Some estimates show that women will control as much as two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030. But are financial professionals prepared to engage and retain these female investors as clients – especially in a virtual setting? Associate Retirement Director Marquette Payton shares best practices for conducting virtual meetings that exceed clients’ expectations.

As we near the end of Women’s History Month, it’s a good time to look back and appreciate the strides women have made over the last century.

Just 100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to wear pants, vote or serve on a jury. Today, women control 51% of American personal wealth and are expected to control as much as two-thirds by 2030.1,2 Couple this with the fact that women live longer than men, divorces in the age group of 55+ are on the rise,3 and 90% of women will be solely responsible for managing the long-term financial planning at some point in their lives,4 and it’s clear that successfully engaging with female investors will be an important part of building your practice over the next decade and beyond.

However, there is evidence that the industry is not succeeding in meeting women’s needs. A survey of more than 12,000 women from 21 countries conducted by Boston Consulting Group revealed that women are more dissatisfied with financial services than any other industry; in the investment arena, 73% said they were dissatisfied with the level of service they received and willing to switch providers as a result.5

If that statistic isn’t enough to make you question the level of service you’re providing this key segment of your client base, consider the virtual world in which we find ourselves today, where it’s more challenging than ever to make meaningful connections. Then ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to create positive virtual experiences for your female clients?

Making Virtual Work for You – And Your Clients

Dr. Meghaan Lurtz, a researcher at the University of Maryland, has been thinking about this new paradigm of client engagement for the past year. While videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Teams have only recently become ubiquitous in our socially distanced world, they have been used extensively in the therapy world for years. Dr. Lurtz compiled some best practices that translate very well from the therapy world to financial services, and I will share those with you here.

But first, I think it’s important to mention that this virtual environment experience is particularly important when it comes to women. The World Economic Forum conducted a study to examine women’s Zoom experiences. The study found that almost half (45%) of the U.S. women business leaders surveyed in September of last year said it was difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings, while one-in-five women felt like they’d actually been ignored on such calls.6 Brigham Young University researchers say that even small changes to make sure women in virtual meetings can fully contribute and express their views can make all the difference.7

Janus Henderson conducted its own research in March 2020 that looked specifically at client communication during the pandemic. Our survey found that a surprisingly large number of respondents (42%) who use a financial professional claimed they had not been contacted during the market correction that took place at that time. But it’s the disparity between genders that was especially striking: 60% of female respondents said they had not heard from their financial professional during the March downturn compared to just 29% of male respondents.

Both Janus Henderson’s survey and the World Economic Forum study highlight the fact that effectively engaging female clients via virtual meetings takes some extra care and dedication. But given the stats outlined above, it will surely prove to be a worthwhile effort.

Considering the Advantages of Virtual Meetings

Before we get into Dr. Lurtz’s best practices, let’s consider some of the pros and cons of virtual meetings. While some dread the prospect of Zoom replacing in-person contact, for many clients, a video call is much easier than coming into an office. They don’t have to fight traffic, they don’t have to pay for parking, they don’t even have to change out of sweats and slippers! And if it’s a female client who perhaps has not participated in conversations with you in the past, a video call could be a more comfortable and less committing way for her to ease into that relationship.

From the financial professional’s perspective, virtual meetings translate into more frequent but less lengthy touchpoints. That’s positive because if a is off track, you don’t have to wait 12 months to find out and can instead identify those issues sooner rather than later. Virtual meetings also make it easier to bring in other experts such as CPAs, as well as the client’s other family members, as needed. Also, people who feel guilty about cancelling appointments may be less likely to cancel a Zoom meeting than an in-person office visit.

And then there’s the matter of referrals. A consulting firm called Red Zone Marketing found a correlation between touchpoints during the pandemic via virtual meetings and unprompted referrals (which are the best type of referral).8 This finding makes a lot of sense, because if it occurs to a client that she needs to introduce her friend or relative but she isn’t scheduled to meet with her financial professional for 10 months, she is likely to forget. But if she’s now having three or four meetings a year, then making those referrals is more likely to stay top of mind. And remember that women are great for your referral pipeline: One study found that women, on average, will make 26 referrals to their financial professionals over their lifetime, compared to 11 by the typical male client.9

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

With all of this as our backdrop, let’s take a look at Dr. Lurtz’s best practices.

  • Sell the value of video. What do you do when a client says, “Well, can’t we just do this over the phone?” If you have clients who shy away from videoconferencing, one way to work past that might be by saying, “I’d like to review your account, and doing a video call would allow us to pull it up and look at it together.” If a client simply isn’t tech-savvy, consider offering to give them a quick training course on how to install and use the software.
  • Combat Zoom fatigue. It’s important to acknowledge that “Zoom Fatigue” – where we start feeling fidgety and awkward after looking at our face and others’ on a screen for too long – is real. A good rule of thumb is that if your in-person meetings are normally an hour, you may want to shorten them to 30 minutes in Zoom.
  • Minimize distractions. Remember to turn off your email and other notifications so there are no distracting “dings” going on in the background, which could create the perception that you’re not engaged or not an actively listening – both of which female investors will notice. Virtual backgrounds can also be distracting, especially when you’re on a video call with someone you don’t know or it’s early in the relationship. If the client is looking at your virtual tropical beach, she might be wondering, “What’s going on back there that I can’t see?” Dr. Lurtz suggests using either a plain background or simply your actual workspace, taking care to ensure the lighting is good and there is minimal clutter in the space.
  • Amp up your engagement. Studies tell us that non-verbal cues are especially important to women, but these cues are harder to pick up on in a virtual setting. One way to get past this is to repeat back what you hear often to the client. You might even say, “This is a different way to communicate. To make sure I’m not missing anything, I’m going to repeat back what I’m hearing. Is that okay with you?”

In closing, I’ll leave you with this insight from the World Economic Forum survey we referenced above:

It’s not women who are broken; it’s society that needs to set up an environment where women can be heard and that trains people and creates systems that are supportive of women so they can speak up. This means the goal needs to be changing the environment in the room, actual or virtual, rather than women themselves – so that they are empowered and listened to.”

If you enjoyed this article, I’d encourage you to explore more of the resources – including our Women and Wealth program – available through our Knowledge Labs® group. Knowledge Labs provides timely insight and perspective, with programs designed to hone your skills and a team of accessible experts committed to helping you exceed expectations – in business and in life.

To learn more about our team’s capabilities, contact your Janus Henderson representative.

 

1,2Virginia Tech, “Women in Leadership and Philanthropy.” 2016.
3“The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.” American Express, 2014.
4“The Divorce Rate Is at a 40-Year Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older.” Wall Street Journal, June 2019.
5Cackowski, J. “Here’s how women can be financially independent.” CNBC, May 2019.
6“Women Want More in Financial Services.” Boston Consulting Group, 2009.
7“Why women don’t speak up on Zoom calls - and why that’s a problem.” World Economic Forum, January 2021.
“When Women Don’t Speak.” Brigham Young University Magazine, Spring 2020.
8Kitces.com, “#FASuccess Ep 203: Adapting Financial Advisor Marketing to The Pandemic By Sticking With What (Virtually) Works, With Maribeth Kuzmeski.” November 2020.
9InvestmentNews, “Female clients more likely than men to make referrals,” April 18, 2012.