Working with women investors: Nine success strategies

Pretty much every financial advisor these days knows the importance of appealing to women investors. That’s why Schwab Asset Management engaged Cerulli Associates to interview successful financial advisors about their best practices for attracting and retaining women clients.

In the interviews, advisors shared their perspectives and insights on working effectively with women across three key areas of the client experience: acquisition, engagement and communication, and planning and portfolio construction.

You can get the full study results in a handy white paper that’s also chock full of powerful insights and actionable exercises. To get started, here’s an overview of some of the advisors’ best practices.

Acquisition: Attract your ideal

Women aren’t a single market. However, women in the same demographic groups are likely to share interests, needs and preferences. That’s why it’s important to target one or more demographics and serve them expertly—starting with steps like these.

#1. Segment with savvy

If you want to engage more women investors, start with a segmentation exercise to identify commonalities among your existing women clients. Look at commonalities like profession,
life stage and primary interests (golf, wine, art, philanthropy, etc.).

Then, look at creative, meaningful ways to build expertise in those commonalities and serve women across that demographic with even more personalization.

Ultimately, you’re aiming to create a niche in which your firm can showcase its skills—which will help attract even more clients from that demographic.

#2. Join the group

Strategic alliances with an external network can also give you a leg up when it comes to meeting the needs of clients in your niche segment. Compile a list of vetted professionals in your area who also work with your target segment of women investors. Include as many women professionals as you can.

Now, when a client needs a service you don’t offer—an attorney, a certified public accountant (CPA), etc.—you can use your network of professionals to add value for that client. You may add value to your firm as well when your network refers their clients to you.

#3. Support women’s causes

Finally, expand your involvement beyond your network and into the community. Get involved with local nonprofits and philanthropic efforts in the community, particularly with organizations that serve and empower women. Serve on a nonprofit board, volunteer with a women-oriented organization, and support causes that benefit women or girls.

Engagement: Build the right relationships

Typically, converting a woman from prospect to client takes a personal connection. She needs to feel your understanding and empathy, your ability to listen and help, and your recognition that her financial life is about more than alpha and beta.

Three keys to establishing a meaningful connection include active listening, understanding her life, and including her in the advisory relationship.

#4. Listen and connect

Making a personal connection around core needs may be the most important reason why a woman converts from prospect to client. Making this connection takes a commitment to active listening and meaningful personal communication.

Keep in mind that active listening includes elements like these:

  • Staying attuned to nonverbal cues like eye contact, facial expression, and body language
  • Using curiosity and undivided attention to discern the client’s needs, fears, and desires
  • Including each person equally in a multi-client unit.
Trust: Emotional presence: Use empathy to show you understand her fears, sticking points, and dreams. Practical solutions: Help ease her financial worries  and reach for her goals. Expert leadership: Draw on your planning and portfolio skills to give her confidence in your approach.

#5. Recognize the client’s life

Once you understand important aspects of the client’s life, acknowledge them. Small gestures can make a big impact.

In other words, consider gestures like these:

  • Send a handwritten note or email to recognize an important milestone—such as an anniversary, birthday or birth of a child or grandchild
  • Send flowers to a widow on Valentine’s Day or the anniversary of her spouse’s passing
  • Have a meal delivered to a client recovering from surgery
  • Make a donation to the client’s preferred charity for the holidays

#6. Engage equally

Work to ensure equal engagement of both spouses in your advisory relationship—and emphasize the value of both spouses staying actively involved.

To help facilitate their involvement, take steps like emailing an agenda to both spouses before annual review meetings. Encourage both to attend. And encourage questions, assess comfort levels and continuously check that both spouses understand and agree.

Planning: Focus on values

Financial planning conversations that lead with values and prioritize progress toward goals over investment performance tend to appeal to women over performance-focused discussions.
To help find meaning and support the client’s values, try these examples.

Holistic approach: Transactional service	Holistic service Looking for investing tips or products	Looking for a plan to help achieve multiple life goals (financial, social, spiritual, familial) Evaluating an investment product  or portfolio’s performance	Evaluating the full scope and quality of  advisory services and interactions first— performance second Thinking: Will this work for me?	Thnking: Will this work for my later life,  my family, the causes I care about? Seeking information and data	Seeking infor

#7. Find values and goals

To help your client feel a personal connection to her investing strategy, start by learning about her values and the hopes she has for her money. Once you understand what matters to her, you’ll know more about how to link her overall portfolio strategy to her life and her goals.

To invite introspection and facilitate a dialogue with women clients on their relationship with money and how it creates meaning, consider life-planning exercises, conversation cards, questionnaires or what-if scenarios.

#8. Focus on family

Most women investors want their money to benefit their families. Ideally, develop relationships with clients’ children through a multigenerational planning process that incorporates family dynamics, wealth transfer strategies and the perspectives of all family members. When possible, include financial literacy teaching for clients’ children.

#9. Consider the meaning

One way to appeal to women’s desire for meaning-making is through the investments you recommend. Consider personalized investment strategies that allow women to choose investments that help integrate their personal values into their financial plans.

In a recent UBS study, more than 80% of women said they felt “more committed than ever” to making a difference in the world.1

To take a deeper dive into best practices for working with women investors—including expert insights, tactical tips, and case studies—check out our Cerulli white paper.

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