Many women in finance can recall the moment they realized “women think differently about money than men do.”
For a friend and mentor of mine, it was when she was speaking to a woman about investing her husband’s life insurance cheque. Halfway through the conversation, her male colleague started to get frustrated with why this woman was so hesitant to cash in the cheque. Then it clicked. Investing that money was not about what it could do for her or for her lifestyle. Investing it meant that she was closing the book on an element of her husband’s legacy. Her relationship was not about the dollar signs, but with what they stood for.
My moment was a lot simpler, but nonetheless alarming.
Early in my career I was talking to a friend, a successful real estate agent and interior designer, about finances when she turned to me and said, very flippantly, “oh my dad deals with all that stuff for me.” It was not the first or last time I’ve heard an expression like that, where a woman confidently declares that she has delegated all her financial decisions to someone else, but for some reason, that one stuck with me.
So how do we, as financial professionals, take these differences into consideration when communicating with female clients.
The first step is to listen.
Women can and will share with you what’s holding them back, but they will only do so if they feel that they can trust you with their concerns. Take the time to hear them out. What do they care about? What keeps them up at night? What are their values when it comes to money? Where do they see themselves in the future? If you can show them that you have genuine interest in what’s important to them, they will open up. And then…
Seek to understand.
This relationship isn’t about you – it’s about the client. And this client has perceptions about money and finances that are holding them back from taking control and making confident decisions. Take the time to understand what those preconceived notions are. For some women, it may be that the never-ending jargon and abbreviations of the industry are too overwhelming. For others, it might be the old adage of “I’m terrible at math so I will therefore never be good at this” coming back to haunt them. Like my friend, some might simply be disinterested in the conversation and would rather that burden be taken off their shoulders. Whatever it is, discipline yourself to find out so that you can…
Seek to be understood.
Instead of just telling them what you want them to know, position your suggestions in a way that translates back to their earlier concerns.
For the woman who is overwhelmed by the jargon, adapt the language to suit her. Don’t oversimplify, but make sure you are explaining terms or acronyms as you go, and please check in. Ask her questions along the way and become familiar with identifying when a nod or a “yes” is authentic, versus when it’s being used because she’s not willing to stop and ask you to clarify.
For the woman who thinks that her poor high school math scores are an indicator that she won’t be good at making financial decisions (which, until I began my career in this industry, was exactly my mentality), take the numbers out of the discussion where it’s appropriate. Focus less on the data and more on the why. Once she gets comfortable with the why, she’ll get more and more comfortable with the numbers – and watch her confidence skyrocket!
And for the woman who just can’t be bothered, explain to her the importance of being involved in these decisions. Tie the conversation back to her long-term goals and what she cares about. Then explain how the decisions being made during your conversations will not only help her accomplish those goals, but will allow her to sleep well knowing that her loved ones will also be taken care of.
For this discussion, a written financial plan can work wonders. Advisors have watched women who have never shown the slightest interest light up when a financial plan is put in front of them. A young advisor once described to me how a client left his office in tears because she was so relieved to see the evidence that their finances would be able to take care of them for the rest of their lives. When you take the time to engage with your female clients, on their terms, those relationships will become some of the most loyal and rewarding in your entire career.
And last but not least, remember to…
Choose to challenge.
The official hashtag for International Women’s Day 2021 was #choosetochallenge, and it couldn’t be more appropriate for the financial services industry. Choose to challenge the view that it’s a competition between women vs. money and reframe it as women AND money. Challenge yourself to listen and understand before seeking to be understood. Challenge yourself to engage differently. And above all, challenge yourself to never settle for the status quo. We have come too far, and we have so much further left to go.
For more information on how to connect with your female clients, speak to your CI Global Asset Management Sales Team about the Practice Management Team’s Women & Money program.