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How to attract woman

More women are buying financial products and using financial advisers, according to a recent survey from Phoenix Marketing International.

The report, which polled women across the U.S., found that female investor behaviour jumped 8 percentage points in six years -- to 49 per cent in 2013, compared to 41 per cent in 2007.

Matching that trend, the number of women making all of their investment decisions independently declined to 23 per cent in 2013, from 31 per cent in 2007 -- the take is that more women are working with professional advisers. In addition, women's ownership of financial products outside of employer-sponsored retirement plans is up in all categories: stocks (17 per cent); bonds (13 per cent); and mutual funds (16 per cent). The reason being, an increasing number of women are taking on a financial leadership role when it comes to household wealth.

More women control finances
"Four out of ten women are the primary breadwinners in their family and American women are starting businesses at twice the national rate," says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, financial consultant and author of How to Give Financial Advice to Women: Attracting and Retaining High Net-Worth Female Clients.

"We're interested, but there had been a myth in the field that women weren't interested in financial products or working with financial advisers."

It's simply not true and there's plenty advisers can (and should) be doing to attract valuable female investors.

How to attract female clients
It takes a fine balance to attract female clients. Kingsbury says it's important to understand their gender lens without stereotyping too much.

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"As an adviser, you really need to understand the gender lens and you really need to get to know your individual client and be really relationship-oriented," she says. "Women want relationships with advisers, they don't just want fee for service."

To do this, Kingsbury offers a simple acronym -- T.R.U.S.T.:

  • Transparent. Be open about your fees and authentic about who you are.
  • Reliable. Say what you're going to do and then do it, but also talk to her along the way, so if something falls through the cracks you can let her know.
  • Understandable. Lose the industry jargon.
  • Sensitive. Not to just what she needs technically, but what she needs emotionally, which means a greater desire to talk about how she's feeling about financial decisions. Ask questions that will help her share her worries.
  • Thoughtful. "One day I was speaking in front of a group of advisers in Chicago and it was a bit of a scary group for me," says Kingsbury. "But that morning I got a text from one of my advisers that said, 'Go get'em!' He didn't have to encourage me like that, but he did. Thoughtfulness goes a long way with a female client."

Industry is taking notice
Kingsbury works as a consultant for some of the biggest players in North America's financial industry and she's noted a number of changes geared to attracting female clients.

"Some of these firms are doing training on this and it's a one-shot deal -- it's that PowerPoint presentation that they do once and say, 'We're working at being female-friendly.' I don't believe that's enough because have to change the culture," she says, adding "There are other firms that are going deep into the issue and saying how do we train our advisers through a presentation, resources and having people like me coach them along to understand the different segments of female clients.

While most firms have laid a great foundation for attracting female clients, Kingsbury sees the new trend as really drilling down and going after specific segments of the female population.

"It's that stay-at-home mom, that entrepreneur, that inheritor, that professional woman. Our needs are different, so if you throw a stay-at-home mom in a room with a professional woman, neither is right or wrong, but they're not going to have the same needs, wants or interests. You really have to segment women according to the different traits that they have, just like male clients."

Aaron Broverman is a writer in Toronto

-- Posted January 20, 2014
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