Trust And Respect Are Key For Women Clients

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The general consensus in the financial services industry is that women are acutely aware of their unique financial needs and seek information on products that can help them avoid potentially calamitous financial events.

For instance, women typically outlive men; so, married women tend to take a special interest in whether or not their spouses life insurance is adequate.

Additionally, a longer life span often means a wife will take care of her ailing husband before he dies, potentially leaving her with no one to fill the role of caregiver for her should the need arise and also potentially draining the savings meant for her to survive on. So, women, both married and single, tend to be interested in long term care insurance.

Because many women have these concerns, when an agent meets with a couple, it is a mistake to assume the husband is the spouse to be focused on, says Nilufer Ahmed, scientist, LIMRA, Windsor, Conn.

“In many households, producers first make the contact through the husband,” she says. “It might be better to make the approach through the wife.”

Agents working with married couples should listen to both and make time to answer questions, Ahmed says. “A woman tends to think her household does not have enough life insurance, and she would like to have more, but her opinions are not asked.”

This can be a costly mistake by agents, particularly those with affluent women clients, according to the results of a recent survey of affluent women by Nationwide Financial, Columbus, Ohio. When it comes to attracting and retaining affluent women clients, the survey results suggest trust and respect are key.

In Success and Security: A Womans Perspective 2002, women report high levels of trust for their predominately male investment professionals (87% have male advisors), yet one in five say they have experienced different treatment from investment professionals because they are women.

Women reported they were most likely to switch investment advisors if they werent treated with respect. They would also be likely to switch investment professionals if they felt an advisor didnt understand their needs or take the time to educate them about their investments, without assuming they know nothing.

In fact, one woman who took part in the survey said she stopped working with a financial professional who kept asking her husband for their documents, even after he repeatedly said it was the wife who maintained them.

The lesson here, Ahmed says, is that agents should not assume women are less interested than men in financial products.

“They are interested in their own lives; they are afraid for themselves,” she says. “At every single womens conference Ive been to, the one fear they have is outliving their assets because they realize they might live a very long time and not in the best health.”

Results of another recent study support the idea that failing health in ones later years is a real concern among women.

Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, commissioned Volkart May & Associates, Minneapolis, to field a consumer survey designed to measure attitudes toward long term care among Americans between 40 and 70.

The study shows that men are twice as likely as women to think the government will pay for long term care, regardless of their level of wealth. Men are also twice as likely to be confused by LTC options, the study says.

Seventy percent of Americans are somewhat or very concerned about the possibility of needing long term care, according to the study. But, women are more likely (by 11%) to be concerned.

Again, industry experts point to an awareness of a need as the reason for womens interest in and knowledge of a protection product.

Chuck Kavitsky, president of Allianz, suspects this is because traditionally, the responsibility of caring for older, sick relatives has gone to the woman in the household. “Because of this, they say, This could be difficult if I dont have this planned. “

LTC insurance is perceived by women in much the same way life insurance was before two-income families became the norm, Kavitsky says. “It was the woman who realized the disaster would end up in her lap.”

So, agents working with married couples should be ready to understand the womans point of view, he says.

“If youre dealing with a couple, youd better recognize shes more aware of this issue and approach it from that standpoint,” Kavitsky says.

Ahmed agrees that women are more aware of the value of LTC insurance because they perceive it as a product that they might personally need.

“If you realize you need it, you will try to understand it more deeply,” she says. “Long term care insurance sales are going up, and theres far more interest by women.”

In fact, in the professional womens market, the product women most want to talk about is long term care insurance, says Cathy Gretta, a corporate vice president who heads New York Lifes womens markets division.

She says this is the case because the women who have reached the highest level of success are 45 or older and often are caring for a parent.

“Theyre aware of costs and the impact it could have on a family,” Gretta says. “They dont want to lose assets theyve built nor do they want to place a burden on the family.”

Protection products in general are appealing to women, she says, including retirement products. Many women get a late start on saving for their own retirement because often they take time off of work to start a family.

But it is often the case that “theyve generated a strong income and they want to protect it,” she says.

Once an advisor knows what is important to her clients, she should then learn what it takes to create positive experiences for her, says Molly Brinkman, senior account executive, Nationwide.

An advisor can do this by having reports and analyses so that the client can see “that their professional is doing their homework.”

Women like a collaborative process, but some respondents of the aforementioned Nationwide survey said that once an advisor has gained their trust, “they would bow to the wisdom of the advisor,” Brinkman says.

By the same token, if investment performance is not as promised, women will consider changing advisors.

“They dont want any surprises,” Brinkman says.

Agents should also be aware of the differences between the preferences of married and single women, she says.

“Married respondents said infrequent contact is a high reason to switch, the unmarried women said call or e-mail me but dont pester me.”

Brinkman is not sure what accounts for this difference, and thinks it may be because married women feel less secure than do single women.

Single women are more apt to have someone they designate as a financial advisor than married women, she says. Married women said they seek advice from a number of financial professionals rather than rely on a specific advisor.

Asking for referrals can be a thorny topic with affluent women, whether married or single, Brinkman says.

They can be obtained, but women tend to frown on advisors “coming right out and asking for referrals.

“They found that offensive; they feel like theyre giving them entry into their social circle of friends. Also they didnt want to be responsible for their friends investment decisions,” says Brinkman.

But, referrals are not impossible to come by from affluent women clients, she says. Once an advisor is trusted, affluent women tend to recommend them to their friends and pass along the advisors contact information so that the friend can make contact with the advisor if she so chooses.

Brinkman says the main point agents should take away from the Nationwide research is that women want to work with someone who respects them and does not assume they know nothing.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 13, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.