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How a Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Can Help with Your Financial Goals

Creating a better financial future for women

Our breakthrough study sheds light on the role gender plays in financial advisor-client relationships.

Smiling young woman in office looking sideways

When it comes to serving women, the industry has come a long way, and at Merrill, we’re dedicated to pushing it even further. It's more important than ever that we continue to listen and look for ways to support women investors, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women, causing many to have to rethink their goals and priorities.

 

We recently commissioned a breakthrough study that examined the financial services industry at large, utilizing cutting-edge technology to understand how gender affects the way financial advisors and investors interact. Here, we’re highlighting some of the most enlightening results that have strengthened our resolve to address gender miscues—unconscious behaviors caused by gender-related stereotypes—in wealth management.

For the full study results, download our white paper, Seeing the Unseen: The Role Gender Plays in Wealth Management

A chart depicting the percentage of all women who manage their own finances. More than 50% of women over 55 manage their own finances 75% of women under 45 manage their own finances

When it comes to finances, women are owning it

To understand the results of the study, we need to understand how women today are approaching finances. Younger women, especially, are taking charge of their financial lives and expect more from their advisory relationships.

 

Decision making

  • Younger married women are more than twice as likely to say they are the primary decision maker than older married women.

 

Money management

  • More women are coming into marriage with their own money and manage their investments separately from their spouse.
An infographic depicting that 8% of women have had a negative gender stereotype experience with an advisor. It’s a small number, but one we’re striving to decrease.

We found some encouraging data

Across the industry, women have told us that they are generally satisfied with their financial advisor relationships, and most do not believe they’ve experienced gender-related stereotyping:

 

Positive recommendations

  • 70% of women are likely to recommend their financial advisor to a friend or relative.

 

Strong relationships

  • 40% of women are likely to follow their financial advisor to another firm (vs. 30% for men).
A chart depicting where advisors focus their visual attention. Advisors focus their visual attention on men 60% of the time. Advisors focus their visual attention on women 40% of the time.

But the industry still has work to do

Our study did not show signs of conscious bias against women. Yet there are several areas where unconscious behavior may still be negatively affecting women’s experiences. For example, eye-tracking technology showed that, when meeting with heterosexual couples, financial advisors—regardless of gender—tend to focus most of their time (~60%) on the male.

 

Negative experiences

  • 35% of women are likely to switch financial advisors when they have a bad experience (vs. 30% for men).
  • Women are more likely than men to expect to encounter gender stereotypes—making them feel they have to prepare more for meetings and speak up proactively to be heard.
A word cloud depicting positive language cues and negative language cues. Goals, gains, exactly, success, wonder, and wonderful are positive language cues. Risk, fear, doubt, and worry are negative language cues.

Language goes a long way

The language that financial advisors use can affect the way women approach their own finances—including whether they’re willing to take more risk, or make their own investment decisions.

 

Positive, communal language

  • Women financial advisors use positive and communal language significantly more often. This positive language correlates with greater willingness in women investors to make their own investment decisions even if there’s associated risk.

 

Downside risk words

  • Men financial advisors tend to use more downside risk words. This potentially makes women less likely to take risks and more likely to rely heavily on their financial advisors.
Young woman cycling through the city

We’re committed to progress

At Merrill, we are committed to making the industry even more inclusive and welcoming for everyone. This is especially important today, as women are becoming an increasingly powerful force in the marketplace.

 

While the expectation of negative experiences can lead to the normalization of gender miscues in some older women investors, the next generation is vastly different. Refusing to accept the status quo, these younger women are taking control of their finances, primarily owning financial decisions for their household, and actively seeking to educate themselves on financial matters. In fact, women investors under 35 outscored their male counterparts on a financial literacy survey.1 As women's needs evolve, we have an opportunity to exceed their expectations.

 

1. Escalent Omnibus Research, 2014

Generational women, outdoors

Leading the way for a better future

We're taking concrete action to help improve women's experiences. Sharing the results of this study is one step in the journey, as well as:

 

  • Better representing women in our financial advisor training program, which has the most diverse class of financial advisors in our history.
  • Cultivating a corporate culture of inclusivity with better awareness of unconscious bias, through inclusion training for all our employees across the country.
  • Recognizing the equally important roles both spouses play in a financial relationship by removing the “Primary” designation for account roles.

 

Financial services providers have a significant role to play in raising the bar and addressing these issues in order to bring about systemic change. By helping the industry move forward, we hope to create a better future for all.

Discover more

To learn more about this study, download our white paper, Seeing the Unseen: The Role Gender Plays In Wealth Management

Download

To explore more insights on women and their financial future, visit ml.com/women

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