By Renee Sylvester-Williams
Selena Woo, vice president of advisory services at Nicola Wealth Management Ltd. in Vancouver, is noticing a shift in how younger couples seek financial planning advice. Specifically, they’re turning more to women advisors.
“What we often see in the newer generation is that the husband wants their partner to be included in the decision-making process,” she says.
A combination of more women accelerating their careers and becoming entrepreneurs, women generally outliving their male partners, and the ongoing intergenerational wealth transfer is driving younger couples to have a different mindset about finances than previous generations, with women now taking a more active role, Ms. Woo says.
It’s no longer just the male client instigating and making most of the household financial decisions, and that’s where female financial advisors may have several advantages when working with couples.
For example, women may feel more comfortable speaking with female advisors about planning for significant life stages such as having children and going on maternity leave because they may feel the advisor has gone through it or can relate.
Stephanie Kotsopoulos, partner and financial security advisor at Basis Wealth Inc. in Toronto, says female clients often focus on life events such as buying their first home, affording children, and getting insurance.
“They’re the ones saying, ‘We need to get life insurance, we need to get disability [insurance],’” she says.
It’s typically because her clients are the ones who chose to take parental leave or they’ve gone through something similar with a family member, so they’re extremely motivated to have coverage, Ms. Kotsopoulos adds.
Shay Steacy, an advice-only financial planner at inBalance Financial Planning in Toronto, says both partners come to the table with their own financial planning concerns.
“Women tend to talk less about investments,” she says.
There are also ongoing barriers preventing women from feeling comfortable in the financial planning and investing space.
Ms. Woo says that there’s an understanding that men and women have different communication needs.
“Men are a bit more comfortable with industry jargon versus women, who may want more high-level or more detailed information,” she says. “I think, sometimes for women, they need to know everything before they make a financial decision.”
She says understanding that mindset and educating clients with empathy to understand financial information is an important part of working with couples.
Once women become more comfortable with a female advisor, they may also ask about investing more.
Ms. Kostopoulos says in her recent call with a couple in their late 20s, it was the female partner who wanted to know if they should contribute more to their registered retirement savings plan.
Using emotion, empathy to relate
While all three advisors say that emotion should be kept out of investing decisions, employing it can also be a benefit.
“Previously, we were taught to think of being really aggressive or assertive, and not to show your emotions in the industry,” Ms. Woo says. “But I think that’s starting to change.”
Clients want to build deeper connections and have relationships with their advisors in which the advisor is a trusted confidant who can manage and oversee all of their financial matters, she says.
Some of those emotional traits, such as empathy, may come more naturally to women.
“It’s the ability to show vulnerability, take accountability, make mistakes and say, ‘I’m sorry’ and share their own struggles and stories,” she says. “Women can relate to each other in that respect.”
Plus, there’s the “been there, done that” aspect. Ms. Kostopoulos is running her practice and homeschooling her kids. Her clients are looking for someone who can understand those constraints and give them good advice.
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