Kim North: Advising Venusians and Martians

Kim North

While watching the Williams sisters advance to the final stages of Wimbledon, I caught up with the latest financial news. An article caught my eye about an advisory firm being launched in Nottingham called Cockburn Lucas for Women. I wonder what the odds are for Cockburn Lucas to be successful in attracting female clients?

The odds we do know is that Hilary Clinton is 1/3 favourite to be the next American president, and Theresa May is the new Prime Minister. This marked improvement in female equality pleases me.

In the past, Fiona Price and Partners positioned itself as female-only advisers for females and grew to over 20 IFAs. My own firm was run by two women but we never marketed it for females only. Why? Well, for the vast majority of cases, male and female financial planning is the same. That said, we know there are gender specific buying traits that need to be borne in mind when selling to each gender.

As John Gray wrote in his famous self-help book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, when faced with the stress of having to make an important decision, a woman needs the attention, listening, understanding and reassurance of those around her, while a male will retreat to his “man cave”.

From experience, I know women take longer to make a decision to buy. There may be three or more factfinding and recommendation meetings before a financial plan for a female is put in place, which is time-intensive. The quid pro quo is that women are more likely to refer onto others if they favour a product or brand. In fact, women are seven times more likely to refer a good financial adviser’s services than a male. From an investment planning view, females are generally happier than men leaving their savings in cash.

On the other hand, I have had male IFA clients wanting to double their money in five years and sign the applications there and then after just one meeting. Males tend to be more adventurous in investment outlook and say they worry less about returns.

Interestingly, I found that high-net-worth, younger females preferred male advisers to myself in our IFA firm. When asked why, they would reply with something similar to “I want a relationship with my financial adviser for years to come” or “men are more to the point”. I had no comeback to these comments as I agree these issues form the basis of the gender differences in buying.

One of our biggest client groups that refused to see male advisers was recently divorced females. If I may share a useful tip: be prepared to listen and sympathise, stay up to date with pension legislation and have a box of tissues handy. There is a huge female planning opportunity in this area, with 42 per cent of marriages ending in divorce.

The last time we had a British female Wimbledon champion was in 1977. Let’s hope we get a new one soon – and one who is paid the same as Andy Murray set for set.

Kim North is managing director at Technology and Technical