5 tips to help boost your success with women investors
One of the most important measures of success for women in advisory relationships may be the relationship itself. Which means that meaningful and supportive communication is a key element in creating strong relationships with women clients.
One way of maintaining that supportive communication is to minimize miscues. These happen when unconscious assumptions, stereotypes, or biases cause you to miss or misinterpret others. Communication miscues with women clients can reduce their satisfaction and increase the risk that they may leave your practice.
Schwab Asset Management’s Women and Investing program offers many resources to help you refine your approach to women investors. Here we offer five quick tips to help minimize the miscues that could subtly derail your conversations.
For illustrative purposes only.
Assumption #1: Couples merge their money
Treating a couple as one client is a sure way to create a miscue—especially in cases of divorce or the death of a spouse. It's possible that many women in these life stages leave their advisors at that time. Often, this is because they didn’t feel seen, considered, and included.
Making women feel comfortable in your practice means demonstrating a commitment to knowing each person’s values, preferences, fears, and goals. For couples, ask neutral questions about their money. Is it merged or separate? Do they have similar investing goals? Do they have shared values about money?
Learn what’s important to each person. And embrace the notion that, broadly speaking, women and men may have different values and motivations when it comes to investing.
Assumption #2: The man decides
A common unconscious assumption is that the man is most likely to make a couple’s investing decisions. Even when this is true, the assumption can create a substantial miscue for women, especially those who have their own money or participate in or make investing decisions. Even for a woman who prefers her husband to take charge, it’s still wise to investigate her values and goals as best you can.
To avoid a miscue around decision-making, find out how the couple handles their finances. How do they make financial and investing decisions? Who ultimately decides? Are they each comfortable with the current process?
Understanding each person’s preferences going forward can not only help your clients feel satisfied. It can help tie them individually to your advisory relationship.
Assumption #3: Women know less than men
Many people unconsciously assume that women know relatively little about finances and investing. For an advisor, this assumption can put your client relationships at risk.
The issue is that the level of information you offer to each client reveals your assumptions about her level of financial acumen. If you’re too simple, she could feel underestimated or patronized. If you’re too complex, she could feel confused and alienated.
It’s important to assess each client’s knowledge level carefully and subtly so your explanations and conversations are on target. Determine each client’s understanding of financial and investing topics. Then set the level of your conversation to match their financial sophistication.
Assumption #4: Women want direction
Assuming that a woman won’t have clear goals or values about her investments might lead you to simply tell her what to do. However, this one-sided direction can land as a miscue. The client may feel that you’re pursuing your own goals rather than linking your advice to what she wants to accomplish or support.
Instead, get to know the client’s preferences, and start out by offering insights and options. Explain how these options relate to her values and goals. As your relationship develops, you’ll come to know each client’s preference for advice and direction versus options and insights.
Assumption #5: Women are risk averse
Presuming that women are more risk averse than men can land you in a miscue with long-term implications. But when you assess a woman’s risk tolerance, keep in mind that—perhaps more than any other topic—the words you choose may affect her perception of the risk involved.
Studies suggest that women advisors tend to use relatively positive language when talking about risk—words such as goals and gains.1 In contrast, male advisors tend to use more negative words, such as fear, doubt, and worry.
This more negative approach may make women feel they should avoid a risk that the advisor feels is benign—simply because the advisor’s miscued word choice created a greater sense of risk than actually exists.
About 7 in 10 women say that women and men have fundamentally different life journeys.2 Acquiring and retaining a woman investor’s business hinges on understanding her journey. This takes a communication approach that reveals her preferences, earns her trust, and supports her values.
In other words, approach every client—man or woman, coupled or single—as an individual. With curiosity and active listening, learn about each client’s values and goals. When you do, you’ll find you’ve gone a long way toward releasing your unconscious assumptions and minimizing the communication miscues that could challenge your relationships.
To learn more about how you can better communicate with women clients, check out our advisor guide “Speaking her language.”