There is a growing demand for responsible investing solutions among U.S. investors, and female investors are leading the charge. And they say their financial advisors would be the top source for such investing information, according to research conducted by RBC Wealth Management.

The survey, conducted in February and based on responses from 1,003 RBC Wealth Management clients in the U.S., found that women are more than twice as likely as men to say it is extremely important that the companies they invest in integrate environmental, social and governance factors into their policies and decisions.

The study also found that nearly three-fourths (74%) of women were interested in increasing their share of ESG investments in their current portfolios and were significantly more likely than men to have an interest in learning more about ESG investing.

And while the survey found that women are more in favor of ESG investing, it also revealed that more than half of male respondents (53%) also expressed interest in increasing the share of ESG in their portfolio, and 61% of clients overall shared this position.

“We are really excited about the survey results,” said Kent McClanahan, vice president, responsible investing at RBC Wealth Management in the U.S. “We were feeling like there was client interest and we are pleasantly surprised to point out that RBC clients have a significant amount of interest in ESG.”

McClanahan said ESG has been a priority for RBC for a few years, and the company has been building its ESG capabilities. He said it rolled out its ESG portfolio at the beginning of last year, but then the pandemic and the aggressive push for climate change policies and social justice issues forced the company to put ESG at the forefront. The results of the survey have made it a full-on priority for 2021, McClanahan said.
Women are of particular interest to the financial services industry because of their future wealth status, he said. “We talk so often about wealth transfer and moving from the current wealth holders to the next generation of wealth holders and often that is women,” he said, adding that as women align their values within their portfolios, it is becoming a focus in the financial industry.

One of the more interesting findings of the survey, as pointed out by McClanahan, is that a third of the respondents said it is important to integrate ESG factors into their investment decisions, and both men and women showed strong interest in the “G,” citing corporate ethics, regulatory compliance and transparency as the most important of governance elements for clients.

Women, however, showed significantly more propensity toward the environment and social categories. They indicated that the most important elements in the social category are human rights (80%), workplace health and safety (75%) and social justice (64%). The most important environmental issues for them were water scarcity, clean water, pollution and waste management.

The RBC survey also revealed that most clients (86%) would turn to their financial advisors to find out more about ESG investing, signaling the need for advisors to be ready to guide current and future generations of investors on topics about responsible investing and how they can integrate different ESG considerations into an overall investment portfolio and long-term plan.

McClanahan said his company wants to ensure that advisors are equipped to have conversations about ESG solutions because clients do not always know where to start in the learning process. “Advisors need to be prepared to engage in conversation and proactively approach the topic of responsible investing with clients, who are seeking their expertise and guidance as they navigate through new ESG investing opportunities,” he said.

He added that responsible investing is an area that will continue to grow as clients express greater interest. “What we are really trying to get out there to advisors is that your current clients may not show as much interest in it, but it’s anticipated that the next holder of wealth will.”