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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Why So Many Women Diss Wall Street

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Wall Street is taking a bashing in the populist presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump this election cycle.

So it’s not surprising to find that some three-quarters of women in a new survey believe Wall Street does not have consumers’ best interests at heart, and give the financial services industry a grade of C or worse for how they explain saving and investing.

Indeed, 91% of women in the poll felt that financial firms’ materials were more about selling to consumers than educating them, and 87% felt that Wall Street’s jargon made investing seem more confusing than it should be.

WorthFM (Worth Financial Management LLC), a new digital money management platform for women set to launch in the spring, released the survey results on Thursday in conjunction with Tiller, an advocacy marketing firm with a specialty in women’s financial issues.

The online survey, which was conducted in late December by Pollara Strategic Insights, comprised 1,501 women at least 18 years old across all 50 states.

Eighty-four percent of respondents said they were, are or expected to solely manage their finances, and 89% said they were involved with their household’s investment decisions.

That engagement could be limited, the survey found. Forty-four percent of women — and more than half of millennials — said they had not been actively involved in investment, their 401(k) excepted.

Still, women expressed strong commitment to ensuring their own and their families’ financial well-being. And 70% said they wanted to be a financial role model for their children.

“Women know how important it is to get their finances right, and they value financial competence as a key factor to a happy life,” Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth, a financial media company for women, and chief executive of WorthFM, said in a statement.

“But it’s also clear that traditional providers of investment products and advice are perceived as coming up well short of the mark.”

Barriers to Engagement

Lack of know-how was the main barrier preventing women from becoming more engaged in the investing process. Forty-eight percent of women surveyed did not consider themselves knowledgeable about investing, and 63% said investing was confusing.

Three in four felt it was hard to stay on top of all the financial information and investing options available.

These sentiments were fueled by what women saw as the financial services industry’s deficiencies.

As well, only 10% thought Wall Street paid equal attention to men and women, with 71% saying Wall Street was not in touch with women’s financial needs and concerns.

The industry’s biggest misperception about female investors, they told researchers, was the belief that women were not as competent as men when it came to investing, followed by the perception that they deferred to their husband or partner for finance-related matters.

A Digital Solution?

“The challenge for the financial services industry is that many women believe the industry is unwelcoming and/or has turned a blind eye to the needs and concerns of the female investor,” Michelle Smith, chief executive of Source Financial Advisors and co-founder/chairwoman of WorthFM, said in the statement.  “We think that creates a substantial opportunity in the digital arena for providers with a demonstrated understanding of women’s concerns and circumstances and a genuine commitment to help.”

Is digital service the solution?

At present, relatively few women invest onlin e— less than one in five, the survey found — even as they engage in a range of online transactions to streamline their lives:

  • Paying bills: 81%
  • Shopping: 81%
  • Banking: 76%   

“Women are confident using the Internet to research and transact a wide and growing range of important decisions,” Steinberg said. “There’s no reason why they can’t manage their money online as well.

“In fact, we believe the opportunity to get financial advice in ways that are clear, efficient, personalized and intuitive makes online investing a particularly appealing option for women.” 

The survey found that 70% of women were eager for financial products designed specifically for them.

“Even as more financial products geared toward women come to market, it’s clear that if you want to engage with female investors, you have to create the right platform,” Steinberg said. “The days of one-size-fits-all, pink-clad marketing and repackaged product are long gone.”

— Check out Financial Coaching Helps, but It’s Not Enough: Survey on ThinkAdvisor.