MetLife, Other Insurers, Renew Focus On Women

MetLife has launched a new educational campaign for advisors who want to target affluent women, due to renewed interest in this market, the insurer said. AXA Equitable and John Hancock Funds have also recently added resources for financial advisors who cater to women.

MetLife has launched a new educational campaign for advisors who want to target affluent women, due to renewed interest in this market, the insurer said.

The campaign was prompted by a research study conducted by MetLife’s Mature Market Institute, which found that saving for retirement was the top challenge women respondents face, at 74 percent. MetLife surveyed women ranging in age from 45 to 70 who earn at least $75,000 a year, or have family income of at least $100,000 a year. To address the retirement concern, 42 percent said they’re putting more emphasis on guaranteed income, while 27 percent are saving more. Meanwhile, 25 percent said they weren’t sure what they should be doing.

“It’s an underserved market by financial services,” said Paulina Vakouros, vice president of retirement products marketing. “Everyone’s interested in, ‘how do I connect to this market?’”

A recent Merrill Lynch survey found that affluent women are more concerned and less confident about retirement than men. Despite the concern, women are taking more control over their finances, and more are becoming primary bread winners. The amount of wealth controlled by women is projected to grow an average of 8 percent per year through 2014, according to the Boston Consulting Group. According to a Pew Research report released in January 2010, in one of out five married couples, the wife earns more than the husband.

But women are increasingly dissatisfied with the financial services industry. In a July 2010 BCG survey, 55 percent of women respondents said they felt wealth managers could do a better job of meeting the needs of women. According to MetLife’s survey, the most important factor in choosing and keeping an advisor are feelings of trust and respect (61 percent).

The affluent women campaign, which kicked off two weeks ago, is centered around helping advisors make strong connections with affluent women and includes a broker guide explaining why there’s an opportunity in this market; a workbook that helps advisors gather information about the woman investor; and seminars, in which wholesalers will come present to women investors.

Others Target Women

MetLife is not the only firm pushing out resources to advisors on targeting women. In the fall of 2009, AXA Equitable rolled out its Women, Wealth and Wisdom campaign, which included a new educational website section focused on the financial issues and concerns of women as well as several free iPhone applications specifically designed for women, including a Retirement Income Calculator and College Savings Plan Calculator, among others.

According to AXA spokeswoman Jo Ann Tizzano, the iPhone applications were launched because research showed that women were interested in taking control of their finances, but they had no time to do it. AXA wanted women to be able to control their finances on the go.

Throughout 2010, AXA also developed seminars, brochures and other marketing materials to help advisors reach women. The seminars include 15 Myths for Women Demystified, Choose Your Destination, and Women Preparing for the 21st Century.

Georgette Geller, branch manager for AXA Advisors in Conn., has benefitted from the tools. Geller estimates that the number of women clients in her branch office, where she overseas 100 advisors, has risen around 15 to 20 percent a year over the past four years. Geller has given over 100 of the AXA seminars in the last two years, and every time she does one, she estimates that around 8 percent of the women in the audience become clients, on average. In addition, women are the branch’s best source of referrals, with the average woman client providing 10 referrals for every product sold to them, she said.

John Hancock Funds also ramped up its focus on women, when it gave its women-oriented seminar a facelift in 2009. The seminar centers on the different financial life stages that women face, using case studies. For example, they study the issues faced by a woman in her 20s, a woman who just got married, a woman with kids, etc.

John Hancock has had its women’s program for 10 years, but now there’s more visibility as to why it’s important to target women, said Carey Foran Hoch, senior vice president, head of marketing and general manager, college savings at John Hancock Funds.

“Women are in a spot to drive the financial decisions more so than 30 years ago,” she said.

John Hancock wanted to respond to the changing demographics, with more women becoming small business owners, more wealth transferring to women and increased career opportunities for them, she added. The firm wanted women to have access to the information they needed to be financially sound and more confident that they can invest.

An Opportunity for Advisors

These changing dynamics present advisors with an opportunity to reach a new market.

“Every single one of them needs to make decisions for themselves with their finances,” Geller said. “Women are going to control, what? Ninety-five percent of all the money at the end of the day.” Geller said women want to engage more with their finances, but people aren’t necessarily calling on them enough.

In courting women, advisors should focus on building a relationship with them, said Vakouros.

Advisors have to be willing to invest a lot of time up front to educate their women clients about money and build trust, said Geller. “Women definitely do not buy from people they don’t trust.” Direct eye contact is essential, she added.

Vakouros suggested getting to know the woman and her lifestyle before selling a product to her. Women also have different concerns and needs than men when it comes to their finances.

“Generally speaking, women are more concerned about financial security whereas men are more concerned with increasing wealth,” said Susan Hirshman, a former advisor and author of Does This Make My Assets Look Fat? “Many women have the bag lady syndrome and are concerned about being left alone. It may be an irrational fear, but many women have this underlying fear. No matter who you are, male or female, if you do not have defined goals that you are emotionally connected to, your short-term desires will typically out win your long-term retirement goals.”

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