When Elaine B. Eisner, JD, left her investment management gig in Colorado to open an insurance-focused advisory practice in Cleveland, her top target for cultivating a client base wasn’t seniors, boomers or the affluent.
“I chose to start in the women’s market,” Eisner says, hearkening back to the 2007 launch of Eisner Gohn Group, a firm she founded with her husband, Scott A. Gohn.
The decision to target females, according to Eisner, came down to a sound practice-building strategy, informed by what she saw emerging as a clear trend: women of all generations taking on more responsibility as financial and insurance decision-makers.
Six years later, that strategy has proven sound, as women now represent a sizable portion of Eisner Gohn Group’s book of about 500 clients. Eisner’s observations about the growing role of women in household financial and insurance planning are borne out by recent research, including the 2013 Women, Money & Power Study from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, which found that more than half of married women see themselves as the chief financial officer of their households. Indeed, 57 percent of female respondents said they primarily handle major investment decisions and retirement planning themselves.
As an advisor, to treat women as an afterthought — whether in marketing, prospecting or working within your existing client base — is to ignore exactly the people whom you should be increasingly targeting, says Barb A. Pietrangelo, CFP, CLU, ChFC, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based advisor for Prudential. “You always want to find out who the main decision-maker really is, and very often the woman is the one calling the shots.”
“I usually start our engagement with the woman, because women tend to be more the planners, and with insurance, it’s really important to have the planner involved,” adds Eisner. “Women often are the ones driving the [purchase] decision because they tend to think more long-term and holistically.”
When working with couples, it makes practical sense for advisors to engage both spouses, asserts Pietrangelo. “If one spouse dies and you don’t have a strong relationship with the other spouse, you are at risk of losing that business. And at the end of the day, women live longer” than men, on average.
As important as it is to give equal weight to men and women in prospecting and in the client-advisor relationship (unless, of course, one spouse defers to the other), it’s also vital to understand that each gender has its own distinct tendencies. As an advisor, knowing those distinctions, and understanding what makes women and men tick, can open doors to a demographic segment that’s increasingly calling the shots—and one that’s hungry for sound insurance and professional advice to help make those decisions.
Let’s break down some of the keys to opening those doors, using insight offered by Pietrangelo and Eisner, two insurance-focused female advisors who are flourishing in the female market.
The mindset and priorities women bring to the table: Women tend to be caretakers. “They’re concerned about the people around them,” says Pietrangelo.
Women also tend “to think more long-term and holistically” than men do, particularly about the financial future, observes Eisner. “Women are more concerned about outliving their resources,” which makes sense, given their longer life expectancy.
What’s more, women tend to be eager to learn. In general, they “know what they don’t know,” they’re more inquisitive and “they want to be educated” by their advisor, she says.
As clients, women are inclined to want to develop a relationship of trust with their advisors. They’re generally less interested than men in transactional relationships, according to Eisner.
Women as decision-makers and clients: Patience is a virtue when working with women, according to Pietrangelo and Eisner. “It can take a lot longer to develop a good [advisory] relationship [with a female] but you’ll end up with a client who’s going to trust and be with you for life,” says Eisner.