Financial advisors should not consider women to be a niche market, but instead a core aspect of advisors’ businesses as females hold a significant and growing level of wealth in Canada, said Paulette Filion and Judy Paradi, partners with Strategy Marketing in Toronto, at a discussion at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management on Tuesday.

However, if advisors want to attract women investors, Filion and Paradi suggest many will have to change the way they conduct their business. Says Paradi: “[Advisors] serve women the way they serve men and women want a different experience.”

The conversation coincided with the launch of Strategy Marketing’s whitepaper, Financial advisors are failing women: what female clients really want and how to change the dialogue.

Filion and Paradi based their report on interviews conducted in mid-2015 with 74 women investors who have advisors. The report also includes various sources of third-party research.

The interviews the two partners conducted suggest that most women are not satisfied with their advisors, as only 30% stated they have a positive relationship with their financial professional.

The unhappy women investors reported that they feel disrespected by advisors who talk down to them and inundate them with financial jargon.

Advisors are not deliberately trying to be rude to women investors, Filion noted, but they are used to talking to their clients about investments in a way that appeals more to men, with emphasis being placed on the money.

Instead, women want to have a different type of conversation with their advisors. They want to understand how their returns can help them make important choices, such as buying a home or taking care of their children, said Paradi.

Married women often said in the interviews that their advisors would completely ignore them and target questions to their husbands instead.

That situation is problematic if an advisor is only asking the male client about retirement goals, said Filion, as it is likely the wife will outlive her husband and be the main benefactor of that retirement plan.

The level of attention that advisors tend to pay to male clients is also problematic because of the level of wealth that women currently hold, which will only grow, according to the research.

It is estimated that women hold one-third of financial assets, or $1.1 trillion, in Canada, according to Filion. And it is expected they will control at least 50% of assets within the next four to six years with some estimating that number could be as high as 67% of assets, she added.

The one-third of women who were happy with their advisors told Filion and Paradi that their advisors understood various facets of the women’s lives, including their goals, spending habits and professional lives. They even described their advisors as friends, said Filion.

“The use of the word ‘friend’ almost bolted me over because who normally describes their financial advisor as a friend?” Filion remarked. “But every single one of these women used that word. That’s the difference.”

Although an advisor cannot be friends with every client, the description alludes to the trust that is present between the advisor and the client, she explained.

Filion and Paradi also explained how happy women investors could affect an advisor’s practice. For example, if a woman trusts an advisor and understands her investments, she is less likely to leave the advisor than a male client during times of market volatility, when investments may decrease in value, said Paradi.

“Women are often talked about as ‘referral machines’ because women like to share. If you come across something that you like, women will tell their friends,” she explained.

See: Don’t ignore a great opportunity to grow your business

See: Ignore the invisible woman client at your peril

See: Slideshow: Do men and women clients really differ?