How would we quantify the scope of the lost opportunity?

Oliver Wyman estimates that financial services firms are missing a $700 billion revenue opportunity by failing to meet women’s needs.

J.P. Morgan recently stated, “We see a huge opportunity to help women build their wealth for the long term—however they choose to do it. That starts by actually listening to them.”

And, I would add, as an industry, viewing women in more than an inaccurate, historical context.

McKInsey says that, “Women are more likely than men to expect to encounter gender stereotypes...”

If these problems are not addressed, I’d go as far as saying that, in the retirement income market, within five years, it will be impossible for a male advisor to remain successful unless he can relate to, and work effectively with, “boomer” women.

Let us explore the dynamics of the great mismatch that led to the status quo.

When it comes to money, too often men make flawed assumptions about women. This can make her feel undervalued, by unintentionally talking down to her. And by:
• Assuming a man is the decision-maker
• Assuming a woman wants direction
• Assuming that a couple’s finances were merged and jointly invested
• Assuming that all women are more risk-averse
• Assuming that women are less knowledgeable than men about investing, and,
• Misinterpreting her silence and nodding as agreement

Over time, by focusing his attention on the husband, the male advisor can ignite a process of low-grade, systematic alienation of the spouse.

Marcia Mantell, a longtime friend and one of our greatest experts on retirement income, the author of two books on retirement planning for women, leads the financial advisor coaching component of Wealth2k’s Women and Income solution.

In a recent Financial Advisor magazine article, Marcia addressed the alienation of the female spouse:
Mantell says she’s often spoken with jilted advisors who surprise her with their naivete.

"After losing a woman client, an advisor will say he never realized there might be a problem in the relationship," she says. "That’s not accurate. What he never realized was, there wasn’t a relationship."

So, what accounts for the great mismatch? I’m sure the answer is multifactorial, including outdated perceptions, stereotyping and the fact that husbands have traditionally made the majority of investment decisions.

According to UBS, “Just 20% of couples participate equally in financial decisions, with seven in 10 men taking the lead on long-term financial decisions.”

McKinsey says, “In two-thirds of affluent households in the United States, men are the key financial decision makers. But this is about to change.”