A little background, I am a member of an all-female leadership team as part of The Verve Group, a paraplanner, an advice recipient and also you know, female – so I feel qualified to discuss women from a variety of perspectives.

Let me start by saying, I’m not a feminist. I’m an equalist. I don’t expect special treatment for being a woman, but I do expect to be treated in as fair a way as any of my counterparts, be they men, women, transgender or wheelie bins.

I do have to clarify, however, that being equal doesn’t always mean we should be treated the same. Bear with me on this…

We cannot get past the science, men and women are different in many ways, with one of the largest areas being on how we take in and interpret information. Our brains literally work in a different way. So knowing this, should we be treating men and women the same when giving them advice or writing suitability reports?

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a man say something along the lines of “I don’t understand you women…” then I could probably afford a larger pension contribution.

Anyway, I can’t profess to know everything about women, despite my amazing credentials, but here’s something that will hopefully give you a bit of insight into us.

Hold onto your pants, here’s the science-y bit looking at the actual brain areas, what those mean and how they differ between genders.

The hippocampus; the place where memories are stored. Women have a larger hippocampus, so remember things much more clearly than men do and can recall things after a longer period of time. In addition, they use less logic than men, with more emphasis on feelings (sorry women!).

The prefrontal cortex; the decision centre of the brain. This develops at different stages, with women developing theirs at a much younger age than men. Men can process risk and threats much easier than women.

The anterior cortex; the emotional section of the brain. Women’s are larger resulting in a higher state of anxiety than men, with a larger tendency to worry about things.

The corpus callosum; the nerve link between the left side of the brain (logical thinking area) and the right side of the brain (creativity and intuition). Women’s corpus callosum is much larger than the male corpus callosum, resulting in the potential for women to jump between emotions and facts very easily, whereas men tend to think in a more linear way. This is referred to as webs vs straight thinking.

So, what does that mean for the way that we interact with women in our roles as advisers and paraplanners? I work with over 150 firms, which are predominately populated with male advisers and the industry as a whole (while progressing in the right direction) remains a largely male-dominated sector. However, this is changing, and with it, we should consider moving with it and looking at how we approach people’s different needs. I’ve done a lot of work recently with suitability and how to document your advice suitably to ensure it is clear and understood.

So, knowing what we do now, about how men and women process things differently, should we look at how we address this in our profession?

  1. The hippocampus. Women are likely to go into an advice meeting with more depth to their objectives. They’re less likely to state they just want growth, but will instead focus on what that means for them and their family. They are more interested in how a solution will make them feel, rather than fact-based figures and returns. Plus they’ll remember everything you said, so make sure you mean it.
  2. The prefrontal cortex. The obvious takeaway from this is that women are likely to want to take less risk than men, though we know this is not always the case. Women are more likely to appreciate a discussion and human interaction, to discuss potential problems and solutions, rather than a one-sided, non-face-to-face transaction. It is likely that a female meeting may take longer than a male meeting. Allow extra time for them to verbalise and work through their various perceptions.
  3. The anterior cortex. While the larger anterior cortex can provide further insight to a woman, it can also distract from decisions and more guidance may be needed. Women are likely to worry more, it’s just a thing. Work with this and make sure she has as much information as possible available to her to assuage as many of the potential worries as possible.
  4. The corpus callosum. Women are good at seeing the bigger picture by moving quickly between the two areas of the brain, with holistic thinking a large part of this. However, men are much better at drilling down into the details and getting rid of unnecessary information and moving quickly with decisions. Take this into account when you’re diarising follow up meetings.
DISCLAIMER: Of course, this is a very broad outlook and millions of women and men will not fall into the above categories and nothing can beat just getting to know each and every client on an individual basis. This is just more of an interesting aspect I’ve been looking at myself when faced with why men and women approach finance differently.

And sorry, I don’t know what us women mean when we say “I’m fine” and clearly are not.

Jo Campbell – Director
Women in Finance – On Both Sides of the Coin
Part of the Verve Group

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