“It’s OK if you don’t know.”
Ahead of International Women’s Day, WA hosted an all-female panel of financiers to discuss how firms are better engaging with women to improve financial understanding and awareness, and where the industry, policy and the media narrative around women in wealth needs to evolve.
On the panel, Etiksha Patel, Lead Private Banking Director, Metro Bank; Karen Kerrigan, COO, Moneybox; and Elizabeth Caley, Independent Financial Adviser, Aegis Financial Planning Limited discussed what makes women tick when it comes to money and financial products, and how they can better engage with their finances for themselves and for their friends, children and colleagues.
Women make up 49.6% of the global population and are widely predicted to control 60% of the UK’s wealth by 2025, yet 72% of us feel like we’re not understood by the finance industry.
This feeling of exclusion is perhaps why only 10% of women prioritise making long term investments which, when women’s pensions on average are £100,000 less than men’s due to the gender pay gap and childcare commitments, seems a very low proportion.
Elizabeth Caley, who focuses on supporting women, reassuringly said that it’s OK if you don’t understand something relating to your finances: “no one said you should have this knowledge. There seems to be shame attached to it but it’s OK if you don’t know, that’s why we’re here.”
Similarly, Etiksha Patel believes that having someone to talk to and trust in the bank makes a huge difference to women’s confidence and attitudes towards their finances. She said: “women benefit from in-person contact because we like to ask questions. Financial knowledge becomes accessible if you can ask in-person questions.”
The sector can’t shy away from the fact that it has, for too long, been dominated by men, and Etiksha crucially said: “It’s important to have women representing women who need answers because it makes asking the questions easier. This is where the change is going to come from.”
However, women are playing catch up on the education, word-of-mouth advice and knowledge they missed out on growing up because most of the time. There is a question over where responsibility for financial education lies – across all genders – and whether regulatory or policy reform is needed to ensure knowledge and access is instilled early.
With products such as Lifetime ISAs, women are likely to buy into the goal that the ISA can help with, such as buying a home, rather than simply having the product to make more money. Interestingly, Karen Kerrigan said that MoneyBox’s Lifetime ISAs are held by an equal split of both men and women, but that’s not because they’re marketed differently.
Reform of the ASA standards for financial products, or the introduction of the consumer duty, will go some way in shaping how products are marketed and communicated to consumers going forward. We’re seeing a greater focus on firms needing to ensure their comms are “socially responsible”, and the last’s years decision by the ASA to sanction irresponsible “influencers” has marked a firmer stance on how products are communicated.
Though work is still needed to shape the financial services world to meet the needs of women, much has changed in the last 20 years. At the end of the discussion, each panellist was asked what advice they’d give their younger self. Elizabeth said reap the rewards of compound interest early and learn the value of not rushing to spend, but saving to have more. Karen highlighted the importance of creating a habit early, and Etiksha said she would tell herself that it’s OK to ask questions and to feel confident doing so.
Hopefully, as more of us chat about our money and what we do with it, we’ll help each other, break down the stigma and put ourselves and younger generations on the same starting line as men.
Because who run the world? Girls.