Women represent more than half of the U.S. population and share the responsibility for financial decisions at the household level. They are aggressively sought after as consumers and are gaining ground as high-income earners. Given the fact that women outlive men and are heading households in large numbers, it is paramount to understand that they will be the final decision makers on the movement of money in the majority of American families. With this in mind, the financial advisory community should not ignore this highly coveted group.
To get advice on what women are looking for in an advisor, I spoke with Jocelyn D. Wright, MBA, CFP®, Director, The American College State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services and a practicing financial advisor, to hear her perspective.
Q: What are some obstacles that prevent women from seeking out financial advisory services?
JW: There are many misconceptions about our profession. Some equate it to the negative image of a used car salesman looking to take advantage of an unsuspecting client. Our industry has to deal with many negative stereotypes because of a few bad apples.
Many consumers really do not fully understand the role of a financial advisor. Our profession has not done a very good job of properly articulating what we do and the benefits of working with a financial professional.
There are also those women who lack confidence in working with an advisor. Not knowing where to start or the right questions to ask may be a hindrance to many.
Technology may also play a role, such as the increase in robo-advisors, which may create the impression that working with a professional is not necessary.
Q: What are women looking for in a financial advisor?
JW: I do not think what women look for in a financial advisor is much different from what they would look for in any other professional. They are looking for someone whom they like and trust, someone who they believe has their best interest as a priority.
Women also look for a professional who will not talk down to them or be condescending, someone who will educate along the way and explain terms and concepts as needed. At the end of the day, women are looking for a partner in managing their financial lives.
Q: Are women by nature risk seeking or risk averse?
JW: I would say neither. I prefer to think that women are more aware of risk than anything, meaning that they will look beyond just the returns and consider possible consequences as well. This can be a valuable trait when investing. Women also have a tendency to trade less than men do.
Q: Why would it be a good idea for an advisor to have a healthy mix of women as clients?
JW: Just as diversity is good for your investment portfolio, it is also good for your client portfolio. Even if an advisor has a particular niche, it makes sense to include a representation of over half of the population.
As our country’s demographics continue to shift and women continue to make financial strides, they are more inclined than ever to seek advice from financial professionals. It is estimated that by 2030 women will control two-thirds of our nation’s wealth.
It has also been noted that women are more loyal and have a higher likelihood to refer. Any advisor would welcome these traits.
Q: Is there a communication style that might be more appropriate for a client who is a woman?
JW: Storytelling is extremely helpful in this profession. It personalizes concepts. Clients need to be able to envision themselves. It is also important not to overuse industry-speak and market terms. We have to be careful not to alienate our clients or potential clients. ransparency and honesty are also extremely important. In addition, do not be too pushy or aggressive. Allow clients time to process and evaluate options.
Women, not unlike any other group, are not a monolith. We have to be careful not to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach.
C.W. Copeland is a Professor of Financial Services at The American College of Financial Services, a non-profit, accredited, degree-granting institution in Bryn Mawr, PA that has educated one in five practicing financial advisers in the U.S.