The financial services industry has been male-dominated and focused since the beginning of time (or, whenever it officially became an industry), and that is becoming a bit of an issue as the number of women with high net worth increases. They are not so easily sold with: "Let me take care of it," "I can handle it all for you," or, "Did I tell you how smart I am?"
Whether the woman is very new to managing large amounts money (i.e. via a divorce or widow circumstance) or is self-made in her wealth, she does not approach her interest in growth or income linearly. Rather, just as women do in many other buying situations - she will be taking that more winding, more holistic path to her final decision. She cannot be rushed and will have many questions.
Yesterday I spoke with a woman in the industry who has worked with women of this high net worth profile. She pointed to these keys:
1) Use stories and anecdotes that are close to their own situations.
2) Make them comfortable taking their time to make decisions - and educate them along the way.
3) Be very upfront about how you (the financial services person) are compensated.
How might a more traditionally trained financial services person of either gender approach such women?
1) Use facts, figures, numbers that mean a lot to industry insiders (and not the client, necessarily).
2) Talk about allowing for all their questions, but try to push things along at a pace that will meet their own numbers for the month/quarter.
3) Be less upfront/direct about compensation and their motivations for pitching certain products over others.
A Prudential Financial study of more than 1,000 baby boomer women (cited in the book What Women Really Want, Free Press, 2005) found that 95% of them were either solely or jointly responsible for IRAs, compared with 61% in 2000, with similarly significant changes referenced for joint or sole responsibility of 401(k)s and savings accounts. So, the trend is clearly toward more, not less, women's involvement/engagement in the savings and investment realm.
Certainly, as with any industry, there are women who enter into the investment process with more acumen than others. In that case, the approach would be to adjust the stories and anecdotes to the appropriate financial understanding and situation - not revert completely to the linear pitch. The bottomline would still be: to educate (make them even better informed than they already are) and allow for a longer investment process.
Would male clients get more out of an educational, relationship building approach, as well, if they knew it was an option? I think so, but would love to hear your thoughts on it.
In the meantime - while for a lot of the traditional industries the hard sell/numbers game approach is embedded in the culture, it might be in everyone's best interest to break that mold. The sooner the better.
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