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29/09/2016

The financial services industry is ignoring a major emerging marketby Jessica



Earlier this year I had $5,000 I wanted to invest. With my own knowledge of the financial services industry and the help of Google, I decided on an investment firm. There wasn’t a lot of helpful information on the site, so I had to make a call. I explained my situation, goals and how much I had. And then, in the nicest way possible, the firm told me to come back when I had more money.

This was consistent with the other three firms I tried. And so in the end, I made my own direct investments.

We are more wealthy, financially confident and independent than ever before – so why is it that women, particularly millennial women, are an afterthought for the financial services industry?

According to HSBC’s recent report, The Future of Consumer Demand, female consumption power globally is set to rise to $18 trillion by 2018 with greater workforce participation. We are an untapped emerging market and the finance industry (who continues to cater more to men than women) is failing to engage with us. 

As a 20-something female, I have money to invest, as do my friends and broader peer group. It might not be a lot of money at the moment, but it will grow and we want to start now. But where do we go?

There are very few options that cater to people like me, and if there are, we don’t know about it. If companies provide a compelling offer and prove themselves, we will be loyal and continue to feed them our hard-earned cash.  

Here I share my top tips on tapping into and understanding our market:

We are becoming key financial decision-makers, so treat us like it

According to ING Direct’s Women & Finance Report, women are rapidly becoming key financial decision-makers, but we aren’t treated that way by the industry. While only 27 per cent of women surveyed by ING Direct currently make the majority of financial decisions, 84 per cent of those who weren’t the main decision-maker said they would be confident to assume the responsibility.

Times are changing, and so should the financial services industry. Women are at the forefront of this change and are challenging product providers and marketers to adjust their strategies to cater to our needs.

And it’s not about dumbing-it-down either. Understanding your audience is vital – we want simplicity, ease and results – and NO jargon.

Making things ‘pretty’ will distance us further

Businesses that are doing it right are not only paying more attention to our preferences, but are developing products and services designed to specifically cater to the needs of a growing army of time-poor working women. But this doesn’t mean making your products or services ‘pretty’.

Birgit Neu, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at HSBC summarised it well:

“With social media and both the formal and informal gender networks and interest groups that are engaging there, the backlash can now be felt immediately around the world when organisations get it wrong in how they market products by gender e.g. the ‘pinking’ of things.

“But equally, the Twitterverse has been quick to note when organisations are taking the ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ labels off products and services that should be gender neutral, and pitching them in a way that’s appropriate for everyone.”

The key takeaway from this that businesses need to consider a nuanced approach when engaging today’s female audience. It doesn’t need to be a fully gendered proposition, but simply acknowledges our lifestyle, our needs and where we get our information (FYI, it’s usually not the AFR).

We will engage when we are ready, but give us the options

This is a general rule when engaging with all millennials – we would like options, please! Forcing us to meet someone face-to-face, or requiring a phone call in the first instance is perceived as too much effort. During our initial information gathering stage, we would prefer the relevant information is available on your website or via an online chat system. And when we are ready to talk, we will come to you.

The industry has a choice – either shape up to our needs, or miss tapping into this emerging market all together. Until then, I’ll continue to invest directly. I need to start somewhere after all.

For more insights into millennials, take a look at our Millennials & Money infographic.

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