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Women are more likely to leave an advisor from a lack of personal connection than from poor financial performance, one survey showed.Getty Images

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By 2028, Canadian women are on track to control $4-trillion in assets, almost doubling the $2.2-trillion they control today, according to a recent Sun Life Global Investments (SLGI) report. To suit their needs and keep their business, financial advisors need to know how these investors differ from their male counterparts.

For example, the Responsible Investment Association’s 2022 Investor Opinion Survey found that women are more likely than men to be attracted to firms and funds that boast strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

“Women are not only looking at the quest for higher returns. They want to make sure they’re invested in companies that integrate ESG factors into their policies and decisions, and are seeking ESG accountability,” says Solène Hanquier, senior director and practice leader, responsible investing, at National Bank Investments Inc. in Montreal.

In particular, studies show that women are drawn to ESG themes such as action on climate change and fair wages for workers. Women also want to see themselves reflected in Canada’s boardrooms and see their shareholder voting power as a way to make that happen, Ms. Hanquier adds. She calls this part of a trend of “financial feminism.”

Seeking investments that promote sustainability and make a positive impact on the world isn’t the only priority. As women gain more private wealth and financial literacy around investing, they also value guidance highly, says Angela D’Angelo, vice-president, training and client experience, at National Bank of Canada in Montreal.

“The primary concern advisors have today is getting women more engaged in making financial decisions,” says Ms. D’Angelo, who’s in charge of growing the client segment of women investors and professional women at the bank.

It’s not just a matter of confidence but of being on the same page. Many women haven’t felt served by their advisor. A report from New York Life Investments, a global asset firm, noted that 70 per cent of women with investible household assets of about $250,000 have an advisor. But 38 per cent of those women are less than satisfied with them, and 67 per cent say they will change advisors as a result of a lack of personal connection.

In addition, the aforementioned SLGI report found that 80 per cent of widows switched advisors within a year of their husband’s death.

“So many women leave what they call, ‘their husband’s advisor’ if there’s no connection [to the advisor],” says Julie Petrera, senior strategist for client needs at Edward Jones Canada in Toronto. “It’s about not only understanding what’s important to them but making sure they feel comfortable and feel like they’re part of the relationship from the start.”

Women aren’t a niche market and shouldn’t be looked at as such, Ms. Petrera notes: “How we work with women clients, I would suggest, is no different than how we work with all clients. We want to fully understand who they are, what’s important to them and what their goals are.”

She says women can want more detailed conversations about what their money can bring them and their families, beyond the numbers or the returns.

“They’re more interested in what does this money represent? What does this money enable me to do? Who does this money enable me to support? What freedom, flexibility or opportunity do these investments get me?” Ms. Petrera says.

As women investors rise in numbers and wield more assets, their advisors’ fundamental role remains to discover what’s important to them and what drives their decisions, agrees Sybil Verch, executive vice president and head of private client solutions at Raymond James Ltd. in Victoria. That also adds to a more sustainable advisor-client relationship.

“When it comes to investing, there’s no secret sauce for a gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religious group or anything,” Ms. Verch says. “Investing should be personal and customized for the investor. That’s a really important message to state.”

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