Unfortunately, this is an experience many thousands of women have to endure on a regular basis, according to a new study out this week which described the financial services sector as "aggressively masculine."
Women say they feel poorly treated by the financial services sector and as a result are more likely to leave their money in the bank than trust a financial adviser. That has to be not just wrong but a missed opportunity.
As much as I don't believe it's the full picture, I do suspect that women are often treated badly when it comes to financial advice despite the fact that women have never had so much financial 'power' in history.
Financial Planners are, in my experience, far better than most advisers, indeed I would go so far as to say many are exemplary when it comes to advising women. Few planners will see just the husband if a couple need advice, often insisting that the female partner attends any meeting too even if, "my husband deals with all the money." Quite rightly too.
However, I've been attending Financial Planning conferences for many years and little has changed. One I attended recently was at least 70% male. In contrast a recent Paraplanner conference was 70% female so perhaps things are changing although it seems to have taken the emergence of a new profession to drive change.
So does all this matter and what does the report say is wrong?
The study was carried out by respected research firm Kantar and the views of 30,000 women were sought. Overall women found the world of financial services “aggressively masculine” and said this factor deters them from seeking financial advice or buying financial products.
Kantar said that women often feel “diminished” when speaking to a financial adviser and viewed some male advisers and male mortgage brokers as “arrogant and untrustworthy.” In one case a male mortgage broker spoke only to the man when a husband and wife went to see him and the wife refused to let the sale go through. The report suggests that financial services needs to “adapt and evolve’ in order to engage better with female clients. One of the report's backers suggests one way to do this is to recruit more female financial advisers.
So a sexist attitude to female clients is not just neanderthal these days, it can also damage the bottom line.
The research showed, by the way, that 40% of women aged 30-45 were the ‘primary’ decision makers when it comes to the household finances. Ignoring this fact and the powerful influence women have in financial decision making is not just foolish it will ultimately lead to the demise of the financial advice sector if it doesn’t change. Female clients will simply go elsewhere or just do everything online.
It is worth noting that, according to the research, women often have different financial ‘motivating’ factors when seeking advice. They may well be more concerned about relationships and family issues than their male partners who may be more interested in products and prices. That’s not to diminish either side in this equation but it does highlight that female clients may need a different, more empathetic approach and that may not always be available. I wonder how many Financial Planning firms actively consider the different needs of male and female clients?
I don’t accept, by the way, that only women can advise women but perhaps a few male Financial Planners and financial advisers could do well to polish up their listening and empathetic skills and seek more information about family concerns from female clients? Just a thought.
My experience generally is that Financial Planners are often exemplary when it comes to dealing with female clients. Certainly the Planner Casebook studies in Financial Planning Today magazine show a caring and listening approach to often vulnerable female clients who may have recently been widowed, for example. This approach is evident whether the Casebook is written by a male or female planner.
Whether a less qualified adviser or mortgage broker acts in the same way is a moot point.
Financial Planners must not rest on their laurels though. The clients of the future will not be the clients of the past. More will be younger, more will be female and their finances may well be more complicated. They will have different priorities. A different approach is needed.
Spending a little time on focusing on the needs of female clients and ensuring they receive exactly the Financial Planning service they want and need, rather than something off the peg, could well pay dividends for Financial Planners who could benefit from differentiating themselves from a wider financial services sector which has, evidently, a long way to go.
• Young female Financial Planner Chloe Moran talks about the need to recruit more female Financial Planners. Read her views here: Chloe Moran: Time for a reboot on female Financial Planners?
Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with over 20 years of experience