. The practices responsive to women’s needs will thrive as more women become the key decisionmakers for substantial amounts of wealth.
The views expressed represent the opinion of Frontier Asset Management. The views are subject to change and are not intended as a forecast or guarantee of future results. This material is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment. Stated information is derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources that have not been independently verified for accuracy or completeness. While Frontier Asset Management believes the information to be accurate and reliable, we do not claim or have responsibility for its completeness, accuracy, or reliability. The use of such sources does not constitute an endorsement. Frontier does not have an affiliation with any author, company, or security noted within. Statements of future expectations, estimates, projections, and other forward-looking statements are based on available information and Frontier Asset Management’s view as of the time of these statements. Accordingly, such statements are inherently speculative as they are based on assumptions that may involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties.
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