Women and men are different. Influenced by physiological and societal factors, women’s motivations, perspectives, priorities and communication styles are different than men’s.  For advisors to engage couples and female clients successfully, they need to be aware of these differences and adapt accordingly. What works for male clients, doesn’t necessarily work for women — and many women are no longer willing to take a back seat when it comes to their finances, or settle in a relationship with their advisor when they feel ignored or overlooked.

Here’s how you can get started to connect with and engage your female clients.

The opportunity is two fold

First, money is in motion. Women are the recipients of a disproportionate share of the approximately $1 trillion wealth transfer that is underway in Canada. Women generally live about 4 years longer than men.[1] In 2015, women accounted for 54.7% of seniors aged 65 or older and accounted for 88.4% of centenarians.[2]  If you’re working with couples, there’s a high likelihood that your primary relationship will eventually be with a female partner. This can be a problem for you and a risk to your business if your relationship is primarily with the husband. Engaging with the wives or female partners of these clients, and connecting in a way that is meaningful to them is crucial to retaining assets and growing your business.

Why? An estimated 80% of women leave their advisor within 18 months of becoming a widow.[3] [tweet this]  Often, this is because they don’t feel the advisor has taken the time to build a relationship with them.[4]

Second, women create, control and influence an enormous amount of wealth. In fact, by 2026, it’s estimated that women in Canada will control close to half of all accumulated financial wealth.[5] This, combined with the estimate that 90% of women will be the sole financial decision maker at some point in their lives,[6] makes it incredibly important for advisors to ensure they adapt their business practices and communication styles to meet the unique needs of their female clients.

The income earned and financial assets controlled by Canadian women is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years. Some factors contributing to this growth include:

  • Women have become more active in the workforce: 0% of women aged 25 to 54 years participated in the labour market in 2015, up from 21.6% in 1950.[7]
  • In the workforce, women are taking on greater professional responsibilities and there is an increase in female entrepreneurs.

Do women prefer to work with female advisors?

The majority of women don’t have a preference in the gender of their advisor: 93% don’t care whether their advisor is male or female.[8]

So what are women looking for when it comes to their advisor?  Research shows that 50% of women want a financial advisor who will advise them on all aspects of their financial matters (vs. 36% of men), and 47% want one they feel a personal connection with (vs. 35% of men).[9] But, according to one study, 87% of women looking for an advisor say they can’t find one they can connect with.[10] So, are you connecting with your female clients? To capture and retain this market, it comes down to understanding their unique financial concerns and engaging them in a way that’s meaningful to them. Although women may not necessarily prefer a female advisor, it’s important for advisors to demonstrate gender sensitivity and exhibit inclusive behaviours.

Are women happy with the financial services industry?

According to one study, 73% of women are “unhappy” with the financial services industry.[11]

What are women’s financial concerns?

Women face different financial challenges than men. While women have made great strides toward gender equality, they’re still facing challenges. Women earn $0.87 for every dollar earned by men.[12] Furthermore, in addition to holding demanding jobs, women often still play a primary caregiving role for both children and aging parents and they’re more likely to take time out from the workforce, which means less money saved for retirement. And, since women live longer than men, they must finance a longer period of retirement. Women also have higher disability rates than men and may incur costly long-term care needs as they age.[13]

Some of the top financial goals women have include:[14]

  • having a “financial cushion” for unexpected events or emergencies,
  • maintaining their income,
  • managing their day-to-day finances, and
  • saving for retirement.

When it comes to retirement planning, a highlighting the results of the Sun Life Barometer  looks at the different opinions between women and men:

  • Women feel they’re at serious risk of outliving their money (50% female vs. 46% male). Because they tend to live longer, women spend more time in retirement than men, so it’s not surprising that longevity risk is a top concern for them.
  • They say they don’t have the financial knowledge to make a retirement plan (37% female vs. 26% male).

How can you engage female clients in a way that’s meaningful to them?

What we hear from many advisors is that often the male partner may be more involved in the finances and relationship with the advisor. When working with couples, it’s important to encourage meetings with both partners to ensure that both spouses equally understand their financial situation in order to be prepared for the time when one partner will manage their finances on their own.

Advisors also have to recognize that the way they communicate with their male and female clients needs to be different. [tweet this]    Some ways in which investments can be made more inclusive is to get rid of industry jargon, use imagery that ties in with real-life goals such as work/family/life balance, big picture planning around key life events, and quality of life focus and planning.

Here are some general tips to help you make positive connections with female clients: [15]

  • Listen, listen and listen some more
  • Focus on the relationship – between you and her, but also the relationships she has with her loved ones
  • Make it personal – talk about her life and goals
  • Empower her – find out how much detail she wants from you, and how often she’d like you to communicate with her

Women represent an increasingly influential segment within the Canadian wealth management market, and the more insight you have into women’s financial goals and concerns, the better you can connect with them. Engaging them in meetings, listening to their goals and providing advice based on their unique needs are great ways to build strong relationships with female clients.

For resources and tools to help you engage your female clients, contact your Sun Life relationship director.

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This article is based on a presentation by Jillian Farrow, Director, Strategic Business Development, Sun Life Financial.


[1] Marie Drolet, Insights on Canadian Society – Gender differences in the financial knowledge of Canadians, Statistics Canada, March 23, 2016. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2016001/article/14464-eng.htm

[2] Anne Milan and Tamara Hudon, “Senior Women,” Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, Statistics Canada, March 30, 2016. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14316-eng.htm

[3] Deanne Gage, “Suddenly Widowed,” FORUM Magazine, November/December 2012. http://www.advocis.ca/forum/fmarchives12/fm-novdec12/novdec12-widowed.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Investor Economics, Household Balance Sheet Report, 2017.

[6] Jacqueline Nelson, “The Changing Face of Wealth,” The Globe and Mail, Report on Business, August 9, 2014.

[7] Melissa Moyser, “Women and Paid Work,” Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, Statistics Canada, March 8, 2017. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14694-eng.htm

[8] StrategyMarketing.ca, What drives women investors, July 2015.

[9] Ipsos, Canadians and Financial Advice, 2017.

[10] StrategyMarketing.ca, Advisors are failing women, 2015.

[11] Boston Consulting Group, Women Want More, 2009.

[12] Melissa Moyser, “Women and Paid Work,” Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, Statistics Canada, March 8, 2017. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14694-eng.htm

[13] Marie Drolet, Insights on Canadian Society – Gender differences in the financial knowledge of Canadians, Statistics Canada, March 23, 2016.

[14] Ipsos, Canadians and Financial Advice, 2017.

[15] StrategyMarketing.ca, What female clients really want and how to change the dialogue, 2016.