Banks miss the mark when it comes to talking to women, study says

U.S. financial institutions are losing out on some $800 billion in assets by marketing poorly to females.

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In an era of female empowerment and #MeToo, finance brands are falling behind when it comes to marketing to women, according to a new study from Kantar. It's a grave misstep, considering adult females control 80 percent of consumer spending and 51 percent of personal wealth, the report says. Kantar found that financial institutions are missing nearly $800 billion in investable assets by not engaging appropriately with women.

The study is well-timed to social issues dominating the landscape, says Anita Watkins, global head of qualitative at Kantar, noting that gender issues have dominated the media this year, and many business organizations are focused on promoting women and adding more diversity and inclusion to their ranks. "It made us sit up in our seats and say, 'This is a timely subject,'" she says. "Let's explore whether women are engaged or not in financial services."

This is the first year Kantar has published the report, which interviewed 2,500 men and women, executives at financial firms and conducted focus groups in October and November of this year.

The study found that some banks need to offer more targeted communication for women—who would be more responsive than men in some cases, particularly if the communication focused on the end benefits of investing, like retirement. But Watkins says most financial brands don't even bother to advertise in women's publications.

"They're not even just not talking to them in the right way, they're not talking to them at all," says Watkins. "Being present where they are would go a long way." She notes that women typically dislike discussing money, but would be open to brands that offer more personal engagement and conversation with a financial advisor. However, only 61 percent of women say their current financial services provider meets their needs very well.

Watkins notes that financial firms could also improve their on-site retail environments—many have intimidating desks and employees use condescending language and do not take the time to build a relationship with female consumers. In addition, she says that many advertisements are not as inclusive with female representation "as women would want."

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