Advisors, and the industry generally, need to change their tone so as to make female clients feel more comfortable with investing and to build stronger client relationships, according to Barbara Stewart, partner and portfolio manager with Cumberland Private Wealth.

“We have to change how we talk as an industry,” said Stewart, who spoke to the CFA Society Toronto on Wednesday. “If you make [investing] meaningful for women by telling them stories…women become the most loyal [clients].”

Over the past four years, Stewart has conducted research on the financial attitudes and behaviour of women around the world through surveys and interviews. Stewart has released three white papers on the topic and will publish a fourth on March 8th (International Women’s Day).

Women want to invest in causes and concerns that are important to them, says Stewart, and to feel that they are making a difference. As such, client communications and even routine paperwork should reflect their values.

For instance, instead of using a lot of technical jargon when speaking to female clients in meetings, tell a story about investing and share real life examples, said Stewart. As well, link your investment recommendations to a client’s values to make them more meaningful.

Furthermore, Stewart points to banks and wealth management firms in Nordic countries that include client conversations in investment policy statements. Putting details about a client’s life, family and values in one document will also help keep those points at the top of an advisor’s mind. “Whenever you have a quarterly meeting,” she says, “you’re coming right back to what’s meaningful for the client.”

Stewart also thinks the industry more broadly needs to change how it speaks with female clients who seek professional advice or who do their own research. Sometimes analyst reports can be opaque to readers, even to industry members, she says, and changing that could help women feel more confident as investors.

Says Stewart: “What if [the reports] actually told you a story of what a company did?”

Similarly, Stewart says investment statements would be a little more user-friendly if they presented information in a more interesting and understandable format.