Ingrid Macintosh, Vice President, Wealth, Head of Sales Enablement and Client Portfolio Management, TD Asset Management

It is hard to believe that over half the population in Canada is underserved by the investment industry.1 But it’s true. So, how did we get here? Why did this happen? Mostly, it was a lack of information about the behavioural and lifestyle differences between women and men. Luckily, things are changing.

The wealth management industry generally believed that since women and men have similar long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement, they want a similar service offering. “Now we know the financial journeys of women and men are different, and they have different preferences on how to achieve their long-term financial goals,” says Ingrid Macintosh, Vice President, Wealth, Head of Sales Enablement and Client Portfolio Management. “TD Wealth has conducted research that has uncovered not only how those differences play out over a woman investor’s lifetime, but also how advisors can adapt their services to better serve women investors.”

Research shows that seemingly subtle behavioural differences – and rather dramatic variance in life stages – between women and men can have a dramatic impact on an advisor’s business. For example, while men are two times more likely to be approached by an advisor,2 women will typically make 26 referrals over their lifetime versus only 11 by men.3

Put simply, women are potentially better for the long-term success of an advisor’s business. A challenge that advisors face is finding the right path to adapting their businesses to the manner in which women prefer to interact, from the way they speak in meetings to the solutions they offer.

However, building relationships with women investors takes time. If advisors don’t invest in relationships with their female client base starting today, they could be missing out on opportunities to grow their books of business and expose themselves to attrition risk.

Some differences between women and men investors

While it is easy to use the same approach for women and men, advisors who do so could put their businesses at a severe disadvantage. There are, in fact, key differences between women and men investors, and traditional service models have not evolved to reflect these differences.

“Women want to take the time to make informed decisions, so they tend to take a little bit longer during the process,” says Macintosh. “Advisors need to understand that a pitch or new idea will not be a quick ‘one and done’ the way it might be with a male investor. Women tend to be much more iterative.” Often, women look for more information sharing before they are ready to make decisions.

Many women experience different life stages than men. For example, women often leave their jobs for a number of years to raise their families. In Canada, the average is a 12-year absence.4 Widowhood is also another life stage that, however uncomfortable, must be planned for as not only do women live longer than men – with an average lifespan of 83, versus 79 for men – they are typically younger than their spouses, potentially adding more years to widowhood.5

A few more telling stats: Women are expected to control 50% of the financial wealth in Canada by 2026.6 In the next 10 years, women will influence $3 trillion in wealth.7 Research shows that, on average, Canadian women are significantly more conscientious than men.8 Despite this distinctive advantage, women are generally less confident with financial matters – only 31% of women consider themselves financially knowledgeable.9 Bridging this gap for women – between controlling wealth yet lacking the confidence to do so well, however ungrounded that belief may be – might be one of the most important challenges that advisors face.

Digging deeper into the mindset of women investors

How can the differences between female and male investors impact an advisor’s business? Women investors can provide tremendous opportunities if approached with empathy and expertise, and a significant risk if ignored, as they may look for a different advisor who suits their needs. Advisors who have not done so already need to rethink their approach.

“Women tend to value social harmony more than asking questions,” says Macintosh. “If an advisor is feeding information across the table as opposed to checking in and asking questions, their female clients may be taking in that information but they may not feel comfortable with the potential outcomes.”

Women are goals-based investors who tend to be risk-aware rather than risk-averse. They may focus on achieving financial security, and not solely focus on the financial outcomes of a particular investment.10 Building on this insight, women are more likely to consider the rate of return of an investment, as well as its potential positive environmental, social and governance impact. Advisors must consider this tilt toward a rounded investment approach.

What can advisors do?

Macintosh outlines a three-step process that advisors can work through to help improve their current relationships and prospecting results with women investors. Advisors can assess their business, create a plan and then execute on it.

“Advisors can start with their own book before thinking about prospecting by leveraging their current relationships,” says Macintosh. “Segmenting their existing book of business and assessing how they are currently meeting the needs of their female clients is the next step. From there, advisors can develop a deeper understanding of what is important to their female clients, as this will obviously not be the same for everyone.”

With a deeper understanding of their female clients and a solid plan in place, advisors can recommend investment solutions that align with their female clients’ personal, professional and financial goals. Think socially responsible investments, managed solutions and other options that can meet a woman’s desire for social good and financial stability.

Ultimately, women could potentially hold the key to the long-term success of advisors’ businesses. Luckily, they are also seeking the empathic,11 holistic,12 informed and education-focused advice that advisors can provide. Advisors need to adapt their approach to women investors. By doing so, these advisors will help over half the population in Canada, while also helping to grow their business.

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1 Ernst & Young: Harnessing the power of women investors in wealth management: A look at the North American market.

2 Strategy Marketing: Financial advisors are failing women: What female clients really want and how to change the dialogue, 2015, Paulette Filion and Judy Paradi.

3 Heather R. Ettinger and Eileen M. O’Connor, “Women of Wealth: Why does the financial services industry still not hear them?” Family Wealth Advisors Council, 2012.

4 Family Caregiver Alliance, Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures, updated 2015.

5 Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 102-0512 and Catalogue no. 84-537-XIE. Last modified: 2012-05-31.

6 Investor Economics Household Balance Sheet Report, 2017, page 113.

7 2015 Household Balance Sheet Report. Investor Economics 2015.

8 TD Wealth; Behavioural Finance Report, 2018.

9 Statistics Canada: Gender differences in the financial knowledge of Canadians. March 2016, Marie Drolet.

10 Strategy Marketing: Financial advisors are failing women: What female clients really want and how to change the dialogue, 2015, Paulette Filion and Judy Paradi.

11 StrategyMarketing.ca – Why women leave their financial advisors: and how to prevent it, 2014.

12 Heather R. Ettinger and Eileen M. O’Connor, “Women of Wealth: Why does the financial services industry still not hear them?” Family Wealth Advisors Council, 2012.

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The information contained herein has been provided by TD Asset Management Inc. and is for information purposes only. The information has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax, or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual’s objectives and risk tolerance. TD Asset Management Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank.® The TD logo and other trade-marks are the property of The Toronto-Dominion Bank.