By Liz Skinner
April 8, 2012 6:01 am ET
Financial advisory firms that have found success focusing on female clients share a few common marketing and hiring traits — as well as some other tactics — that keep women walking through their doors.
“If you are a financial adviser, you have to show a woman you care about more than just her investment account,” said Brittney Castro, a Los Angeles-based adviser for Perennial Financial Services LLC who works mostly with female clients. “You do that by hosting workshops, family day events and other things that fall outside the norm.”
The marketing approach of female-friendly firms typically centers on education, with advisers’ websites, blogs, videos and other materials meant to provide the financial knowledge many women lack.
Ms. Castro has written a blog, financiallywisewomen.org, for several years.
At first, she posted generic financial information, or ghostwritten content, because she didn’t think she had time to create it herself.
Quickly, though, she learned that off-the-shelf articles didn’t cut it with the entrepreneurs and other female professionals she targets. She now posts blogs and video clips regularly on issues that affect women’s financial lives.
And the issues that women consider important may be surprising.
According to a recent survey of 550 wealthy women by the Family Wealth Advisors Council, 54% of married women consider health a major perceived risk when it comes to thinking about their financial future. About 36% of the married women said they consider the death of their spouse to be a major risk.
Even more women worry about divorce, with 57% of the married participants saying divorce poses a significant risk to their financial future.
Social media is a great way to connect with women on these and other topics, but advisers have to be willing to share, Ms. Castro said.
She sometimes uses her own experiences as a model of what to do — or in some cases, what not to do.
In a recent post, Ms. Castro acknowledged: “I, myself, have made the mistake of believing that I needed a man to feel whole emotionally and/or financially secure.”
Making this type of personal connection with women through the blog even before meeting them is worth the considerable time it takes, Ms. Castro said, likening the experience to that of attending a networking event.
“People still want to know who you are, just as if you walked into a room, and that needs to come through with social media,” Ms. Castro said.
Lili Vasileff, another adviser focused on women, said branding has been important to her success, both through her website and with the networking and marketing she does for women’s church groups, therapists and support groups.
The website for her firm, Divorce and Money Matters LLC of Greenwich, Conn., is “not blatantly pink, but it’s soft,” she said. “It’s a professional look, but more artsy than you would see on other financial adviser websites,” Ms. Vasileff said.
Successful women-friendly advisers also cultivate a welcoming culture within their firms by recruiting and hiring people who relate to women well. Not surprisingly, this often results in an office full of estrogen.
“When I have posted and created jobs, they haven’t been gender-based, but the type of person who seems to understand the multitasking and extremely detail-oriented tasks that need to be done tends to be women,” Ms. Vasileff said.
She hires people who understand the importance of being responsive to clients’ calls and e-mails, and recognize the need that female clients have to know they have been heard.
Frank Astorino, an adviser in Fairfield, N.J., hires people who can provide “that extra level of care to clients,” and that has included both men and women.
Mr. Astorino believes he relates well to women because of the skills he honed growing up with four sisters.
“It’s hard to avoid the fact that women often don’t have the financial information and knowledge they need,” he said. “[But] they are not penalized for that with me.”
MAKING A CONNECTION
His practice began to shift toward working with women after he realized that his “most user-friendly clients” and those who came through referrals were all female.
His clients include widows from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
At least one trait of women makes them easier for Mr. Astorino to communicate with, he said.
“They are not competing with me,” he said. “Sometimes men want to be a step ahead of you, but women just want the truth and to know that you are looking after them.”
Most advisers who focus on female clients also use a comprehensive approach to financial planning. They help women consider how to turn their resources into the kind of life they want for themselves and their family, as opposed to focusing just on figures.
Much of the financial industry coverage is broadcast “in a man’s tone,” Ms. Castro said.
MSNBC, for instance, is very focused on numbers, when women typically care more about what events may mean for their future, she said.
“We want to make sure we can care for ourselves, our loved ones and our community,” Ms. Castro said.
In fact, about 70% of women in the Family Wealth Advisors Council survey said it’s critically important that their adviser spend significant time and effort upfront to understand their full life picture, not just their finances. Another 25% said it is somewhat important.
Ms. Vasileff describes women as seeking plans for long-term financial survival.
“Most women have an innate fear of being a bag lady,” she said. An adviser has to be willing to sit down with female clients and explain to them what they’ll need to ensure financial health and how to get there, Ms. Vasileff said.
In addition to having children to worry about, women often become the person responsible for taking care of aging parents, so planning for that also regularly becomes part of the discussion, she said.
Original article published in Invesment News (Issue April 9 – 13) – www.investmentnews.com