While we don't think it's intentional that millennial women are overlooked by the financial services industry, the reality is that they are. A recent survey by Stash indicated some of the reasons why 85% of millennial women don’t invest.
One of the most common answers is that 76% of respondents find investing confusing or inaccessible, which could be due to educational bias. With 33% of wealth held by women now, and 67% expected to be in female hands by 2020, how can advisers attract and assist millennial women?
Let’s start with the unique characteristics and needs of this generation. Millennial women are the most concerned with paying off debt, and they are more focused on growing wealth than their parents, but less than male peers. They also have less confidence in their financial future, which can be attributed to a clear understanding of the gender pay gap.
While we didn't see efforts that specifically target female millennial investors at large wealth management firms, many RIA and IBD practitioners, both male and female, are taking note and benefiting from adopting the preferred way of engagement of this target group.
With the rise of automated investment services over the past few years, some of these, such as ElleVest and WorthFM, focus specifically on the female market. The female-oriented robo advisers design their messaging, content and user experience in ways that are more relatable to female millennials, but they appear to face challenges to effectively gain AUM.
How can robo advisers attract users more effectively is a problem for which I have a keen interest and passion, as I care about the financial well-being of my demographic group, and our access to quality financial services.
One such challenge is trust. As tech-savvy as female millennials typically are, there is still a disconnect between trusting the raw output of an algorithm and tying those numbers to life goals. Many robo advisers focus on making it simple, lack the capability of relating how investing impacts various life goals and events, the things that actually matter to the investors and what they can actually care about and can relate to.
Additionally, BlackRock Investing reports that millennial women report overall lower interest in robo advice than men (45% to 72%). The number one reason? A belief that they don’t have enough money to seriously invest! This is counter-intuitive and problematic given that the mission of robo advisers is exactly to remove the minimum required to invest.
There's prudence in setting aside a rainy day fund, but it seems among female investors, a lack of confidence is driving that habit too. This is why, despite the challenges of user acquisition models at female-focused robos, I admire them, as well as advisers that help women. These services have a positive social impact: boosting the self-esteem of women by helping us taking the first step in financial confidence.
NOT JUST STATS
As an adviser, it is therefore important to take preference and style into account when working with women on investing. Women like to tell our stories and connect on a personal level. We value facts and numbers, but many of us are also great at expressing our feelings and concerns, remember details, read body language and define success as being more than just hitting a number.
Traditionally, it's expected that when couples come for advice, the husband takes a dominant role. But many advisers say that the aha moment comes when the wife feels empowered. It's worth paying more attention to the women, as the Department of Health and Human Services has reported 70% of client assets leaves the adviser when the male spouse passes.
Serving a young female investor is not necessarily about the gender of the adviser, but more so the connection she has with her adviser. It might take it longer to win the trust of a female client, especially millennial female clients, but once you win their trust, they often are the most loyal and are the best referrers.
So this year, find the way to diversify your customer base. Use technology tools and ways of engagement that can paint not just performance stats for millennial women, but also understand their life story and unique challenges, and build not just portfolios and financial plans but deeper trust and confidence.