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New study shows financial institutions need to improve delivery methods to support, engage women

Women tend to be less confident than men with financial decisions, despite playing prominent financial roles at home and at work.

Women are the main breadwinners in nearly half of all U.S. households, yet many lack financial confidence and mistrust financial institutions, according to a new study released today by Acxiom, the data and technology foundation for the world’s best marketers. Less than one-third (32%) of married, highly educated women are confident that they make good financial decisions, compared to 54% of men, and do not feel as comfortable talking with financial institutions including banks, credit card issuers, and brokerage/investment firms about their financial lives.

“Financial confidence is a strong indicator of financial wellness, and many women struggle with aspects of their personal financial lives,” said Julie Kustoff, Principal Consultant for the Financial Services Team at Acxiom. “While the financial services industry has designed and marketed services to women for decades, gender gaps persist. Amid the impacts of COVID-19, it is especially critical that we do more to connect with women to build their financial confidence, so as not to put them at an even greater financial disadvantage.”

In “Improving Financial Services for Women,” Acxiom and research partner Cornerstone Advisors found that just over half (52%) of women surveyed felt comfortable speaking with a financial advisor about their financial lives, followed by a brokerage firm (39%), primary bank (39%) and their primary credit card provider (29%). Further, women who have used financial management resources were less likely to find them helpful, compared to men. While 34% of men surveyed said they find their primary bank very helpful in managing their financial lives, only 25% of women said the same.

To help close the gender gap in personal financial management and improve the delivery of financial services to women, Acxiom recommends that financial institutions address the following four hurdles:

  • Confidence: While women may have the knowledge to manage their day-to-day finances, financial confidence is often a better indicator of overall financial well-being. Building confidence doesn’t happen overnight, however, financial institutions should explore developing gender-specific advisor engagement strategies to help better counsel female clients.
  • Convenience: Some financial institutions assume tools like mobile banking equate to convenience. Yet, women continue to rank their primary financial providers low on this point. Financial institutions need to better understand the realities of many women’s lifestyles and tailor service delivery to these needs.
  • Communication: Many women aren’t comfortable discussing their finances, and it’s not a challenge easily solved simply by employing more women for them to interact with. In fact, just 12% of women surveyed said they’d prefer to discuss their finances with someone of the same gender. Instead, financial institutions should consider how they communicate, including exploring relevant, timely content such as podcasts and blogs to better target women and offer them financial guidance.
  • Collaboration: By deploying third-party financial collaboration platforms, financial institutions can equip women with tailored tools and services that fit their needs and enable better financial management.

To read the full study, including how financial institutions can close the gender financial wellness gap, click HERE. There will be a follow up study with UK stats coming shortly.

The study, conducted by Cornerstone Advisors on behalf of Acxiom, surveyed 2,487 U.S. consumers online to understand how men and women manage their finances, and to identify their perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about financial management and financial providers. The sample was recruited to be representative of the overall U.S. population in terms of age, gender and geographic location. In addition to those surveyed, Cornerstone Advisors also interviewed a number of experts to get their perspective on what financial institutions can, and should, do to improve financial outcomes for women.