To Fare Best With Women Clients, Ditch the 'Dumbing Down' Approach

Thirty years ago, when Teresa Dentino, founder and CEO of The Financial 411, started out as a financial advisor, women were nothing more than the wives and daughters of the men who needed financial planning advice.  Nevertheless she proceeded to provide them access to financial planning as she created and delivered among the first financial educational programs for women.

Today, there’s no question that women are a legitimate part of the financial planning equation, but even so, most financial firms and advisors who reach out to women as individuals in their own right are still getting it wrong, Dentino says. There’s a tendency for the majority of advisors to jump to the conclusion that engaging women clients differently automatically means that things have to be “dumbed-down and that women don’t do math and are incapable of esoteric financial concepts and successful investing.”

To make financial concepts acceptable to women, Dentino says, firms feel they need to make them “girlie.”

But through her long-standing work in the field of financial education for women, along with her knowledge of new findings from behavioral finance and neuroscience, Dentino has proven that this approach is actually ineffective. Women, she says, have come a long, long way from the pretty and pink phase, the “don’t worry your pretty little head about it” phase -- if indeed they were ever even in it.

“The firms and advisors – both male and female -- that I train and create programs for have come to recognize that not only are women the probable source of the greater part of their future incomes, but that there are more nuanced ways of gaining the trust of the female client,” she says. “Simply putting a ‘pink bow’ on it is now representative of the Dark Ages thinking we saw 30 years ago.”

The firms and advisors that are moving away from outdated paradigms are likely to be the most successful when it comes to leveraging relationships with female clients. They have realized that trust is paramount for women, and rather than being patronizing, they need to foster trust and answer questions in a way that women can understand. This will give them a greater chance to help women overcome their inherent risk aversion and retain them as clients.

But as much as advisors need to retool their approach to women, so too do women need to overcome many of the self-imposed barriers that inhibit their own access to proper financial planning, Dentino says. In addition to the psychological fears of risk and loss that many women typically have vis-à-vis finance, they also need to get over the mindset of finance being beyond them, she says, and get it out of their minds that “they don’t do math” as well as their husbands can.

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