Women are creating and accumulating wealth at an accelerated pace, and wealth management (WM) firms are starting to notice. Women are more than a niche market—they are influencers and controllers of substantial wealth. According to the CFA Institute, the global income of women will grow from $13 trillion to $18 trillion in the next five years; that is more than the GDP growth of China and India combined during the same period. By 2028, women will control 75 percent of discretionary spending around the world.

Yet, in the wealth management arena, women are still largely an underserved segment. Research shows most women do not have an advisor managing their financial needs. According to a senior marketing executive at a top 10 wealth management firm, only 43 percent of women have an emergency fund versus 63 percent of men, and only 25 percent of women rebalance their portfolios to keep their asset allocation on track versus 49% of men. To better understand how wealth managers are capitalizing on this opportunity, we conducted a series of interviews with senior executives at more than 10 wealth management firms representing various business functions such as strategy, marketing, financial advisor coaching and technology. It is clear that everyone from large wealth managers and registered investment advisors (RIAs) to digital disruptors and impact funds are starting to notice the size of the opportunity, and beginning to stake their claim.

How Are Wealth Managers Responding?

Based on our interviews with executives from a broad range of wealth management firms in the U.S. and Canada, we saw that that traditional wealth management firms are employing specific strategies for acquisition, service and retention of female clients while new entrants are deploying bold, game-changing strategies.

The segment strategies at traditional WM firms continue to evolve, but the strategic foundation revolves around four components.

1) Targeted content: developing content that is in sync with women’s individualized needs. A large U.S.-based private bank conducted a survey of 250 women executives to understand their key needs. Surprisingly, the results showed that 30 percent had no will, 51 percent had no health proxy, and 66 percent had no power of attorney. The firm seized on this gap to create educational material and train advisors to help women investors with these specific needs while building trusted relationships.

2) Affinity groups: establishing communities and forums for information sharing, focusing on awareness and education. Women & Co. and Citibank have formed a very successful partnership in this space. Women & Co. is a go-to personal finance source for women that delivers insightful content and customized commentary on financial topics from a female point of view. Other financial institutions have similar women-focused programs.

3) Coaching male advisors: working with current advisors to coach them on engaging with women clients through training, one-on-one coaching and advisor forums to discuss leading practices. Much of the coaching centers around unwritten rules and behavioral differences.

Interestingly, one of the key coaching points is perseverance because acquiring female clients typically takes longer than male clients. A WM sales executive focused on advisor coaching noted that acquiring women clients requires more effort, but the higher retention and referral rates make it worthwhile for the advisor. Another common coaching point is teaching male advisors to ask female clients for referrals. An executive at a large wealth management firm shared that male advisors mostly ask their male clients for referrals even though female clients are more likely to provide higher-quality referrals.

4) Recruiting more female advisors: more than 75 percent of financial advisors are men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is a prevailing sentiment that female advisors will be able to better connect with at least some female clients. To that end, there has been a strategic push from the top of the house at some of the largest WM firms in both the U.S. and Canada to aggressively hire this underrepresented advisor segment.