Take Care Of Your Female Clients

A widow can end up with all the family assets yet none of the financial awareness – let’s stop that now

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Reviewed by: Susan Hill
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Edited by: Susan Hill

I will always remember reading the headline: “Widows Sack Their Financial Adviser”. At first I questioned it. Surely these women need an adviser? Upon closer inspection I realised it was saying that widows are sacking their husband’s adviser and finding one of their own.

If you have spent years building a relationship with your client, it is frankly commercial recklessness to lose that client if she becomes widowed.

Dealing With Dramatic Life Changes

Seventeen years ago, a widow was referred to me following her husband’s death in military service. They had been living in married quarters at the military base, and now, as well as dealing with her grief, she had to face the prospect of moving out of her home, saying goodbye to her circle of friends – and worrying about her financial situation.

What I took away from the experience of working with this client was that during a time of significant and perhaps dramatic change in someone’s life – whether you are widowed, divorced, bereaved or being made redundant – knowing you are financially secure is a lifeline. And also, having a trusted adviser can be part of that lifeline.

Male Partners Deal With The Finances

It’s common in a relationship that one person take care of the finances, and usually it’s the man (although in my own relationship, as you would expect, it’s not). Consequently, the other partner is neither party to decision making nor kept informed, so when life changes occur or drama ensues they don’t know “things”. Very important and life changing things. This includes where the will is kept, what the passwords are, what money does the client actually have left, and how much cash can they access right now.

The statistics show that women live longer than men and tend to be the younger person within their relationship, therefore they could well be the last survivor with the assets. We need to ensure women have been part of the financial planning process long before this stage.

It’s just not good enough to ask a woman to “sign here” once the recommendations have been made and the decisions have been taken. As advisers, we have a duty of care towards all of those we advise. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both people have to be involved in every step of the planning process: the data crunching can be numbingly boring and women often have family, non-paperwork based priorities.

But when it comes to the presentation of the recommendations: what we are proposing, why are we doing it, what happens next, what does it mean to you,  women must have an active role throughout.

Visual Learning

In my experience, women are more visual than men in the way they learn and understand. Men will happily number crunch, whereas I find graphs and pictures are useful to explain finance to my female clients, especially those who are building up their knowledge. You get to the same place of understanding but as an adviser you need to take two routes.

But prioritising contact and communication with the male client is embedded into the culture of financial planning. How often do adviser firms arrange golf days and send out invitations to corporate hospitality rugby matches as part of their client entertainment, and where is the invite for a champagne afternoon tea at Claridges?

Don’t Talk Down To Women

I have a natural empathy with lady clients. Of course you might say that it’s easy for me as a woman, but I suggest some male advisers need to up their game and include women in the decision making process. I’ve heard it so often from male advisers: “I’m good with the ladies”, but think about it: it’s because you flirt with them, make a fuss and make them smile, not because you empower them financially.

It seems an irony to me that women, particularly today’s older generation, who generally have lower pension incomes and fewer assets than their spouse or partner when they are both living, end up as the sole owner of the family assets when they are the surviving spouse or partner.

Take care of all your clients, regardless of gender, and take the time to maintain your relationship. Most important of all, don’t let your widows sack you.

 

Susan Hill is a chartered financial planner and founder of Susan Hill Financial Planning