When it comes to working with women, male advisors beware. As you all know, women can be different (and sometimes very different) than men, but just how different are they about how they want to be treated with respect to their money? Although some techniques may be quite similar to the way you treat your male clients, you may want to alter your approach with your female prospects or clients. In this article I will outline for male wealth managers some of the keys to unlocking the success of attracting and retaining women as clients.
First, don’t patronise her. Although her grandmother may have welcomed this treatment, today’s female client finds it insulting and can see right through such an approach. It is far better to begin by understanding the source of her wealth. Is it ‘old money’ from a trust fund or inheritance? Is it earnings from a successful career? Or is the money she wants to place in your care the result of a divorce settlement? Her attitude and knowledge about money will likely vary greatly depending on the source. Listen to what she has to say and pay attention for clues and cues when she is talking.
You should also work with the client to determine how she feels about her wealth. Does it make her feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, or is it empowering? In some cases, she may want to be very discreet or even hide it if she has been taught to question the motive of suitors. Or in the case of a newly widowed client, she may find her new wealth to be a burden and be looking for the education she never got because her late husband controlled ‘their’ finances.
Feeling squeamish yet? Don’t be. You can become her teacher and trusted advisor, but always let her take the lead. Teach when she wants to be taught, in a way that is respectful of her intelligence. Make sure she knows it’s ok to ask ‘dumb questions’. Tell her that men do it all the time and are not afraid of exposing their ignorance in doing so.
Find out who she confides in. This suggestion will serve you best. Get to know that person, but, once again, let her take the lead. You might suggest an invitation to your next meeting or participation on a conference call so she doesn’t need to relay your latest strategy secondhand. Never go behind her back and invite her confidant without her permission, no matter how well you have gotten to know him or her. If she doesn’t fire you when she discovers that you have gone behind her back, she will still assume you are doing so to undermine her authority. Just because she trusts her brother implicitly and seeks out his advice in making certain decisions, don’t assume he can replace her. She wants to remain the decision maker, even if she tells you otherwise. After all, she is the client, it is her money and she holds that responsibility, period.
As you would with any client, find out how she likes to receive information, and then be sure to deliver it that way. Does she like to receive emails, phone calls at home or does she prefer meetings in person? Don’t assume she wants to sit in on your semi-annual conferences, but see if you can encourage her to come with a friend. She might not even know to ask. Again, deliver information, including education, in a way that best suits her style – which means that you have to take the time to learn her style.
Try a few meetings with a range of approaches and see how she reacts. If she likes color and graphics, go for it. If less is more, then be brief. Most women appreciate color and graphics more than men, but be ready if her accountant or other gatekeeper wants to see more. If it’s drill-down detail they want, give it to her to pass on to them and top it off with a summary page.
Finally, create an authentic experience and enjoy what you do. Female clients are adept at seeing through a sales pitch. You can be almost certain that she won’t really care if you can deliver 100 basis points over your competitor. Rather, she will favor a kind and competent person she can call with questions (especially ‘dumb’ ones) or with requests of support staff. She wants you to be prepared and pay attention to her when you are discussing anything, even when she is confiding with you on a non-financial matter. And most of all she wants to know she can trust you because you took the time to understand her particular personal financial needs.
The following are some suggestions to attract and retain female clients. These will apply whether she is young or old; a lady of leisure or running a Fortune 500 company:
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by NFP Securities, Inc. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual.
Susan J. Bruno, CPA/PFS, CFP®, Beacon Wealth Consulting, LLC