Reaching out to female investors

By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - One of Canada's largest banks admits it needs to do better to attract the emerging female investor, and so far that means martinis and information.

"Many women feel they are talked down to in this industry," Charyl Galpin, chief executive of BMO Nesbitt Burns, said at a panel discussion with senior executives from the bank, all of them women.

The executives said an obvious mistake that financial advisors make is talking past a woman to her husband, with one study finding that the first thing many widows do when their husband dies is to fire their financial advisor.

They said women investors also have different financial needs than men. They usually outlive their husbands, are more likely to live alone or be primary caregivers in retirement, and they have smaller nest eggs, thanks to lower wages and intermittent work.

They see money as a means to security, not status.

BMO retirement specialist Amy D'Aprix, who runs education programs for the bank, said advisors need to understand that women make decisions differently, conceiving of retirement "not as a financial event, but as a life event."

But while traditional advisors may have alienated female investors in the past, online brokerage services appear to be a hit, with a 300 percent increase in accounts from 2006 to 2010 at BMO InvestorLine.

Women with these accounts are more risk-averse, less frequent traders, and they build more diversified portfolios with fewer equity holdings, said Connie Stefankiewicz, president and chief executive of the online brokerage.

The events BMO hopes will address the problem include Stocks in the City (complete with martinis) and a Women and Money retirement workshop, launched a few weeks ago.

"The fact is that female investing is growing in our market, and the industry needs to keep up," said Galpin.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins; editing by Janet Guttsman)

Editor's Picks