Are you neglecting women clients and their specific needs in the financial planning process? Many financial advisors tend to engage the husband and ignore the wife when working with a couple, says Bruce Harrington, vice president of sales and business development for John Hancock Financial Network, but this can be a very costly mistake. “If this happens and the husband dies, the wife may not feel tied to the [advisor] and could take her business elsewhere,” he says. To avoid this and better serve all clients, advisors must make an effort to engage women clients, Harrington says. Advisors need to start by listening, says Jylanne Dunne, senior vice president of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. “When it comes to women, and most clients for that matter, advisors should talk less and listen more,” she says. While men tend to build trust and loyalty through shared activities, women build these feelings through sharing and discussion, Dunne says. “When working with female clients, effective financial planning involves understanding multiple components including the client's personal life, spending and saving expectations and her fear or risk tolerance,” she says. Advisors must also understand “personality drivers,” Dunne says. That begins by understanding your clients’ values and what motivates them. “Women tend to be analysts and data-driven and they are often more focused on risk than men,” she says. Dunne offers specific steps advisors can take to better connect with female clients. First, she suggests advisors start meetings with thoughtful questions about your client’s personal life to understand female clients’ motivations and desires and learn about her financial history. In the planning process, advisors need to be sure to create a holistic financial plan, Dunne says. This means collaborating on decisions with women clients and offering detailed explanations of various options, she says. “Use this plan and this newly acquired knowledge about the client to keep the dialogue going to deepen the level of engagement over time,” Dunne says. “Female clients especially will appreciate the linkage between the advisors' actions and the achievement of long term financial goals.” When it comes to financial planning, men and women may have different priorities. “In general, men are often geared toward performance and women are often geared toward holistic planning…Make sure that you’re focused on what means the most to your clients,” she says.
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