The number of women seeking out advisors to help manage their finances has increased greatly, a recent study finds.

In a survey that compared female investor behavior in 2013 with 2007, research firm Phoenix Marketing International found almost one-half (49%) of female respondents rely on advisors -- a jump from 41% six years earlier.

The firm's research points to both economic and social trends. “I believe it is a combination of what happened [during the financial crisis] and a need for some reliable advice and information,” says Neal Chambliss, co-president of financial services at the market research firm. “There has been an increase in [women's] involvement, certainly as a single head of household, but this shift [toward using advisors] can also be seen in married couples,” he says. The survey targeted adults with a $100,000 in investable household assets.

One advisor who works frequently with divorced female clients suggests that women are simply more open than men are to getting professional advice. “I think in general, women are comfortable asking for help for issues where they don’t believe that have expertise," says Linda Leitz, NAPFA chairwoman and advisor in Colorado Springs, Colo. "So if an advisor -- man or woman -- appears to be competent, then they will look to them.”


With increasing focus on the wealth controlled by women, the advisory industry is placing new emphasis on targeting female clients. “There’s a lot of work underway to understand and best service that marketplace,” says Chambliss.

Indeed, insurance giant Jackson National is one of several financial services companies looking at the gender differences in investor behavior. In one of its recent studies, 33% of women reported having a solid level of knowledge about financial products, terms and methods, but said they would still benefit from professional advice for investing decisions. (Nearly 40% of men felt the same.)

Yet the differences between male and female investors may not be all that great, argues Leitz. “I think that there are probably not as many differences between how [men and women] are wired ... They want the same things. They don’t want to be a burden on anyone and they want other people to be OK."

Serving clients of either gender boils down to developing personal connections, Leitz adds. "What financial professionals do is a relationship," she says. "It’s very personal, and there’s nothing wrong with that …. it needs to be personal so that it helps clients achieve [their goals] and serve them better.”

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