Wide gap still separates industry
practices, women’s expectations
by Rosi McMurray
Planning Director, UK Financial Services
Kantar TNS recently set out to determine if financial services organizations and their brands are valuing their women customers appropriately and whether women feel that they are valued customers. Combining a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies across Kantar, the study ultimately involved more than 650,000 women in the UK. We found that women and society have changed much faster than financial services organizations. Put another way, brands that learn a few specific insights have an enormous opportunity increase the number of women customers and gain substantial financial reward. Here are three important findings from the report and our conclusion.
1. Don’t confuse confidence with competence
Our first finding was that in striving for equality, the majority of financial services institutions failed to consider that the context of women’s lives is quite different from men’s. Their greater focus on putting their families before themselves and their need for validation and reassurance can make women appear indecisive and lacking in confidence whereas, conversely, they have frequently thought through the implications of big financial decisions more carefully than men.
This finding was very clear when we looked at mortgages. Women did worry more about the total cost, the repayments, and the upkeep of a property. And two-thirds of men, compared with less than half of women, found that the cost of buying a home was higher than they expected. In this situation, most men then borrowed more. This finding demonstrated that women may in fact be more competent, and men’s apparent confidence can be misleading. It’s important not to confuse competence and confidence to the detriment of women.
2. Build women’s trust
Women’s greater focus on the family frequently translates into risk aversion and this, together with their lower trust in financial services organizations, means that their responses to advertising may be different. Whereas in most categories women’s intuitive response is quicker, this is not the case in financial services advertising. Of the recent communications for leading UK financial services providers, only the Nationwide Building Society campaign, featuring two charming young sisters singing clever duets, achieved higher trust scores among women. In contrast, a competitor’s ad about an unresolved credit card fraud troubled women as it played to their worst fears.
The study found that women are more pre-occupied with everyday money management and men, as well as women, think that they are better at budgeting. However, when it comes to long-term financial decisions around investments and pensions, women’s confidence declines, and the investment industry attitudes and behaviors are exacerbating a difficult situation with troubling consequences. The world of investments is seen as a man’s world by 40 percent of survey respondents (and a higher proportion of men) compared to only 7 percent seeing it as a woman’s world. Only half of women compared to two-thirds of men felt engaged, and less than a third of women felt they had a good understanding compared to half of men. The consequence of these differences is that women are investing less, keeping a higher percentage of their portfolios in cash, and are consequently saving less for their retirement.
3. Empower women, don’t diminish them
In the qualitative phase of our work, we identified two further quite significant barriers to women investing more. First, women depicted investment advisers as condescending, self-interested, and “grabalicious,” and certainly not creating an encouraging environment or experience. Second, women viewed investment advertising as either talking to men or condescending, full of jargon and never reflective of the world of a 21st century independent woman. The exception was an ad for Nutmeg, the online investment advisor, showing a very down-to-earth, casually dressed woman with the headline, “Investment millionaires don’t look like they used to.” Both confident and less confident women could relate to this ad either because it represented who they are now or realistically could expect to become.
The majority of women are concerned that they are not adequately providing for their long-term financial well-being. Only a very small minority feel empowered to change this situation. And, disappointingly, most women have low expectations that today’s financial advisers have the understanding and empathy necessary to provide useful help.
The various disconnects identified in the study indicate that the majority of financial services organizations do not take account of the different context of women’s lives, consequently lack a core human insight and need to value their women customers more highly in order to achieve much greater mutual value.
A calculation from TGI decile analysis, identifying 10 levels of confidence and engagement, suggests that if the financial services industry could increase women’s level of engagement to just the level of the next decile, this could realize an additional £130 billion ($185 billion) for investing in the UK alone.
Principles for meeting
women’s financial needs
1. Get insider her head to understand her context
2. Step into her world; don’t make her step into yours
3. Take her seriously; it’s the least she deserves