Why is this still a conversation?

Recently, we were in a meeting with the AVP of marketing at a major financial organization. The reason we were invited to the meeting was to share our knowledge regarding women and finances. The conversation revolved around how we could help them provide meaningful content to advisors with regards to retaining and acquiring female clients.

There was no question in the executive’s mind that a lot of money was lost or left on the table, not because advisors were oblivious to the fact that women today represent a huge market, but rather because they simply had little idea how to reach out to them.

We discussed the disconnects between women and the financial community at length, that men and women view money and investing differently, that women look for connections with people etc., etc..– all of which came as no surprise to him.

But what really struck him were the stories we sited, real life examples from the many women we’d interviewed over the last two years. Stories of being ignored, dismissed, taken for granted. One woman, we told him, who’d lost her husband was informed by her advisor’s firm that the advisor did not have time to see her for a few months but that the office would be happy to send the necessary papers, to sign the account over, to her house — simply assuming that she would stay with the firm. Obviously the “account” was just that to them – an account worth so much – not a relationship. Her husband’s death was viewed as simply a “change of name” on the account.

The marketing executive was appalled. He understood women were not a “niche market” – they are 50% of the population, yet he agreed that the financial community has been slow to rethink how they do business and to recognize women as valuable clients. After a moment of silence he made an excellent observation and offered a very good question, “Why is this still a conversation?” – implicit in that question was, “after all these years.”

Why indeed?

It has “only” been 100 years since women even got the right to vote.Women weren’t designated as people until 1930.The law that equalized pay scales for men and women was not passed till 1960.AND — Women were not even entitled to open a bank account without their husband’s signature until 1964!

Progress has been made but at a glacial pace. However, in the last decade, as women became more liberated, more educated and more financially independent, they found their voice — and are finally demanding more. Unfortunately financial institutions, run mostly by men steeped in out-dated precepts of how business should be done are finding it hard to change (as are even some of the younger men who learned at their heels). My partner Paulette put it aptly when she said, it’s hard to turn a battleship around.

Women represent the best opportunity to need and want advice since the baby boom generation started investing and blasted the mutual funds industry into the big leagues. And, women aren’t aliens. They are smart, capable and very willing to forge strong relationships with advisors. They just want respect in return. That is not a lot to ask for!

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