Strategy

We Want To Increase The Financial Confidence Of One Million Women - UBS

Robbie Lawther, Reporter, London, 26 October 2017

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The firm's managing director discussed its forward-thinking approach towards improving the services it offers to its female clients.

Women are starting to become and are influential figures in the world of wealth management. According to a Boston Consulting Group report back in 2010, women control around 27 per cent of the world’s wealth. The same report of seven years ago found, however, that women felt that more must be done to cater to their needs.

One firm that is looking to improve the confidence of female clients is UBS. In January, the world’s largest wealth manager launched UBS Unique, a new programme which aims to better serve female clients. UBS Unique’s global programme architect, Olga Miler, spoke to this publication about the long term plans of the programme, and what that means for its female clients.

“As part of UBS Unique, we want to increase the financial confidence of one million women over the next five years,” said Miler. “We want to funnel capital through gender-lens investing and gender-lens philanthropy for the advancement of women and girls. The programme in itself is client-facing, and we hope it will further inspire the organisation to continue its diversity and inclusion efforts that are already in progress in the bank. There was two years of research, customer sounding, sourcing external research papers before the launch. Our answer to what we have learned about women and wealth management was; not to put out a pink department, not to put out a pink product, but to embrace the growing female wealth industry as a business opportunity. As the leading wealth manager, we need a programme of change, and a programme of innovation.”

A recent study by Kantar showed that financial services firms miss out on more than £130 billion ($173 billion) per year in revenues by ignoring demands of female clients. This is a large amount of wealth which is being missed by the financial sector, and firms need to understand why they are not getting their strategic plans right when it comes to female clients. 

Miler, who is also a managing director at UBS, also discussed what UBS Unique has found in its research on women in wealth management, and where the sector is going wrong with its female clients.

“Industry research shows that; many women don’t have a financial advisor,” said Miler. “Boston Consulting Group said around half of HNW women do not have a financial advisor. It also said women are misunderstood and unhappy with the service. There is a challenge of trust, language, being taken seriously as a person and lack of knowledge about where to start. These are the four dominant factors.”

Miler added: “Clients say that the industry does not speak to them and people just want to sell product. Wealth managers need to serve all of its clients and be, a good partner to them. We take these findings seriously and we feel that this cannot be addressed by a department that only serves women. We needed to go much deeper and this is why we decided to look at our practice from top to bottom.”

According to a study by EY in 2017, 62 per cent of women are willing to consider switching to another wealth manager. Wealth managers need to start addressing issues with their female clients.

Marketing
As much as getting it right with female clients is a big issue, then so is attracting new clients to commit to the firm. Many firms do make mistakes when it comes to marketing towards women. Many are stereotypical and decide to persuade potential clients with 1970s ideology. In August, Julius Baer’s Annabel Bosman told this publication she was wary of strategic marketing for women.

However UBS, is looking to revolutionise marketing towards women within the financial services industry with a gender-balanced approach.

“As far as the UBS overall marketing approach, a lot has been done in terms of a tone of voice perspective, using less technical language, images used, gender-balance and culture balance,” said Miler. “We have small initiatives for instance; we try to aspire to avoid men-only panels. At our client events we aspire to have female co-hosts alongside men. I think since we launched a new brand campaign almost three years ago, it has been an aspiration to bring forward life’s important questions in the way we speak to people.”

UBS found in a report in 2015 that the world's female billionaire population grew faster than the male billionaire population, rising by a factor of 6.6 compared to a factor of 5.2 for men. Firms do have to start making the effort to attract the rising population of wealth women.

Miler added: “There has been a lot of effort around being conscious to not fall into the trap of really portraying white male-dominated images. I think we have covered a lot of ground, but it does not mean that we are done. We are never done. As far as UBS Unique is concerned, we do not market. For us it is really to shift everything we do in marketing and make it fit for all of our audiences, rather than putting out a specific campaign, where your ad features a woman opening a financial plan. We do not find this very effective.”

There is also a belief that hiring more women as advisors and bankers can attract more female clients. However Miler believes female clients want competency in their financial advisor rather than a specific gender.

“Our research and feedback from clients has not shown that women would prefer a female advisor,” Miler said. “What is far more important to them is that the advisor is competent, the advisor can support their life objectives and the advisor can build a personal relationship. With these facts in mind there is no one in the bank who will say we grow by hiring more female advisors because they will bring more female clients. Of course we strive to have an inclusive workforce in regards to gender, age and culture in order to have better decision making. It is not our objective or belief that we will grow just by hiring female advisors.”

Five years
UBS Unique is a five-year pledge to increase the financial confidence of one million million. And Miler discussed what she wants to see in five years time, and the effects of the programme.

“After the five years, I would like to see that we are the leading wealth manager for women,” said Miler. “I would hope we have increased the financial confidence of one million women.  By increased, I mean that there are one million women who could say that the programme has helped them manage their money. I would like to see that we have made a tangible contribution through investments to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number five, that being capital that contributes to a world where equality is the new norm.” 

Miler added: “I would love to see that UBS as a bank manages to adhere to the diversity goals that they put out. If along the way we manage to contribute to sustainability, then I think we have definitely set out what we achieved to do. And finally, it is part of our commitment; we would love to have inspired change across the financial services industry. So if there are others to follow that start to adapt to new standards by revisiting their practices it would be fantastic."

Women’s growing financial power and the quality of wealth managers’ provision for them is the subject of a soon-to-be-released research report produced by WealthBriefing in collaboration with Boston Multi Family Office and Wealthmonitor (an Acuris company).  The research is based on surveys and interviews with ultra- and high net worth women, senior executives and front-line advisors from around the world.

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