* More female clients, more female advisers
* Women live longer, face disruption, inherit more wealth
* Advisers must shift communication style, focus on planning
By Andrea Hopkins
TORONTO, Feb 8 Canadian financial adviser
Frances Summerhill has always felt a special connection with
female clients, but her focus on serving women is about more
than just rapport: she sees growth opportunities in their
"More women are starting businesses than men right now, more
are graduating from university ... and there will be a wealth
transfer as women outlive their spouses. So women are going to
be in control of a lot of money," said Summerhill, a veteran
financial planner at Scotia Capital Inc in Sudbury,
Ontario, 400 km north of Toronto.
While many women have long voiced dissatisfaction with the
service they receive in a male-dominated financial industry, a
shift in household decision-making and an aging population mean
they are the fastest-growing market for financial advisers.
A 2012 study by Bank of Montreal's Nesbitt Burns
full-service brokerage found 82 percent of Canadian women are
either the primary decision-maker of have equal responsibility
for household financial decisions.
Only 30 percent felt the financial services industry is
serving them well, and one third said they believed they have
different wealth management needs than men and should get
"Women represent an incredible growth opportunity and
business development opportunity, so advisers ignore that market
at their peril," said Susan Misner, who co-founded
goldengirlsfinance.com and co-authored the book "It's Your
Money, Honey: A Girl's Guide to Saving, Investing and Building
Wealth at Every Age and Life Stage", in 2012.
Misner, a 20-year veteran of the wealth management industry,
said financial advisers long focused on the male client, even
when talking to a couple, believing women were less interested.
"That's why statistics show that upon the death of a spouse,
80 percent of women will switch advisers," Misner said.
While the bulk of financial advisers are still men, the
industry is changing as more female clients arrive.
Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, said
just 25 percent of its overall membership is female. But 38
percent of members who joined in 2012 were women and 38 percent
of new advisers, in the industry less than five years, were
Winnipeg financial adviser Arlene Marsh has been in and out
of the financial planning industry for 22 years, focusing on
women clients. She said female investors can be more
risk-averse, but they value a relationship and are eager to be
"You can't use the quick-sell method with women, they have
to trust and respect you," Marsh said. "Take some time to do
some education. But women are longer-term thinkers, and easier
to manage as clients because they look at the big picture.
"They are not the type to be in and out of the market,
looking for the next best deal. They are looking for long-term
solutions and if you can keep them on track they are exceptional
Scotiabank's Summerhill agrees. She said advisers should
focus on strong planning and goal-setting and spend less time
discussing returns and product sales.
But advising is about substance as well as style, because
women face different financial obstacles, Summerhill said.
Women live longer than men, but mostly spend fewer years in
the workforce. Their income can be interrupted as they care for
family, and they tend to retire younger than men. They also tend
to head more single-parent families than men.
"All of this means their financial plan needs to be
approached differently," said Summerhill, noting that women
often need to fund a longer retirement on less money.
With the obvious appetite for financial planning for women,
advisers looking to build their business may ask: Can a man get
traction as an expert in financial planning for women?
Absolutely, said Tom Venner, a financial adviser in Dundas,
Ontario, southwest of Toronto. Venner, who became an adviser six
years ago after a long career in medical research, said a lot of
his early clients were single women and it became a specialty.
"I quickly began to see that there is a difference in that
particular clientele, how you approach them, what they respond
to better, what they expect from me."
While he doesn't recommend advisers focus solely on female
clients, he said advisers should know how to serve women,
particularly the need for extra retirement income and their
vulnerability to the financial ravages of divorce.
"I'm here to provide advice for anybody, but I know that
women might take a different approach to investing," he said.
"They understand security ... more than just gains and
losses. The appreciate protection on the risk side. It's just a
different language that you have to use."