What women want

Female clients are an increasingly lucrative revenue source in the advice market, but there are some laws of attraction that need to be considered.

There’s been plenty of talk recently about the value of female advisers to a practice and to the broader financial services industry.

But what about the value of female clients?

“I would say that it is incredibly important for advisers to engage women,” says Dianne Charman, director of Jade Financial Group and a financial adviser herself.

“Women tend to make a lot of the financial decisions within the household, or have influence on that – I think women are showing that they are embracing getting advice.”

Several industry professionals have suggested female clients can add value to a practice in a way that is different from male clients.

For example, Olivia Maragna, co-founder of Aspire Retire, says that where advisers engage female clients, retention rates are typically a lot higher.

In addition, Maragna indicated that 70 per cent of females are willing to pay more for a brand they trust, while 83 per cent of females will recommend a brand they trust.

Females are also three times more likely to refer a trusted product or service than men, Maragna says.

While she is often referred by her male clients, Charman says her female clients tend to give more “powerful” and convincing endorsements to their networks.

So, with the help of several professionals, we’ve answered that age-old question: what do women want?

Female-friendly focus

To engage women from the outset, it’s important to ensure all aspects of your practice are attractive to a female audience, Maragna advises.

“We need to keep in mind that most people will be checking out websites and other different avenues before they actually pick up the phone,” she says.

“[Advisers] need to make sure every single aspect of the process, from when the client first enquires, is seen to be female-friendly.”

In addition, several industry professionals suggest an effective way to attract female clients is to have female advisers on staff and to ensure their availability is well known to prospective clients through advertising and promotional material.

“One of the biggest growth areas that we have found is that women are calling and wanting to speak specifically with female advisers,” Maragna says.

To maintain a successful relationship with their female clients, financial advisers should have a holistic understanding of their clients’ lives and ultimately relate all financial advice back to their broader goals, values and personal and financial situation.

Further, women prefer an “educational” approach to financial advice, according to Charman, and are keen to understand the processes involved in managing their money.

“If you give material to the ladies to take home, they actually read it... they will read it and they will research,” Charman says.

Females also respond well to community education, says Charman, who herself uses several public avenues to initiate contact with female audiences. If an adviser can combine a social atmosphere with education, “you’re on to a winner”, she says.

For example, her practice sponsors Ladies Day at the races and also produces educational pieces for female-oriented publications.

“Also, with the local girls’ school, I’ve been involved with educating their young women about good money choices, so I do things like that in the community as well,” she says.

Advisers should, however, constantly be aware of the terminology they’re using to communicate with potential or existing female clients.

For example, says Maragna, “it’s up to us as advisers to think about how we go about communicating with females, to be able to portray what’s going on in an easy to understand language.”

But there is sometimes a fine line between speaking in ‘relatable’ terms, and ‘dumbing down’ your conversation.

Maragna adds that while female clients are wanting education, they don’t want to be talked down to for the purposes of their understanding.

Keep it personal

When it comes to dealing with clients, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution; men and women have different ways of approaching and evaluating their finances.

“For example, from an investment or risk appetite point of view, males are typically more aggressive when it comes to investments,” says Maragna, “whereas females are by far a lot more conservative.”

Because of these differences, it’s important to ensure every bit of correspondence sent out to clients deals with issues that are relevant to them.

“For example, females will generally be more concerned about what happens if they lose their husband and if the kids are being looked after,” she says.

Reviews are a central component of maintaining ties with a client and ensuring their financial plans remain relevant to their goals and circumstance. While female clients don’t necessarily prefer more reviews than men, typically, they do prefer more regular engagement.

“The guys are quite happy to have a ‘set and forget’ and ‘remind me next year what I need to do’,” says Aranka Nolan, director of Einstein Marketing Group.

With female clients, it’s important to remember that even those in executive positions are often also running a household. An adviser should therefore understand what sort of engagement suits the client, and its frequency.

“They are expecting you to give them tight, truncated messages that are not complicated because they don’t have the time,” Nolan adds.

Men, it’s your market too

The financial services industry is often perceived to be male-dominated, making it particularly important for male advisers to understand how both to attract and retain female clients.

Women respond to advisers who understand their goals and ambitions and are more likely to feel comfortable in the presence of an adviser they can identify with.

“Men could try to be more empathetic with their female clients, to ensure they feel happy to reveal information about their personal situation – information which may affect their finances,” says Deborah Kent, director and financial planner at Integra Financial Services.

Kent also suggests men could try and soften their approach to female clients, noting that she has often found female clients prefer to deal with female advisers because they find male advisers intimidating.

“Sometimes a woman will open up to me because she doesn’t feel embarrassed, whereas with a male adviser she is less likely to reveal how she’s feeling because she’s not sure he’ll understand,” says Kent, who is also chair of the Association of Financial Advisers’ (AFA’s) Inspire initiative, which aims to connect female advisers.

But while there is strong evidence that female clients respond better to female advisers, Charman believes men can also connect with women on a personal level.

Men do care, she says, but perhaps “sometimes they forget to articulate it”. Her suggestion to male advisers is to “just be patient and listen”.

Similarly, Nolan says female clients do respond well to male advisers, provided they engage the client by making eye contact, being respectful and taking an interest in the “female perspective”.

But she warns male advisers against focusing their discussion on the male partner when dealing with a couple.

“If it’s a couple, invariably what happens is the guy focuses on the guy, even if they’re a younger adviser,” she says.

“The woman might not say too much, but there needs to be some engagement with her, or a lot of engagement with her.”

Although the woman may not necessarily be driving the conversation, “she could veto the entire program with a couple of words in the car,” says Nolan.

One of the most important pieces of advice for working with female clients is to remember that females and males are wired differently, and that marketing and retention strategies should be structured accordingly.

“The industry just needs to change its approach to female clients,” says Kent. “It’s like when the car market first tried to open itself up to women, salesmen didn’t know how to market to them.”

“All they had to do was to ask women what they were interested in and what was important to them, such as safety and accessories, rather than kilowatts.”

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