Pink piggy bank

Helping women with financial planning may be banking’s next marketing tactic

The ascendancy of Trump, the alt right movement and women’s marches around the world are making it a very interesting time for feminism and gender equality. Despite global challenges, the position of women in society is improving overall – the global wealth of women is predicted to rise from $13 trillion to $18 trillion by 2021, and we are likely to control around two thirds of global spending in the next few years.

And it’s not escaping the notice of banks.

UBS recently announced it is retraining its wealth management staff to target female clients, with a strategy based on their findings that women want to be ‘served with a different dialogue that places greater focus on their aspirations as opposed to pure investment outcomes.’

Meanwhile, several banks have revealed their plans to fill more senior roles with women – UBS itself has committed to increase the ratio of women in management roles from one quarter to one-third. Women in Business specialists help NatWest customers face the specific challenges that female entrepreneurs can encounter, and the proportion of women on the board of FTSE 100 boards has increased sharply to a quarter.

At Mapa, we will be interested to see how this shift in focus plays into marketing, particularly on digital channels, and how banks adjust their tone and content to target this increasingly powerful market.

What makes us different?

Of course, as we noted recently, segmenting only by one demographic factor is a blunt instrument for any marketing department – adding behavioural targeting makes far more sense when it comes to (particularly) online promotions and upselling. However, gender does play a role in how people approach financial decision-making and therefore respond to marketing messages.

While we are more and more in control of ‘household’ finances and managing budgets at home, we ladies are still less likely than men to invest or save – and there exists a pensions gap between men and women that doesn’t stem entirely from the pay gap.

I spoke to Emilie Bellet who founded Vestpod, a website and newsletter, as a way to communicate the world of investment and savings to women – in an engaging, humorous and friendly way. ‘It’s a community, and we are all on a journey together as we learn about investment and the importance of saving.’

When I asked why women need this advice served up in a different way to men, she said her research pointed to a difference in approach. ‘Women tend to think in terms of goals – we know what lifestyle we want to have, and Vestpod talks to those outcomes and how to get there. For men, it’s a lot more about the product and the process.’ For women, in general, holistic financial planning is what makes more sense.

Gemma Cernuda of Ellas Deciden echoes this sentiment – that women are more concerned with the ‘bigger picture’ – adding that women may have a lower appetite for risk and take longer to make important financial decisions. In a blog for Strands she comments: ‘In order to succeed in tapping the market for women’s banking services, banks need to start collecting the data and change the way they communicate. That is the key to reach growing segment of women.’

Talking to women

‘I think if we have an idea that female wealth creation is increasing, it’s only logical that we recognise that [women] have very distinct needs,’ says Olga Miller, managing director at UBS Wealth Management. ‘[Women] are very busy — they are tackling a career and raising a family and children, so the [wealth manager] needs to be mindful that they’re very pressed for time.’

Emilie definitely thinks this is true. ‘It’s not easy to be an expert in personal finances – it’s a complicated topic, and a tricky one to make interesting, fun, cool and engaging. Our website is in a blog style with lots of pictures, and everything is written as if we are talking to our friends. It’s not patronising, and people trust us. It’s difficult to believe that it’s taken until now for banks to realise that having advisors who are women will encourage more women to make investments.’

She notes that many banks are moving towards a friendlier tone but that constant pop-up disclaimers, while often necessary from a regulatory standpoint, aren’t helping to create a feeling of empathy and community. ‘Making websites more user-friendly is a big step in getting women to engage with your bank – using less jargon, being authentic and building trust is key.’ Indeed, one of the accusations levelled at financial institutions in terms of reaching female customers is that jargon has alienated women.

Gemma comments that ‘The message needs to include empathy and emotions. That doesn’t necessarily mean adding a pink colour, explicit phrases like “bank for women” or other obvious connotations targeting female segment. The message needs to appeal to the beliefs and values of women in a more subtle way.’

At Mapa Research, we track and investigate what financial services providers are doing online to enhance the customer experience. Find out more about our Digital Banking Dashboards here, and subscribe to our newsletter if you want to receive monthly updates.

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