When financial advisers look to work with women, they should keep two things in mind: the wooing process tends to take longer, but they are usually more loyal, according to Sallie Krawcheck, president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's global wealth and investment management unit.

The remarks came as part of the firm's wealth management panel on women and retirement. As women come to represent more of the professional population — 58% of college graduates and 54% of U.S. professional and managerial jobs — they must be more vigilant in building wealth and retirement savings.

That is because women face several conditions that men do not, Krawcheck said. Women live longer by an average of five to six years. They earn less in the work force, and consequently retire with less money. And women also tend to be more conservative investors, which can limit their overall gains.

“Women should start saving earlier. They should save more. They should have joint money. They should look into separate accounts as well. They should be doing more of everything,” Krawcheck said. “One of the very simple ways to solve this is, having been in management for at least a couple of years at this stage, I’ll tell you the men who ask me for a raise versus the women is 50 to one.”

And while women can be more aggressive about building wealth, financial advisers can also be more proactive in trying to woo them as clients, the panel said.

Women have very good “b.s. detectors,” and are unlikely to hire someone they do not trust, said David Bach, a former financial adviser and author of books including “Smart Women Finish Rich.” That means that financial advisers need to sell their services in a way that appeals to them, talking about values, goals and dreams rather than simply pushing products.

“Men are not at all trained and don’t have a natural ability to communicate that way,” Bach said.

Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch brokerage is providing special guidance to its financial advisers on how to work with women, Krawcheck said. Merrill Lynch’s total financial adviser force totals more than 15,000, of which about 84% are men.

The brokerage’s guidance includes encouraging financial advisers to extend the amount of time they spend pursuing prospective women clients because they tend to take longer to choose a financial adviser.

“It’s just going to take awhile longer, and so don’t give up,” Krawcheck said. “Women will be with you longer as a client, both because they live longer and because they tend to be more stable clients.”

Once a woman becomes a client, financial advisers can challenge them to take on more risk, Krawcheck said, while women can curb their fears of running out of money with products like long-term care insurance and annuities.

Women are more likely to stick with the plans they create with their adviser, Bach said, which ultimately makes them better clients. While men tend to be more rattled by market changes and are eager to follow a stock tip on the golf course, those types of reactions, according to Bach, never happen with women.

“Women make better clients, they plan better and, by the way, they refer about three to one over men,” Bach said.

The panel was the last of a five-part webcast series from Merrill Lynch focusing on retirement issues.

— Lorie Konish writes for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.


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