I’m here today with Paulette Filion and Judy Paradi of StrategyMarketing.ca in Toronto. They’re two experts who focus on helping the financial community understand the perspective of the female client.

Many women say that they’re intimidated by finances, or certainly by the financial industry. The Boston Consulting Group stated that 73% of women are unhappy with the financial industry. 

Why are women so unhappy with the industry? 

Paulette: Well, the industry has mostly catered to men for all these years, and has built an offering that really resonates with men. And women just don’t connect with that at all.

Judy: The women we talk to consistently say they feel intimidated, they don’t feel comfortable, they feel like they’re being talked down to, they don’t feel respected―there’s just no connection. And I don’t think any of this is intentional―it just happens because men do business in a certain way, and women aren’t relating to that. So there’s a big disconnect between the financial industry in general and how women like to do business. 

So what steps can a woman take to engage with a planner?

Judy: It’s a relationship like any relationship. You have to start by having some confidence, by going into it saying, what do I want out of this relationship? What is it that I’m looking for? If you were engaging any other service provider, you would know what you were looking for. You have to be the same with financial advisors. What do I want? Do I want to grow my finances? Do I want to help my grandchildren? Do I want to pay off debt? What is it that I want?

Paulette: We often say to women, it’s your money. Don’t be intimidated by what the industry is offering up. And if you don’t understand someone, ask questions. Expect and demand that the answers be presented to you in plain language.

Judy: You’re going to be spending a long time with these people. It’s a long-term relationship. There has to be a true connection―somebody you feel comfortable with.

What if you’re with a planner and you’re not feeling comfortable with them?

Judy: If someone’s not answering your questions, if you’re asking questions and they’re dodging them, or they’re just continuing on their spiel…quite often when you talk to a new advisor or somebody you’ve had, they have a way of doing business. If they’re not answering your questions, if they’re making you feel dumb, if they don’t respond to your needs, I think that’s a really good signal. You need to say, look, this is the way I’d like to do business. But if they don’t, then feel free to walk away and find someone else. 

Paulette: Judy and I interviewed almost 100 women last year who invest and who have a financial advisor. And one of the biggest complaints that women made was their advisor really didn’t connect the pile of money that they had to the goals that they made. And I think that’s a sure sign that something’s not quite right, when all they’re talking about is rate of return and how much your account grew, and not connecting it back to whatever your goals are―whether it’s retirement, putting your kids through school, helping your kids buy their first home, travelling, or staying in your house. It’s the advisor’s responsibility to connect the money that you invest to those goals.

So if a woman has a planner, or doesn’t, how does a woman find a financial planner that she can trust, that she feels comfortable with―and how does she do her due diligence in the research of finding that professional?

Judy: I think the way women find financial advisors and relationships in general is through friends. We go to our friends, we go to our family, we go to colleagues. We ask around―is there someone you’re happy with? So once you engage with someone that someone’s recommended, there’s already a small level of trust. You’re already going in there thinking that this is going to be a reasonable relationship. But you go to their office. Keep your eyes open and look around. What’s on their walls? Do they have kids? Do they have pets? What kinds of things do they engage in? Can you relate to that? It could be old cars or motorcycles…if you relate to that, fine. If you don’t, then you start asking questions. See what level of comfort you have. Can they relate to your socio-economic level?

Paulette: Reach out and ask that person, how did you get into the business? Why do you love what you do? What kind of practice do you have? What kind of clients? Do they look and sound and feel like me? Have an honest conversation with a financial planner about that.

There are some tools that can help you. The Financial Planning Standards Council has some tools, like 10 questions to ask your planner, that outline what kinds of questions you need to ask. And they’ve got some videos which are quite helpful in terms of helping you make a decision as to which person will best serve your needs.

To find a qualified financial planner who’s right for you, use our Find Your Planner tool. Don’t miss the other videos in this series: Build your money confidence, Women and  financial self-confidence and Why women stress more about money.

For more help getting started, read Finding your financial planner, 4 ways to overcome  financial planner anxiety and 3 ways to get the most out of your first meeting with a financial planner.