Looking Beyond The Dress - Women and wealth management

Private banks have woken up to the importance of female clients. Women owned nearly one third of global wealth in 2016, according to the Boston Consulting Group, and that share is growing fast. Yet the same consultancy estimates that 65% of women switch wealth managers because they are dissatisfied with the service offered1. In fact, successive studies have found that women are more dissatisfied with the financial services industry than any other2

Perhaps wealth managers should offer more attractive solutions. There can, for instance, be some very obvious differences in men’s and women’s lives: women tend to live longer than men, and many interrupt their careers to have children, or forego high-earning jobs to prioritise childcare. There is also a body of evidence to suggest that women may invest differently. Berkley’s Hass School of Business professor Terrance Odean studied investment patterns for men and women over a six-year period in the 1990s, and found that men traded 45% more than women, resulting in average returns that were a percentage point lower3. A separate study from Barclays Capital and Ledbury Research concluded that women were more likely to be successful investors because they adopted a longer-term strategy4.

Evidence also suggests that women may also be more inclined to seek investments that are aligned with their values, prioritising ethical investing and philanthropy. Almost three-quarters of US high net-worth women polled in a recent survey  said they considered social, political or environmental impacts when deciding whether to make an investment. The figures for men were less than 50%. And crucially, women may lack confidence in financial matters - even when their level of expertise is on a par with that of men. On average, female respondents in a 2013 Barclays survey believed they had substantially lower financial expertise than men, even when this wasn’t the case6.

So how are our bankers responding to these trends, and to the needs of our female clients?


Joëlle Pacteau, responsible for French and Belgian markets, Francophone business

“The idea of approaching female clients differently is potentially a controversial one. Of course, women shouldn’t be stereotyped, nor do they want a dumbed-down version of our offering; they want the same services and products as men. But I do believe there are ways we can serve them better.

I think there are a few myths about female clients perpetuated in our industry. The first is that female clients want female relationship managers: in my experience this isn’t the case. Like every client, they want someone who listens to them, someone who offers valuable advice, and someone who works hard on their behalf. Chromosomes don’t come into it. The second myth is that women are risk-averse when investing. I meet female clients across the risk spectrum. I think the point here is that women really want to understand the risk profiles of their investments - in depth, and as they relate to their goals in life and their family’s financial position. And the third myth is that women are financially illiterate. This is patently untrue. Women tend to ask lots of questions, which they often do in order to feel confident in their investments. I think it’s sometimes a lack of confidence that can prevent women from demonstrating their financial literacy, and from putting their views across. Or when it comes to our female entrepreneurs, they are experts in their own particular industry, but often not in wealth management. The flipside of this is that once these clients do engage with us and understand all the services we offer, they find we have multiple ways in which we can help them in the short, medium and long-term. This could be anything from wealth and succession planning, to family governance, philanthropy or impact investing.”


Dr Maximilian Martin, global head of philanthropy, Lombard Odier

Our services are wholly tailored to individuals, to fit their personal requirements and philanthropic ambitions. Women often enquire about projects to empower other women and girls across the world – an area where we know there is still much work to do. This means among other things providing access for women to the industries of the future (eg IT and coding), as well as countering gender-based violence and poor sexual education. I would highlight two great examples in this area: the Womanity Foundation and the Maverick Collective, both focused on female education and empowerment in developing countries. Among many other projects, the former runs web development courses for girls in Afghanistan and supports female social entrepreneurs in India and Brazil; the latter organises maternal health support and programmes to empower teenage mothers (and fathers), in countries as diverse as Uganda, El Salvador, India and Senegal.

Increasingly, women are rising as leaders in philanthropy. In my own team, women and men are more or less equally represented. I have read research suggesting that women may be more empathetic than men7, or more religious8, which might incline them more towards philanthropy, other things being equal. Whether or not this is true, we certainly expect our female philanthropic client base to grow in coming years, as women’s share of global wealth rises. Senior positions in some wealthy family foundations in emerging markets are often held by women already, to create meaningful roles for them outside the family business. At Lombard Odier, we seek to deliver personalised philanthropic solutions for all our clients, regardless of their background, gender, race or culture.


Dominique Wohnlich, local managing director and head of private banking, Zurich

“In Zurich, we’ve focussed our approach to women on education and networking. We have had very positive feedback from female clients on this, and it’s meant that we’ve met some really fascinating and inspirational women. We organise four to five ‘women’s roundtable’ events per year, usually on some aspect of investing: from portfolio construction to private equity and hedge funds, but also on topics like succession or budgeting for the future. We have a very fruitful partnership with local women's network the 'Women's Circle,' with whom we have organised some very well-received events. Last year we also organised an intimate client breakfast with our former managing partner Anne-Marie de Weck. So we try and offer platforms that combine education and networking, and we find they have been a great success.

Another thing we recognise is that these clients are short of time. Many are trying to read emails while travelling, or juggling business and family commitments. We try and keep paperwork to a minimum and send clear, concise communications. We believe our role, as with all our clients, is to try and help make their lives easier.”


Aurélie Jaclot, senior relationship manager, London

“In London, I believe our Women’s Club initiative is really making a difference. We try and help busy women with multiple responsibilities and demands on their time to understand what we do, and how we can help them. One of the big areas where we can add value is through orchestrating multiple advisers, for instance in the legal and tax spheres, and providing the ‘missing link’ in the chain. We can accompany our clients to meetings with internal and external external experts and show them how all the aspects of their wealth management can work together harmoniously.

Another important aspect of our work is in education. We hold around eight events targeted at women a year, covering topics from wealth planning to legal, tax and investment themes, art, wine or real estate, sometimes partnering with a law firm or other specialist in their field. We also like to tap into existing women’s networks, to broaden the range of interesting individuals our clients could meet, and connections they could make. If you put all these services together, we find that we have a great way of reaching our female clients, of explaining our work to them, and in time earning their trust.


1Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Global Wealth Report 2016
2See for example ‘Women Want More (in Financial Services), BCG, 2010 and ‘Women of Wealth: Why Does The Financial Services Industry Still Not Hear Them?’, Family Wealth Advisors Council, 2012 
3‘Boys will be boys: gender, overconfidence and common stock investment’, Brad M Barber and Terrance Odeon, Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 2001
4Barclays Wealth ‘Understanding the Female Economy: The Role of Gender in Financial Decision Making and Succession Planning for the Next Generation’, in cooperation with Ledbury Research, 2011
5Bank of America US Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth Survey, 2016
6‘Unlocking the Female Economy’ Barclays, 2013, including a survey of more than 2,000 wealthy individuals.
7‘Are women more empathetic than men? A longitudinal study in adolescence,’ Vicenta Mestre, Paula Samper, Dolores Frias-Navarro and Ana Tur-Porcar, Spanish Journal of Psychology, May 2009
  The gender gap in religion around the world’ Pew Research Center, March 2016

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