Women are fast becoming one of the most important client segment for wealth management firms. Because of the importance of getting your value proposition targeting women right, this is the first in a series of blogs I will write on how to win with women. Watch this space if this topic interests you.

Since the beginning, the wealth management industry has been largely for men, by men. More recently, inroads have slowly been made, starting with seminars to “explain” investing to females and hiring female advisors. We are still, on the whole, only inching towards more insights on what actually matters to women.

Well, it’s time to pick up the pace! Male and female Millennials are challenging gender roles in marriage. More women remain single due to delaying or opting out of marriage, or divorce. And as Boomer women outlive their spouses, they are proving more than willing to move assets in different ways than they did when their spouse was driving financial decisions. Last, though most executive women will say that it feels like a snail’s pace, women’s earning power continues to rise.

Do not forget the endgame. Globally, women account for 40 percent of the workforce but hold only one percent of the wealth. Over time, wealth ownership by women will grow dramatically as the imbalance between workforce composition and asset ownership corrects. Career-minded women want a new breed of wealth management—communicative and efficient, interactive, with frequent touchpoints. Women sans careers will also increasingly be clients as non-working widows take over the family finances.

Diversity in advisor base helps with female clients. Advisors who have experience with the particular needs of career-minded women, female heads of household and transitioning widows becomes ever more important as female clients grow in number. But, while hiring more female advisors is a logical first step, it is far from a panacea or complete approach to welcoming women as a powerful client demographic.

Firms and advisors will need to create deep value propositions that resonate with sub-segments of women if they want to succeed moving forward. Beyond that, and more concretely, savvy wealth management should involve creating networks and communities around women. While we cannot make generalizations about the needs and preferences of over 50 percent of the world’s population, studies such as those I’ve cited do show that many women prefer a different approach to wealth management than the style many firms have traditionally offered. Build community and a network around several key female segments including single professionals, newly divorced, newly widowed and entrepreneurs.

Women want an advice-led approach, rather than just a flurry of information on products and performance. Advisors that lead with the impact of choices, on the individual and well as the family, will be better positioned. Empowered women want advisors to understand their “life pictures” and “financial journeys” rather than just their investments. Because most firms are still selling from a product stable rather than using an advice-led approach, a majority of surviving women are unsatisfied. Seven in 10 women using financial advisors considered dismissing them within the first three years of a spouse’s death. And career women, used to the rapid pace of business, will not long stand for an approach not tailored to their needs.

Creating non-intimidating ways for female clients to learn about a topic area in which they may not be well schooled, and to challenge a spouse’s perceptions as part of the planning process, is also essential. Females tend to want more discussion and feedback than historically provided—and are generally not afraid to admit what they do not know.

To find out more about considerations for your firm due to this demographic shift, view Wealth transfer: is your firm’s share walking out the door? You can also email me, Kendra Thompson. This is a topic near and dear to me. I’d be delighted to make the time to have a more in-depth conversation.

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