Financial advisors have to change the conversation with female clients or risk losing out on a potentially lucrative and growing market.
The face of the financial industry is changing to include more women with more money to invest, which opens up a vast opportunity for financial advisors, if they are willing to approach women differently from men.
Women want to be treated equally, but that does not mean they want to be the treated the same as their male counterparts, according to a new guidebook presented by Pershing, a BNY Mellon company.
The guidebook, Women Are Not a Niche Market. They are a Significant Business Opportunity, was unveiled Tuesday and examines women as a key market for advisors to grow and maintain their business.
"Four out of 10 women out-earn their husbands, and within 25 years the majority of doctors and lawyers will be women," says Kim Guimond Dellarocca, a director for Pershing and global head of segment marketing and practice management, who helped present the guidebook. "There are 8 million women business owners."
But it is up to financial advisors, most of whom are men, and up to women to change the financial conversation because women are not being well served, according to Dellarocca and Susan Hirshman, president of the consulting firm SHE Ltd. and author of Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?
"Women are going to change the investing frontier by making more of the decisions in the future," Dellarocca says, and financial advisors need to learn to talk to them. Of women in general, 46% say they will seek financial advice, compared with 34% of men, and 62% of millionaire women and 84% of ultra high-net-worth women will seek financial advice, Pershing says.
But men and women look at finances differently. Women rate relationships and trust higher than men, so financial advisors need to be more than just money managers. They need to delve into broader issues of planning and long-term stability rather than just investing.
Men also look at finances as a winning and losing proposition, while women look at it as a way to avoid poverty.
Given these differences in attitude, "financial advisors are failing women," Dellarocca says. Some financial advisors are courting women by targeting older couples as well as single women, Hirshman says.
"More than 70% of women will fire the financial planner she and her husband have had within one year of the husband's death," Dellarocca says, because the financial advisor has not established a relationship with the wife. This "is a huge financial loss for financial advisors." Once a relationship is established between a financial advisor and a woman it is very "sticky," says Hirshman. The woman is not going to leave.
If a couple differs on their ideas of investing, the advisor can act as a bridge between the two to meld the different philosophies. But an advisor is risking future business if he ignores the wife.
Advisors need to be ready to educate their female clients but not talk down to them, and this should be done earlier in life rather than later in the woman's life. They also need to tell women why they are advising them to invest in a certain way, rather than just telling them to do it.
The market opportunities are there, if the advisor will just take advantage of them, because 51% of women live alone and 85% of women over 65 will live alone by 2020.
"Advisors should never assume they know what a woman's needs are just because she is a woman and should not assume women cannot understand finances," says Dellarocca. "Women are different and their needs are different," but do not assume they do not know about finances.
For instance, same sex couples have complicated needs that differ by state, and women caring for a special needs child or an elderly parent have different needs.
"As an industry, it is our fault (that it seems complicated)," she says. "We talk in 'investment speak.' We need to translate that language."
For Hirshman, that means creating an analogy between finances and dieting, which is how the name of her book came about. For instance, she compares determining your net worth to stepping on the financial scales, and calculating cash flow to checking a financial calorie counter.