Women Adviser Summit recap: Top takeaways for female-focused advisers

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By Kerry Davis and Karyn Baldwin

It’s no secret that within the financial services industry, advisers are shifting their practices to be more inclusive and catered toward female clientele. According to census data, the American population includes roughly 168 million women. In addition to the sheer size of this population segment (which, by the way, outnumbers American men), women tend to live well into their 80s. With more women reigning as the household breadwinners and taking greater control over their families’ finances, advisers need to recognize the future is female, and the future is now. 

It’s a discussion that’s been happening for years on the conference circuit — “how to attract and retain female clients,” “what are women looking for in a financial planner,” “what makes women’s financial planning needs unique?” This week, we traveled to the 2019 InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit in New York, where the dialogue focused on actionable best practices that could actually benefit any male or female adviser trying to further engage and grow their client base. 

Below are some themes that women tend to expect when working with an adviser, as well as actionable to-dos that any RIA could implement to help attract a larger client base and amplify their brand. 

A memorable experience. Gone are the days of the transactional annual or quarterly meetings. For an adviser to succeed, and especially attract and retain female clients, emphasizing a more experience-based approach is critical. Clients want to feel a personal connection to their adviser and to trust that the relationship is more than surface-level “product pushing.” Providing a high-touch, five-star experience serves a dual-purpose: enhancing the client relationship with a business development component. During the Women Adviser Summit, Susan Kay, VP, business development consultant at MFS Investment Management, shared a couple of great ideas: 

    1. For small-business-owner clients, know the anniversary of their company’s founding. Send a handwritten note to the client congratulating them: “Dear Angela, congratulations on celebrating your fifth year in business — what an accomplishment! As the business continues to expand, I look forward to working closer with you on the financial plans we can establish and goals that, together, we can ensure are being met. 
    2. Utilize an “I’m Sorry” drawer. We’re human; we all make mistakes. But when an adviser has to apologize to a client, time is of the essence. Have a drawer in your office at the ready with notecards and some kind of small token (box of chocolates, restaurant gift card, etc.) that can be mailed out that day to the client with an explanation of how you will handle the situation, in addition to your appreciation of them. 

An approach that aligns with her thought process. If you’re an adviser who wants to more closely connect with a female client base, do yourself a favor and reevaluate your messaging and brand positioning. Does your website and marketing collateral use a generic financial planning definition and outline? If so, you aren’t appealing to many women, who tend to thrive on connections and community (just check out any local parenting Facebook group for proof). The point is that you have to make your brand and messaging relatable and applicable to them, as well as how they view the world. For instance, “wealth management” is a generic financial services industry term that, in many cases, is tossed aside by women who think they aren’t wealthy enough for such services. A brand focused on life planning might appeal more to the active female brain that is constantly seeking organization and compartmentalization. 

You’re thinking about her children. Women are born daughters and many grow into mothers. The female character has traditionally taken on a stronger caretaker role within family dynamics, whether for their own children or aging parents. The most important aspects of a woman’s life often involve her family. Advisers who take actionable steps to recognize that priority are effectively working to establish a trusting relationship. A mother wants to ensure her children are set up for every success in the world. Advisers need to acknowledge this viewpoint and include the next generation in their relationship. Introducing family meetings and recruiting next-generation advisers are two ways to show female clients that you are prioritizing their most precious assets in life — their children. As an added bonus, these measures can help create a succession plan for your business.