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Why brokers need to treat women differently

by: Steve Casey
  • 14/11/2011
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Why brokers need to treat women differently
Friends Life head of intermediary marketing and proposition development Steve Casey explains why now, more than ever, brokers need to offer men and women different kinds of advice.

Women are taking more control of their investments and have a savvier attitude to personal finances than ever before, according to a report on working women that Friends Life published earlier this year.

In fact, working women under the age of 30 are striding ahead of men of the same age when it comes to managing their finances.

This financial astuteness may be a product of the recession or simply a function of changes in society, but it could pave the way for a more financially clued-up younger generation.

According to Working Women, the latest chapter in the Friends Life Visions of Britain 2020 series, 61% of working women under 30 claim that financial independence benefits their relationship.

To me, this illustrates the new wave of perspicacious women who no longer feel the need to run all financial decisions past their partners, and this is likely to have implications for advisers in terms of how they deal with their clients.

What do brokers need to consider in light of these findings?

Offering men and women individual advice as opposed to treating them solely as a couple is a practice that is probably more relevant now than it ever has been in the past.

Nowadays women are taking greater responsibility for their finances – some would argue even more so than their male counterparts.

The recent research that underpinned the Visions of Britain work revealed that girls have a more realistic view of the impact that university will have on their personal finances than boys.

As well as being less optimistic about their ability to afford undergraduate life and subsequently to clear their student debts quickly, girls are also more resigned to funding their studies with paid jobs and taking unpaid internships as a route into a career.

Boys, on the other hand, had an altogether rosier (and arguably more naïve) outlook on student life.

With six in ten young women saying that being financially independent makes their relationship better, it proves that women are not only taking more responsibility for their finances, some are going further in actively keeping them separate from their partners.

Brokers who take societal changes, such as this, into consideration when advising potential clients are more likely to reap the rewards; more so than those who restrict themselves to only advising couples.

One group identified in the Working Women report was the ‘Savvy Sisters’: working women in their 30s with aspirations for career growth and financial independence.

Of this group, just over 5% own their own home while living with their partner, effectively acting as landlord to their partner.

This has undoubtedly had an impact on the housing market and illustrates that women now need as much financial protection as their male counterparts have historically had.

With this in mind, it is easy to see how rapidly the market has changed.

Brokers hoping to boost sales in these economically trying times are increasingly targeting male and female clients separately, and a number of female only adviser firms are also cropping up.

One school of thought subscribes to the belief that different techniques need to be employed depending on the gender of a client, on the grounds that each prefers to have things delivered in a slightly different manner.

On the whole women prefer to build relationships whereas men are more likely to view the sorting out of their finances as a purely transactional process. These are important differences for advisers to take into account.

Now, as ever, the focus ultimately needs to be on ensuring that everyone who needs protection has got the right level of protection.

With the cost of household bills skyrocketing and a lack of job security in an increasing number of households, there is a real risk of people opting not take out vital insurance on the grounds that it is one of life’s ‘luxuries’.

This is worrying, as in fact the one thing that is crucial in these tricky times is knowing that we are protected should the worst happen.

The Working Women report highlights a number of areas of concern for women today. Armed with the knowledge of where these pressure points are, advisers are in a better position to offer tailored advice both to men and women.

Everybody knows that it makes good business sense to move with the times; a number of advisers are now branching out and communicating with new and existing clients through Twitter, for example.

A realistic and practical attitude to societal changes is the best way of ensuring everyone benefits; from the adviser to the client.

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