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Creating Female-friendly Financial Services: Strategies, Opportunities and Lessons

By: Mike Collins
Published: August 2008

 

Creating Female Friendly Financial ServicesA UK MP has recently argued that the 'testosterone-fuelled' financial meltdown could have been avoided if there had been more women in decision-making positions. Whatever the merits of this argument, a greater understanding of diversity is required. 'Female Friendly Financial Services' shows how gender strategy can be added into sales, marketing and product development within a modern retail financial services company.

 

 

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The women's market presents a huge opportunity for financial services companies. There are currently more than three billion females worldwide. In a number of societies, at all social and economic levels, more women are taking key decisions on household spending (a trend noted by recent studies in the US, UK, Japan and other key markets) and one forecast to strengthen in the next few decades. The gender pay gap is narrowing; more women are working, and more are predicted to become the main breadwinner in families by the middle of the century.

This report presents the approaches required to profitably bank the largest (and most undervalued) segment of all.

Analyses:

  • Global demographic and legislative trends.
  • Commonly made mistakes in marketing to women
  • Short term wins and longer term responses to the present market situation
  • Using web 2.0 to provide female-friendly financial services
  • The corporate social responsibility case for female-friendly financial services

Answers:

  • Are bespoke financial services required for every situation?
  • Can generic products be remarketed to women?
  • Can lessons in improving financial services for men be found in the creation of financial services for women?

To purchase this report, or to request a report summary or list of case studies, call Jeannie on +44 (0) 207 563 5640 or email info@vrlfinancialnews.com

‘Knowing Your Customer’, ‘A Segment of One’, ‘Brands that Emotionally Resonate’ and ‘A Great Customer Experience’ are all common phrases in financial services. Firms invest huge sums in sophisticated  segmentation analysis so as to establish long and profitable customer relationships. But how  many   financial   providers   can  really  claim  to  have  effectively implemented  these   agendas  when  strong  evidence  suggests  that  they routinely fail to fully engage with half of their customers? A situation that becomes harder to understand when it is considered that the neglected half is the one which is financially gaining ground, and is perhaps in many ways the better customer. This lesson has already been learned by a wide range of industries,  resulting  in  increased  customer   satisfaction,  great  PR  and increased revenue and sales.

This report assesses and evaluates global strategies, opportunities and best practice in the provision of female-friendly financial services. Although the overwhelming focus of this report is on the profitable provision of financial services, consideration is given to the corporate social responsibility issues connected to gender and retail finance. The final section of the report picks up on the main theme of the report – ‘customer engagement’ – and looks at the role of Web 2.0 in creating it.

OPPORTUNITY

The women’s  market  presents  a huge  opportunity  for financial  services companies. There are currently more than three billion females worldwide. In a number of societies, at all social and economic levels, more women are taking key decisions on household spending (a trend noted by recent studies in the US, UK, Japan and other key markets) and one forecast to strengthen in the next few decades. The gender pay gap is narrowing; more women are

working,  and  more  are  predicted  to  become  the  main  breadwinner  in families by the middle of the century.

In many nations  many women  now routinely  achieve  financial  success. There is a growing segment of affluent women – senior executives, board members,   property   owners   and   entrepreneurs   –   wielding   increasing economic  power.  In  the  US,  many  banks  target  businesswomen  with tailored retail business  banking services. They have conducted  thorough research into the segment: for example, women owners of firms with $1m or  more  in  revenue   are  more   likely  to  belong   to  formal   business organisations, associations or networks than other women business owners (81% vs. 61%).

In  many  other  countries  women  entrepreneurs  are  an  underserved  yet potentially profitable client base. Female-tailored private banking for high net worth (HNW) women, however, has not yet become a feature of this segment, though Coutts and Barclays Wealth both recognise the importance of these clients. One-third of Coutts’ 60,000 clients are women.

Saving for retirement is a major concern for many women, as they are often penalised  by  pension  providers  for  having  to  take  career  breaks  for childbirth and childcare and miss making pension contributions. Women in industrialised nations also live longer than their male counterparts, making adequate retirement provision a vital – if not the most important – factor in their  financial plans. Women’s retirement planning therefore represents a key market segment, one which some US banks and insurers address, but which remains  largely untapped elsewhere. For example, 80-90% of US women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives – mainly due to divorce and the fact that, on average, women outlive men by seven years.   In the UK, for example, there is little awareness of gender issues in pension provision beyond the annual studies undertaken by Scottish Widows.

The place of women in the developing world is changing quickly. As China and  India  gear  up  as  the  global  ‘super  economies’  of  the  near  future, opportunities in the female-focused financial services sector will expand in line  with  increased  income.  Provision  in  these  countries  is  currently weighted  to   microfinance  for  local  ‘subsistence’  business  enterprises, especially   in   the   extensive   rural   hinterlands.   The   opportunity   for ‘sophisticated’ financial product and service provision currently lies in the rapidly growing cities, where a well-documented consumer middle class is emerging.

To take one example. Successful women-only credit cards are offered in both India and China, and in the more economically established regions of Southeast   Asia,   such   as   Singapore   and   Hong   Kong.  A  new-found willingness to  take  on personal debt is a social development  that allows these cards to flourish.

Islamic     banks,     particularly     in     the    Middle     East,    have     developed comprehensive  women-only  banking  services  in  compliance  with  the strictures of Shariah law. As a number of countries now host large Muslim populations,  providing  these  services  globally  has  become  increasingly viable.

Many women  interviewed  for the report  state  that women  do not need different financial  products  to men.  However,  they  note  that  they  have markedly different responses to sales and marketing approaches,  so it is here   that   the  key  difference  in  provision  lies.  Effective  relationship marketing is vital to improving customer acquisition and retention, and to optimising cross-selling opportunities.

While  recognising   that  women  are  perceived  differently  in  different countries  and  cultures,  and  that  all  individuals  are  different,  universal principles will be deduced that illustrate the power of the business case for this  market. The importance  of financial education  as part of marketing programmes  is paramount. A clear, concise and personalised  educational content to the marketing material or the advice should be offered, whether this takes the form of downloadable material online, printed matter or one- to-one discussion. Whatever the medium employed, it must be backed up with appropriate products and  services to enable women to achieve their financial goals.

Detailed case studies  from North America,  the UK, India, Pakistan,  the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia, illustrate the various responses made by financial services companies to their respective female audiences. They also point the way to possible courses of action for companies not yet active in the arena. This is an important and growing worldwide market, one  to  which  senior  decision-makers  from  CEOs  downwards  must  be attuned if its huge potential is to be fully realised.

In establishing ‘female-friendly’ financial services, players might discover that  they learn more about that other much discussed and misunderstood segment – men.

 

 

PART I

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Financial education for women

Chapter 3: Strategies and best practices

PART II

Chapter 4: The United States

Chapter 5: Canada

Chapter 6: China

Chapter 7: Singapore

Chapter 8: India

Chapter 9: The UK

Chapter 10: Europe

Chapter 11: Islamic banking

Chapter 12: Australia and New Zealand

Chapter 13: Summary

Appendix I: Web 2.0 and Customer Engagement

Appendix II: Data

 

View full Summary Report

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