Longer life expectancy for women, dropping marriage rates, and changing attitudes are shifting women’s increasingly influential hold over family and business finances. Despite these trends, the industry has not fully evolved to serve women today.
U.S. Bank is actively increasing its focus on women in the financial services market. We are listening to women investors, providing personalized offerings and working with them to help them achieve their goals.
Listening to their experiences
To tailor our service model to women’s unique needs, U.S. Bank’s executives have been on an ongoing listening tour. We’ve asked 250 bold, influential and outspoken female leaders from nonprofits, corporations and small businesses across the country — including those with generational wealth and those who focus on philanthropy — to shape how the bank can better serve them.
The tour of 11 markets has found women are often very other-centric in how they manage their wealth, meaning they focus on using wealth to make a difference in other’s lives, says Gunjan Kedia, vice chairman of U.S. Bank’s Wealth Management & Investment Services. “We find women talk about the purpose powered by their money,” Kedia explains.
On the tour, women were candid about their previous experiences with the financial industry. They shared stories about male advisors not looking them in the eye, or only shaking hands with the other men in the room. Some women reported walking into a meeting to discuss how they can use their wealth to achieve their purpose in life, and instead, were forced to sit through investment presentations.
Other divorced or widowed women said no one was there to help them navigate the process of managing their money independently for the first time.
Kedia sums it up with a comment she received from a friend on the tour. “Your industry creates entirely forgettable experiences.”
Women were candid about their previous experiences with the financial industry. “Your industry creates entirely forgettable experiences.”
Personalizing the advisor experience
In the past, women have been perceived by the financial services industry as too big and diverse of a group to benefit from customization. U.S. Bank is changing that by prioritizing personalization of its services, for both women and men.
“Personalization is very big in [women’s] minds,” Kedia argues. “Their music playlist is tailored. Their clothes are tailored. Their travel experience is tailored. Consumers have come to expect personalization. We need to reflect the society we live in today.”
Instead of entering into a wealth management office and sitting in black leather chairs surrounded by dark wood paneling, clients are now welcomed into offices with lighter, brighter colors, living room settings and curated artwork. The environment is inviting and open to everyone.
Women also approach finances differently than men. “Women often see wealth not as wealth, but as security for their family and interests,” Kedia says. For this reason, U.S. Bank Wealth Management is holding ongoing discussions with advisors and planners identifying the best practices and challenges all clients face, but especially women.
Ensuring that the industry addresses the underrepresentation of women in the field of wealth management is imperative, Kedia continues. “You’d be surprised to find that less than one-third of those in client-facing roles in the industry are women,” she says. “At U.S. Bank we are paying close attention to the diversity of our advisors to address this gap and make sure we are purposeful about our advisors looking like our clients.”
Of course, the process of tailoring services to women, as with any customers, needs to be ongoing. To continue gathering insight on how it can best serve women, U.S. Bank is partnering with venture capital and angel investing firms, as well as leading nonprofits, to get additional input.
“Women are boldly telling us the experience they feel is not welcoming. They roll their eyes,” Kedia says. But she and her colleagues at U.S. Bank see an opportunity to change perceptions as a welcome challenge. “We want to be impactful, delightful and a lifelong partner with women and their wealth,” she adds.