As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, Christine Ross, Head of Private Office and Client director at Handelsbanken, reflects on her 30 years’ experience in financial planning and advice and how things have changed over that period.
Q: Have you seen an uptick in female clients over the course of your career?
Christine Ross (CR): I have definitely seen an increase in the number of female clients during my career. 25 years’ ago, if I was advising a female client, it was most common for them to be seeking advice as a result of having been divorced or widowed. I also had female clients who had inherited from their parents – these ladies were probably the most well-informed regarding investments.
Q: What are the main issues female clients look to discuss with you? Does this differ from your male clients?
CR: Many of the issues clients look to discuss are similar depending on what stage of life (or career) they are at, although female clients in my experience are inclined to be very focused on building up a sufficient level of pension provision for themselves. Gone are the days of hearing a client say that they would rely on their husband’s pension – there appears to be a clearer recognition of the value of financial independence. In the case of female clients who are retired, they are perhaps a little more cautious in their approach to their money. On the basis that they are achieving a level of return that allows them to maintain their desired standard of living, in my experience they do not look to try to take on extra risk for greater potential reward. They are less likely to be tempted by higher past performance figures.
Q: Have you noticed an age disparity between your male and female clients?
CR: My female clients do still tend to be older than male clients. Although there has been an increase in the number of females who are creating their own wealth, there will still be a proportion of women who will be independently managing money that they have not created themselves.
Q: Have female clients in general become wealthier during your career?
CR: Without a doubt, female clients have become independently wealthier. There has been a substantial increase in the number of women creating their own wealth, whether by building their own business or through pursuing their professional careers. The realisation in the last 20 or so years (some may say it’s been longer but I’m not so sure) that it is possible to have a career and a family, the changes to rules around parental leave and an increase in the availability of child care will all have made a difference.
Q: Have you seen more female business owners/entrepreneurs?
CR: Personally, no, but I am aware overall of the increase in women starting and growing their own businesses.
Q: Is divorce a bigger financial issue for female clients than it is for male clients?
CR: Historically, divorce has been a bigger financial issue for women, not least because they did not traditionally have direct ownership or control of the family wealth. Many may also have had little input into family financial decisions and would not have had a need, or sometimes the interest, to focus on key financial issues. For many women, the first time they had to consider their financial options was following divorce. This has changed. Women are increasingly more involved in family financial matters and in the case of matrimonial breakdown are more aware of the financial considerations.
Q: How has the balance shifted, if at all, between inherited and self-made wealth with your female clients? What would you estimate the balance to be now?
CR: The majority of my female clients today will have created their own wealth. There may have been some parental help at outset but largely they have will have pursued their careers whilst being aware early on of the need to provide for the future. With many wealthy families being focused on succession planning coupled with a desire to pass money on to their children during their own lifetimes, many women are still benefiting from an inheritance. However, where this is differs from the past is that this is not the first time they will have had to make financial decisions – they will have already been managing their own money for some time.
Q: Do female clients have any greater appetite for ESG investment versus male clients?
CR: It is difficult to say conclusively that female clients have a greater appetite for ESG investment, but from personal experience I would say they might just have the edge. There is a difference between wanting investments to make a positive impact and being willing to sacrifice investment return to do so. I would say most female clients would want to invest for good but fewer would be willing to sacrifice investment returns and would prefer to have a positive impact by other means.