The idea of a company ignoring 50% of their potential customer base seems crazy. Yet, there is a category that, until very recently, has done exactly this.

The world of financial investments has long been dominated by men. Both the outside customers, and the directors, managers and decision makers inside the hallowed halls of banks and savings providers, have historically been males.

Think back to the classic film Mary Poppins. There’s an entire song and dance sequence dedicated to encouraging the young boy, Michael, to invest his tu’ppence in the bank. No one seems to care that his big sister Jane might be an equally viable investor.

Surprisingly, not much has changed now. According to YouGov data published in April this year, 52% of women in the UK have never held an investment product, compared with 37% of men. That’s a pretty staggering difference, not to mention a clearly untapped market.

So why is this the case? Put frankly, the patriarchy isn’t logical. It may sound inflammatory, (and I say it with a faint air of tongue-in-cheek) but the continued exclusion of women by many brands and businesses is incomprehensible, especially when this is to their own detriment.

Now we’ve got the issue of general patriarchal absurdism out of the way, let’s unpick the reasons for the overlooking of female customers in this category a little further…

Financial autonomy

It’s fair to say that times have changed. It has slowly become increasingly practically possible and socially acceptable for women to pursue careers, whether they are raising a family or not. With this progress comes the conditions for women to make their own money, which they can in turn choose to invest. Historically, societal norms may have meant women relied more heavily on their partner’s income, giving them less power to invest, and therefore bumping them down the priority list of financial services customer targets.

The “it’s too complicated” myth

This is the attitude that sits behind mansplaining, the belief that certain topics – such as the world of investments – are too complicated for the likes of women. This outrageously archaic and utterly unfounded viewpoint gives the believer the impression that financial services is the domain of men, and therefore little has been done to try and communicate with women.

Statistics show that there are some differences between men and women in terms of the approach to investing, primarily when it comes to confidence; 28% of women say they would be confident investing some money compared with 45% of men. Financial services brands need to spend time understanding the needs of female investors and find ways to address these, rather than just writing women out of the category because their approach differs to that of men. Risk adversity does not equate to lack of understanding (if anything, it comes from a place of greater knowledge and awareness).

They don’t even know their doing it…

This is the slightly more positive slant on the above, based on ignorance rather than arrogance. It’s a sad truism that inherent and institutional misogyny often goes undetected by its perpetrators. Even in 2018, chances are if you ask someone of any gender to imagine a surgeon or an engineer, they will instinctively think of a male due to implicit bias. In the same way, the reality is that it may not have even occurred to a room full of men that investing might be a thing that women can and want to do.

The future of funds

So what can financial services brands – and beyond – do to open up the category to this untapped market of female investors?

Whilst in recent years funds targeting women have begun cropping up from a number of providers, few of these effectively target the female investor, and many lack authenticity, seeming to have little purpose other than revenue generation.

But some are seeking to buck this trend. We had the pleasure of working with Legal & General on their new push to bring in under-invested potential customers, a stellar example of breaking the category norms.

Their Own Your World campaign aims to encourage women, as well as other non-traditional customers, to make investments by offering investment products that tap into the interests and motivations of these groups. The company’s Head of Personal Investing, Helena Morrissey, thinks it’s a no-brainer, ‘We believe in creating products and messages that are based on what customers want and need. Ownership means different things for different people – so our Own Your World campaign does too. Sometimes you also need to challenge the status quo in order to make change – and this means doing things differently. Women are an underinvested demographic, but one with huge potential – why wouldn’t you tailor to their needs and move away from a way of doing things that isn’t fit for their purpose? Or their goals?’

For example, their ‘Future World Gender in Leadership Fund’ allows customers to invest in a fund that is tilted in favour of companies with greater diversity. Similarly, their Future World Climate Change fund focuses on investing in global companies with strong sustainability credentials.

By challenging the status quo, Legal & General are able to tap into new markets and to use the key insights into these customer groups to develop new propositions moving forward.

As our TVE brand-led sustainability saying goes, it’s good for the world, it’s good for consumers, and it’s good for the brand.

BY ENGINEER Heather Young

heather.young@thevalueengineers.com