Does Gender Impact the Selection of a Financial Advisor?

Wealth strategies expert Matt Sommer analyzes the results of a proprietary survey on the role of gender in the financial advisor selection process.

Earlier this year, Janus Henderson Investors undertook a research project to answer two important and interrelated questions:

  1. Do conscious and/or subconscious beliefs about gender play a role in the financial advisor selection process?
  2. To the extent gender bias may exist, is it more evident among men or women?

An online survey was developed and responses were received from 1,011 U.S. households, ranging in age from 25 to 80, were evenly split by gender, with investable assets greater than $250,000 (excluding the primary residence) and either currently work with a financial advisor or are likely to seek one out in the next two years.

The survey asked respondents to review two advisor profiles and select one which they would more likely work with. One advisor was investment-centric, the other was financial planning-centric. Half the respondents were introduced to Paul, the investment advisor, or to Barbara, the financial planner. The other half of respondents were introduced to the same advisor profiles only Paul was the financial planner and Barbara was the investment advisor.

The results showed no evidence of gender bias. Among the entire sample, 48% selected a male advisor and 52% selected a female advisor. Among male respondents only, 50% selected a male advisor and 50% selected a female advisor, and among female respondents only, 47% selected a male advisor and 53% selected a female advisor. As these results are not statistically significant, our research indicated that male investors do not prefer male advisors nor do female investors prefer female advisors.

Here are five interesting findings from the research:

  • The attributes investors associated with an investment advisor were vastly different than the attributes investors associated with a financial planner. For example, the traits confident, academic and analytical were associated with an investment advisor, while collaborative, empathetic and friendly were associated with a financial planner.
  • The advisors’ gender played no role in associated attributes for both investment advisors and financial planners. The top attributes associated with male investment advisors were nearly identical to the top attributes for female investment advisors. Similar results were found for male and female financial planners.
  • When asked about the ideal advisor, both male and female investors named the same top five attributes – rigorous, collaborative, hardworking, easy to talk to/good listener and analytical.
  • Female respondents strongly preferred a financial planner over an investment advisor. Interestingly, male respondents seemed indifferent towards practice type.
  • While we found no evidence of gender bias, there did appear to be a strong preference for gender diversity: 65% of our sample selected that they preferred an advisor team with a mix of male and female leadership.

Based on this research, we believe there are three primary takeaways for financial advisors to consider:

  • Advisors who have been narrowing their marketing efforts to target same-gender prospects might wish to broaden their outreach.
  • It is important for advisors to deliver the most desired attributes investors are seeking regardless of practice type.
  • Investment-centric practices may wish to add financial planning capabilities to attract female clients.
  • For advisors that offer investment and financial planning services, teams might consider assessing both individual member and collective skill-sets to ensure the attributes most highly sought after by investors are reflected in their client engagement model.