Firing line  

Firing Line: Wisdom Council's Anna Lane on engaging women

Firing Line: Wisdom Council's Anna Lane on engaging women

Anna Lane has a bugbear: she does not understand why women are still seen as a niche market.

The chief executive of customer engagement firm The Wisdom Council, says this way of thinking has caused companies to communicate poorly to female customers, which is something the organisation is trying to help fix.

Ms Lane explained: “Women are not a segment. They are the majority, making up 52 per cent of the population [in the UK]. Most people realise that this is not just about creating a different product, but the way you engage and communicate with women is different.”

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Set up in 2013, the Council aims to bridge the gap between product manufacturers, who come up with new propositions, and what the end clients might think, before it is rolled out to the market. It works with a range of clients, including asset managers and banks, to test the products with end clients and advisers. Trying to get firms to communicate better to women is just one project the organisation is involved in.

Ms Lane said firms are missing out on a key target area by not engaging women. According to research from gender equality charity Catalyst, in the UK 67 per cent of household spending is controlled or influenced by women. A recent report from the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association also found that almost two million women (7 per cent) in the UK are deliberately holding back an average of £33,000 in investable assets due to the industry’s gender disparity.

Additionally, more than a third of affluent (£100,000+) investors and consumers believe the investment arena is weighted heavily towards men, and that women are not equally supported.

As women’s wealth rises in the UK, companies are devising ways to attract them towards financial products, but the communication strategy often holds them back. When speaking to women, the most common thing they tell The Wisdom Council about financial products information is that it is “boring”.

She added: “They say it’s written by men, for men, or if [the women] are from financial services, they will say it is written by men in compliance, for men.”

Eliminate jargon

Rather than a case of “dumbing down” the information, Ms Lane said companies need to eliminate jargon and be more open and transparent because women feel less financially confident than their male counterparts.

“To learn from consumer-centric companies, who are not in financial services, the literature gets to the point quickly. It is engaging, warm and not jargon-laden,” Ms Lane said.

The other factor that can influence a woman’s decision, according to Ms Lane, is that they buy products based on recommendation. They want to see who else has bought the product first.

Working with various groups of people, from millennials to the elderly, Ms Lane said people struggle to understand the meaning of terms like absolute returns, Isas, yield and fixed income. Even if the products are being sold through advisers, product manufacturers still need to simplify their labelling. The jargon piece constantly plagues the industry. I don’t quite know when the industry will wake up to the fact that we just have this rule of words people do not understand,” she added.