Women have decision-making control over $11.2 trillion in assets in the U.S. So why are advisors failing to serve them?

A recent Center for Talent Innovation study titled “Harnessing the Power of the Purse” shows 30% of American women holding $1 million or more in assets don’t have a financial advisor. Of those who do, more than half told the survey that they felt misunderstood by advisors.

That suggests advisors need to change the way they handle their female prospects and clients, says Andrea Turner Moffitt, co-author of the study and senior vice president at the Center for Talent Innovation.

“Obviously, the idea of building trust is nothing new,” she says. “It’s how you actually execute it that’s important.”

She offers a few suggestions for advisors looking to forge better connections with female investors.

1. Understand the different women's markets.

Yes, women are in control of a huge, unmanaged purse -- but not all women are the same. Female investors tend to fall into three groups: self-created, spouse-created and inherited, Turner Moffitt says,  and advisors need to understand that not all their needs are the same.

For example, the study showed women who have inherited or spouse-created wealth are more likely than female wealth creators to be concerned about their financial security and independence.

“Advisors need to be somewhat honest with themselves about unconscious and conscious biases and that they exist. It’s important not to come to the conversation with assumptions and really take the time to gain an understanding of unique perspectives.” Turner-Moffitt said. “What can advisors do about the discovery process so that the female investor feels understood?”


2. Find out what wealth means to your client.

The study found that women look to wealth to provide financial security and independence, as well as a “larger basket of goods.”

For example, U.S. women with self-created wealth are 67% more likely than men to see their wealth as an opportunity for greater career latitude.

Finding out what a client wants to gain from wealth is a great way to start a conversation.

“Advisors should invite women to understand their own identities as financial investors,” says Turner Moffitt.  “Sometimes clients don’t even know what their priorities are. I think advisors can take a role of expanding the perspective.”

3. Prioritize outcomes over income.

Because female investors seek results beyond financial returns, advisors should focus decision-making processes primarily around outcomes, rather than income.

"A lot of times, conversations get stuck in product-based discussions," says Turner Moffitt. Instead, she says, advisors should structure conversations around case studies and stories.

"It's important that advisors are really taking the time to get clarity ... and help the [female] client find [her] financial identity," she adds.  “Product and performance are the underlying building blocks, but there needs to be a greater focus on the outcomes.”

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