Harris myCFO Interview: Don't Treat Females As The "Silent Partner" In The Client Family

Wendy Spires, Group Deputy Editor, 9 August 2012


Specific selling points

That said, Doran – like many other experts – points out that women do have specific needs and concerns which need to be addressed. “There are some different conversations women want to have,” she said. Along with them being very concerned about their children’s financial independence, women also have philanthropy very high on their radar, she points out. This fact appears to have been duly noted by the world’s biggest wealth managers, many of which have started philanthropic networks for their female clients so that they can pool their collective financial might and intellectual capital. In fact, research seems to indicate that women generally tend to be more strategic about their charitable giving than men: a December 2011 report by Bank of America, The Coming Gender Transition in Wealth, found that 78 per cent of HNW women create an annual giving strategy and/or budget compared to 72 per cent of men.

Education and helping women to give strategically are then two key ways to help retain their business in the long term. Doran also thinks that mobile technologies have “a key role to play” in addressing females’ under-engagement with wealth management firms. Indeed it’s not hard to image busy working mothers becoming a lot more engaged if they can view their families’ portfolios on their tablet, or communicate with advisors via social media on a smartphone.

In fact, for Doran, upping females’ engagement with wealth management providers is all about communication and the conversation being addressed to them from the start. Sadly, this doesn’t appear always to be the case. The same Brinker Capital study of last year found that 63 per cent of married female clients said their advisor directs their relationship joint­ly to them and their spouse, while for male clients this figure dropped to 41 per cent. In a finding which will likely irk feminists, only 29 per cent of married women said their advisor di­rects their relationship solely to them.

But all of this isn’t just about equality, it’s about preventing assets from going elsewhere when wealth transitions to a female who was latterly a “silent partner” in the wealth management relationship. Brinker Capital’s study found that 47 per cent of female clients said they would be “extremely likely” to retain their advisor in the event of a death or divorce (versus 32 per cent of men), but this still leaves 53 per cent who are not “extremely likely” to stick with the same firm. This becomes even more resonant when we consider that firms lose 44 per cent of all assets transferred to a woman from a man, according to the 2011 World Wealth Report.

For Doran, it is unsurprising that many firms sleepwalk into losing female clients if they haven’t paid attention to the family as a whole. “Establishing a relationship and involving both spouses is a priority,” she said. “If women haven’t been listened to and haven’t been part of the process then of course they will think about leaving.”

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