Aamina Zafar examines ways to connect with the largely untapped women’s advice market
Today, women’s share of wealth has grown significantly and continues to rise. In fact, more than 60% of the UK’s wealth is expected to be in female hands by 2025, according to the WealthiHer report in 2019. But despite this, recent research by YouGov revealed that 52% of UK women have never invested their cash, compared to 37% of men.
So, what is causing this discrepancy and what can the financial advice profession do to harness the largely untapped women’s advice market?
Anna Sofat believes the problem is that the profession has lumped all females together and failed to cater for women at the different stages of their life.
The associate director at Leeds-based Progeny says: “Financial advisers are going to have to work harder if they are going to capture this increasingly important market. In my experience, there are a number of things that they can do. Firstly, the female market is not homogenous so be clear about the segment you want to attract and serve. The divorcee, the retired, including widows and business owners, each have their own needs and advisers must understand this and be prepared to adapt their service proposition and delivery to meet these needs.”
Ms Sofat adds that firms can start to harness this market by ensuring their current female clients are well looked after, especially partners of male clients, as many widows disengage with their husband’s adviser after his death, due to feeling alienated. This was also emphasised in analysis by Fidelity, which found that 50% of IFAs lost a female client’s business once that client’s partner passed away.
Ms Sofat believes that IFAs must also create a culture that invites women in. She says: “The key to engaging with more female clients and advisers often boils down to culture. In my experience, women are generally put off by a hard sales approach and they do not want to be made to feel lacking in knowledge by the use of technical jargon. Instead, they want the time and space to understand who you are and what you can provide for them, then to get to a place where you have earned their trust.
“There is no one-solution-fits-all for engaging with women but if you think you do not need to do anything differently to serve the needs of female clients, you are not going to secure their business in the first place.”
Recent data by Fidelity also found that only 12% of 18- to 34-year-old women had sought financial advice. According to Carla Brown, the profession needs to understand that women take a different approach to managing their money.
Women don’t necessarily see themselves as investors but it is our job to help them understand why it is important to invest, save and protect themselves
The managing director of Northwich-based Oakmere Wealth Management, says: “Women generally take more time to research their options, to find out the avenues through which advice may be available and they are more likely to ask friends or family for recommendations. Women are also great referrers. If they receive great service they like to tell people about it, so to grow your female client base you need to ‘wow’ your existing clients and the referrals will follow.”
Ms Brown adds that advisers must ditch the jargon and start having more frank conversations with female clients.
She adds: “Many women are often time poor, juggling lots of different aspects of their life, so we need to help them take control of their money, to be on their side, to create a plan and to help give them financial independence.
“Women don’t necessarily see themselves as investors but it is our job to help them understand why it is important to invest, save and protect themselves, as well as explaining the long-term benefits of doing so in the context of what it means to them, their family and how it will improve their life.”
There is no doubt that the times are changing. The traditional model of a male-dominated financial world has been dramatically shifting in the last 20 years, according to Chartered financial planner Gemma Siddle.
The director of client services for Newton Aycliffe-based Eldon Financial Planning says this is evident in the fact that 56% of Eldon’s clients are female.
She explains: “Increasingly, finances are considered by women for women, both as independent ladies who want to take control of their own situation and also on a shared basis for women who are in a relationship.
“Through the years, I have tended to find financial planning itself appeals hugely to women and being able to talk through their lifetime plans and consider what is possible in their language is empowering to them. The image of the male-dominated, testosterone-filled, stock trading market may still persist in people’s minds but, in reality, it is a million miles from the financial planning world I see and know and love – and nothing like what my clients experience.”
Despite the advances, Ms Siddle believes there is much more financial advisers can do to appeal to women by breaking down the misconception that financial advice is only for men. She says: “There are always ways to increase inclusivity and approachability, and any firm can always do better. If we treat people as individuals, provide them with the environment they need to discuss their finances properly and give a top-class professional service delivered with care, then I think attitudes will change. We all have a part to pay in this.”
Aamina Zafar is a freelance journalist