Now in control of $11 trillion in household investable assets, there’s no question that women have moved into the role of influential investors. The investment industry has taken notice, and is diligently seeking to engage female investors in a meaningful way. So why is it that only 39% of women feel understood by the investment industry, despite the increased focus and attention?
Gender stereotypes and fundamental service misalignments continue to stand in the way of the industry’s efforts to meet the needs of female investors. If we don’t change the conversation and engage women in ways that matter most to these investors, the risk of lost opportunities will continue to grow — for both financial advisors and female investors.
Moving Beyond Misperceptions
Women who seek out additional information and take more time to make investment decisions are often labeled as indecisive and less confident. To make matters worse, advisors who assume female investors prefer working with female advisors are missing the point of what female investors really want — an investment partner who demonstrates understanding and integrity, and can help guide her decision-making process.
Appreciating the female investor as an individual, while genuinely understanding how gender influences her investment experience, could lead to a tipping point — a real leap forward in gender intelligence that more closely aligns the industry with female investors.
Advisors can attract and retain female clients by focusing on the qualities she values most as an investor: knowledge, experience, honesty and empathy. To demonstrate these qualities as part of an overall client-centric value proposition, advisors can focus on four key aspects of the relationship:
1. Be a Collaborator, Not a Commander
Female investors tend to seek out more information before making a decision, to feel confident and well informed, and to avoid second guessing once a decision is made. Providing high-quality concise content on a regular basis will help them stay informed on relevant issues. Have a conversation — identify options and provide rationale. Offer solutions that directly relate to their long-term goals. Women want the facts — inform, don’t pitch — so that they can draw their own conclusions. By being her partner, you are better positioned to build confidence and support a woman's desire to feel in control.
2. Focus on Goals and Outcomes
Focusing on the risks that matter and highlighting the elements of the decision-making process that are within her control will help the investor craft a risk-aware strategy that can be maintained with confidence. For many female investors, investment success is measured by progress toward meeting their long-term goals, as opposed to taking advantage of short-term ups and downs in the market.
Against this backdrop, all wealth management decisions should be guided by a focus on achieving tangible outcomes that are values-based to help make personal goals more attainable. Portfolio performance matters, but the female investor is more likely to be focused on building security for herself and her family than on whether she outperformed the Dow last month.
According to our research, one in four female investors are managing all of their investments on their own, and the top reason they cite for not hiring a financial advisor is they don’t see the value.
Advisors don’t need to be women to prove that they add value. Nine out of 10 female investors believe that gender doesn’t matter in hiring an advisor. However, female investors with female advisors tend to be more confident in their own investing skills and have higher satisfaction rates, which may point to the kinds of characteristics that matter most: patience and active listening.
Whether male or female, advisors with higher gender intelligence and heightened focus on demonstrating the qualities valued most — knowledge, experience, honesty and empathy — will have more successful relationships. Female clients and prospects appreciate a trusted sounding board — a financial partner that is capable of building on their strengths as investors and is able to align their investment strategies with their values-focused mindset.
4. Appreciate the Individual
Female investors are not a lucrative market niche. By definition, “niche” does not describe this majority investor population. More importantly, no two investors are alike; broad generalizations only distract from the important nuances. While it’s possible to make observations about age or socioeconomic groups, advisors need to take an individualized approach — particularly when it comes to women.
Avoid applying stereotypes across the board. This can lead to erroneous or exaggerated judgments that create a divide in your client relationships and negatively impact the planned outcome. The more collaborative and client-centric the approach, the more likely it is to improve outcomes for both the investor and the advisor.
Unlocking the Potential
Change is happening throughout the financial advisory industry, creating new challenges and opportunities. The rise of the female investor is no exception. Despite an abundance of data pointing to the growing influence of female investors, too many still feel misunderstood, which suggests only a limited number of advisors are proactively addressing their needs.
In many ways, the female investor is an ideal client; she has realistic yet unmet goals, she seeks an advisor who will help guide decisions, and her investable assets are projected to grow significantly. It’s time that our industry stop looking for a new marketing angle to unlock the potential she represents and instead focus on the basics of relationship management — achieving those unmet needs with a client-centric approach.
 Source: State Street Global Advisors’ Women and Investing Omnibus Survey, April 2015. 946 adults who are responsible for investment decision-making of a portfolio of any size were surveyed nationally.
 Source: State Street Global Advisors’ survey, Assessing the Landscape: Female Investors and Financial Advice, 2015. 250 financial advisors and 1,000 individual female investors were surveyed nationally.