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Engaging Women: Adapting to Opportunity

Engaging female clients requires time, effort and a commitment by you and your entire practice to ultimately generate results. In my last article, we discussed five key differences in how men and women communicate, relate interpersonally, learn, are hardwired, and view wealth. Recognizing these differences is important to effectively capitalize on the opportunity to focus on female clients.

The reality is that you may have to break some long-standing habits. In this article, I’ll introduce the first step of a comprehensive three-step process you may want to consider to help you identify and implement the right solutions and approach to your business: determining your at-risk assets.

Step 1: Determining Your At-Risk Assets

Determining your at-risk assets is an important first exercise because it can help you better understand total assets and specific client relationships that could be at risk. In addition, it can help you see the differences between how men and women think and communicate.

Review your book of business by each female client

To begin, list out each female client name in your book of business, along with her status: married, same-sex couple, widowed/divorced, single. Be sure to include the female spouses of your male clients in this analysis.  Next, you’ll want to determine if the female client is fully engaged in the relationship with you by considering the following questions.

For Married Couples

  1. Do both the husband and wife attend your meetings and jointly participate in important conference calls?
  2. Does the wife ask meaningful questions in your discussions with the couple?
  3. Do you have an equally strong rapport with the wife as you do the husband?

For Unmarried Female Clients

  1. Do they contribute ideas and insights to the planning process?
  2. Do they ask insightful questions during meetings?
  3. Do they readily respond to your requests to speak or meet?
  4. Do you have a strong rapport with them?
  5. Do they readily share information with you?

If your answer is “yes” to these questions, then these women may be considered engaged. If the answer is “no,” then the assets tied to this relationship may be at risk. For each client where you scored more “no” answers than “yes” answers, identify the assets under management associated to that client.
When your assessment is complete for each individual client, tally up your total female client at-risk assets.   Next, divide total married client assets at-risk by your total practice assets to get the percentage of your total book that is potentially exposed.  You should also add up your at-risk assets for each type of marital status (i.e., married, widowed/divorced,).  You may be surprised by the extent to which you have assets under management at risk, and by the types of clients (e.g., single, divorced/widowed) that comprise the assets at risk.

Look for trends in your findings

Using the results of the analysis you just completed, identify your strengths or areas for improvement when working with women and make a note of them. By reviewing the assets at-risk per category (e.g., married, single), you should be able to prioritize your efforts to better engage the clients that need the most attention.

Then, dig deeper to see if you can spot some common patterns within certain situations. For example, do you tend to do a good job of engaging female clients who are married?  If so, what are you doing with those types of clients that you might not be doing with others?  From here, you may want to candidly assess the extent to which you are implementing best practices in working with female clients. Your assessment can help reveal areas of strength as well as ways that you may want to further enhance your approach.

At Fidelity, we provide our advisors with a series of worksheets that provide the ability to assess their skills against an extensive listing of best practices that cover the broad categories of financial planning, client meetings and communication, business development and marketing, and practice structure and facilities. I’ll offer up a few best practice statements under each category as examples for you to consider as you get started:

Financial Planning:

  • I make an equal effort to develop a broad and deep understanding of the financial situation and concerns of my female clients, even when they are part of a couple.
  • I help married couples prepare for financial decisions in the event of the loss of a spouse or divorce.

Client Meetings and Communication

  • I am successful in getting both the husband and wife to meet with me in person.
  • I include both the husband and wife in all correspondence.

Business Development and Marketing

  • I include articles on topics that appeal to women in our monthly newsletter.
  • I include both the husband and wife in all my prospecting activities.

Practice Structure and Facilities

  • I have both male and female advisors working in my practice.
  • I conduct client meetings in a conversational setting, rather than in a large conference room.

Again, the goal of this exercise is to honestly rate your own skills against best practices. There are some things that you may find you do exceptionally well, others where you need to hone existing skills or add a competency, and still others that may not fit your vision for your practice. Ideally, this should be a practice-wide activity so that you can share your results and work collectively toward improvement.
Laura Kogen is vice president within the Practice Management & Consulting organization of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services (IWS)  a Fidelity Investments company and a leading provider of trading, custody and brokerage services to registered investment advisors, trust institutions and third party administrators. 

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