Practice Management

How to Better Serve Your Female Clients

As Canadian women accumulate a greater share of overall wealth, through unparalleled professional success and, later in life, inheritance, Advisors are motivated to enhance their service offering – and their business – by embracing a more female-centric approach. Kirsten Woodhouse, Director, Intermediary Distribution at BMO Global Asset Management shares her observations of best practices – and a wealth of tools and resources to support your practice.
June 2019

Kirsten Woodhouse

Director, Intermediary Distribution, Southwest Ontario

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As Canadian women accumulate a greater share of overall wealth, through unparalleled professional success and, later in life, inheritance, Advisors are motivated to enhance their service offering – and their business – by embracing a more female-centric approach. Kirsten Woodhouse, Director, Intermediary Distribution at BMO Global Asset Management shares her observations of best practices – and a wealth of tools and resources to support your practice.

Closing the Gender Gap in Your Book

In a business that is statistically predominantly male, Advisors should be wary of blind spots that could lead to a gender gap in their book. As demographics show, continuing to under-serve Canadian women would most likely result in missed opportunities for growth, considering that:

  • 31% are major breadwinners in their household,¹
  • 57% of professional positions are held by women,²
  • 40% of the high net worth population are women,³ and
  • 67% of wealth in North America will be female-owned by 2020.⁴

On average, women also outlive men – and given that the average age of a widow in Canada is 56,⁵ (much lower than most people think) Advisors have every incentive to start building relationships with female clients on day one, especially in circumstances when they are not the primary account holder.

The risks of inaction are extraordinarily high. Nearly two-thirds of women are unhappy with the industry,⁶ a fact that often manifests after significant upheavals. For example, historical data reveals that upwards of 70% of recent widows leave their Advisors after a spouse or partner’s death.⁷ Moreover, a study from 2018 reveals twice as many women than man are concerned about how they will fund their retirement,⁸ and separate research indicates over half “lose sleep” on the matter,⁹ making them ideal prospects for professional financial advice.

Given that the average age of a widow in Canada is 56,⁵ Advisors have every incentive to start building relationships with female clients on day one.

Empathy Always Wins

Part of re-orienting your practice is understanding what your female clients care about during major life transitions, and how their attention may be divided across practical, emotional, family and financial considerations. The reality is, while raising children, many women also take on senior roles professionally or own/run a small business, seek higher education, become caregivers to aging parents, and play the role of sole financial decision-maker. This daunting load creates an opportunity for Advisors to add value – and lend a helping hand – by easing the added stress of financial oversight.

Ongoing education is another impetus for proactive planning. Approximately half of all women lack confidence in the quality of advice they receive,¹⁰ owing to inadequate coaching on the ways financial planning can impact them. Honing in on the implications of major life events from their perspective is how to demonstrate client empathy, and engender further trust and support for your services.

Hosting a seminar or speaking at a Women in Investing forum – perhaps with a female subject matter expert – can provide prospective clients with useful education and information, thereby engaging an untapped market for your business. Based on survey findings, women are also looking for Advisors to be an active partner, which means proactively offering additional support and thoughtful ideas during a particularly stressful period.

A High-Touch Experience

Deepening the relationship with female clients is an exercise in quality communication, which may mean increasing not only the frequency of interaction, but also the level of detail. Women investors are interested in the process, not just the results. What steps did you take? What solutions did you consider? How deep was the research? Which experts did you consult? Demonstrating how you got to the what – in other words, how you make decisions – is crucial to gaining confidence in your services.

One example is to make a courtesy call before executing trades, even when there is discretionary authority over the account. Though there is no legal obligation, explaining your rationale can provide valuable education and generate goodwill. Conversely, some Advisors take a highly personal approach – sending flowers or handwritten cards to celebrate the achievement of key investing or personal milestones. No matter the style, it’s important to take your client’s personality and preferences into consideration.

From any client’s perspective, it’s critical to have an Advisor see them as a person, take the time to understand their needs – and actively listen. Once trust and sincerity establish the basis for a planning process, Advisors, in the case of female clients, can start to address any unique specifics, such as optimizing RRSP contributions ahead of maternity leave, or providing guidance on probate issues, for example. Ultimately, the goal is to forge a relationship in advance of major life events, given that’s when your business is most vulnerable.

For more information on how to build deeper relationships that address the needs of female clients, click here for additional resources and contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative for an in-branch presentation.

For further reading, see our past Insights articles:

¹ Modern Money Matters/Chase Bank, 2010.

² BMO Wealth Institute, Women in Wealth: A financial golden age has arrived (Infographic), March 2015.

³ Credit-Suisse Global Wealth Report, 2018.

Mary Gooderham, “Men are from mars, women make better investors,” The Globe and Mail, October 16, 2015.

⁵ National Center for Women and Retirement Research.

⁶ The Boston Consulting Group, Women Want More (in Financial Services), October 2009.

⁷ Financial Planning Standard Council, 2018.

⁸ Great-West Life/Sun Life Financial, February 2018.

⁹ Financial Planning Standards Council Study, 2018.

¹⁰ IPC Private Wealth, “Women and Wealth: The changing face of wealth in Canada and its implications for financial advisors,” 2018.

BMO Global Asset Management Disclosures:

This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name that comprises BMO Asset Management Inc., BMO Investments Inc., BMO Asset Management Corp., BMO Asset Management Limited and BMO’s specialized investment management firms.

®/™ Registered trade-marks/trade-mark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

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