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The female investor market is growing. According to figures from the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs, women earning more than £100,000 a year made a total of £10.7bn from their investments in 2015–2016, compared to £3.9bn in 2011–2012.
For financial intermediaries, the opportunity to grow their client base is clear but tapping into this market requires a different approach to one they might take when advising male clients.
A recent study from EY, the Big Four accountancy firm, revealed that female investors expect much more from the client–adviser relationship than their male counterparts.
Of the 250 wealthy investors EY interviewed for its study, just under half of the women said they preferred face-to-face financial advice, compared to 28 per cent of men. Female investors’ top grievance was advisers’ lack of knowledge while men complained about high fees. And women were much less likely than men to review the performance of their investments on a daily or weekly basis – 27% versus almost 50%.
“Women view achieving their personal goals as more important than investment performance, so a deep understanding by the advisers of the personal goals and the priorities is vital to satisfying female clients,” says Gillian Lofts, Leader of UK Wealth and Asset Management at EY. “We believe women are looking for a lifetime financial coach who will work with them on their personal goals through their life events in a much more collaborative and consultative fashion than they’re currently receiving.”
The EY findings chime with the experiences Indre Butkeviciute has had with female investors throughout her career. After eight years at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, Indre left in 2013 to start her own venture. Lily Advisory helps women to become savvy investors through financial education.
She says women tend to be planners and savers, with a mind to the future. This means they often focus on longer-term investments and will spend time understanding the nature of the commitment they are about to make. Men, by comparison, have a much more short-term approach to investing and will make faster investment decisions, based on whether the product fits into their overall investment framework.
Women’s more considered approach does have unintended consequences, however. While not all long-term investments are lower risk – private equity, for example – more traditional long-term asset classes such as equities and bonds definitely offer less volatility and greater stability. When faced with the option of risk or stability, even across a spectrum of long-term investments, women tend to choose the latter, which generally delivers lower returns. And their desire to understand the ins and outs of an investment, which requires time, can mean they miss out on investment opportunities that need a quick response.
The upshot of this more cautious approach to investing is that women might fail to realise their full investment potential and, ultimately, that means less financial security for the future.
Why might these differences exist? First – although things are changing – on the whole, women still tend to take the lead on homemaking and raising children, which makes them more cautious about taking risks with money. This is especially the case when children are part of the equation; they are thinking about safeguarding wealth to put their children through education, help them to get onto the property ladder, and leave an inheritance behind for them.
Second, a general taboo about discussing money is more prevalent among women than men, says Indre. “Guys have no issue talking about money and they will share their investment ideas, whereas women just wouldn’t touch that topic at all,” she explains, adding that this could be down to lack of confidence or because the women might not be active investors.
Guys have no issue talking about money and they will share their investment ideas, whereas women just wouldn’t touch that topic at all.
Indre Butkeviciute, Wealth Coach & Business Mentor, Lily Advisory
Third is a failure in the provision of financial education across the board, from schools not teaching children the basics of how financial products, such as credit cards or mortgages, work to intermediaries failing to find out about a client’s degree of financial literacy and pitching the conversation accordingly.
Indre says: “Advisers don’t spend enough time explaining all the different aspects of investing and so a lot of the time what happens is that women will just say it’s actually not for me because they’re feeling too intimidated and they don’t want to ask questions because they don’t want to admit that they don’t know these things. It prevents them, to some extent, from taking advantage of investing their money.”
More than gender
Could there be more than gender at play here? Georgios Ercan, Head of Sales at Dolfin, thinks so. How a female investor acquires her wealth – through inheritance, divorce or entrepreneurial activity – will often dictate her investment approach.
Women tend to be very cautious with wealth received through divorce. “These clients are often not very savvy in terms of their investment knowledge,” says Georgios. “They work off trust and they’re very conservative when it comes to their risk profile. Their main concern is capital preservation for the longer term, to look after the family and their personal life. Their first instinct is to protect, rather than increase, their wealth.”
Their main concern is capital preservation for the longer term, to look after the family and their personal life.
Women who receive their wealth via inheritance also tend to be quite conservative. They may not have had much involvement with their parents’ financial affairs and will want to maintain the assets they have inherited. In some cases, a woman may have been trained for a leadership position in the family business and will know how to invest and grow her inheritance. “It very much depends on how the previous generation passes on knowledge and skills to the next generation,” Georgios says.
Finally, an increasing number of female investors are entrepreneurs who have generated their own wealth and could have a much higher risk appetite than that of a male investor. That said, Georgios stresses that risk appetite or risk tolerance is one thing, but risk ability is another. “It’s not about how tolerant a female investor is to risk; it’s also how able they are to take risk based on their balance sheet.”
Whatever the reasons behind women’s approach to investing, it’s clear that they increasingly have funds to invest and there is much that financial services organisations can do to help them achieve their investment potential.
The image of investment is stuck in an old-fashioned rut, but it needs to evolve because technology is making investment much more democratic. Indre believes organisations can make investing fun and interesting for women by ditching the jargon and complexity, making clear that they can start investing with as little as £10–£20 and offering them opportunities to invest in things they care about. For example, women are more inclined to invest in ethical funds because they want to know what is happening with their money.
The image of investment is stuck in an old-fashioned rut, but it needs to evolve because technology is making investment much more democratic
The emergence of websites such as vestpod.com, themoneygirl.co.uk and savvywoman.co.uk – all financial education platforms for women – are helping to grow the number of female investors. “Platforms like these are actually fantastic because what these guys do is create a safe space for women to gather and learn and ask questions and understand,” says Indre.
More established financial services firms can help here, too, by hosting events that are focused purely on educating women about specific topics such as ‘How to invest in funds’ or ‘What are cryptocurrencies?’
Women also need to be open minded about investing and not be scared to ask for help, says Indre. We should put taboos about finance to one side and “really start talking about it with our friends, peers and colleagues and not be afraid to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand, can you explain this to me?’ When you start talking about these things you actually realise that colleagues and friends are having the same experience, so you can support each other.”
Awareness of the general differences in how women and men approach investing is certainly useful for intermediaries who want to tap into the growing female investor market. But Georgios stresses that each investor, female or male, should be treated as an individual. “Our role here is as advisers. We need to make sure that we understand each client’s circumstances, emotionally engage with them, understand how they think and what’s important for them because that is what will help you build trust with your client.”