August 29, 2019
One the eve of the announcement of the 2019 TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award winner at this year’s AFA Conference, we share some of the key thoughts from 2018 winner, Donna Lee Powell. Among other thoughts, Donna sends a potent warning to all advisers about why a significant proportion of widows change advisers following the death of their spouse…
1. Donna, what are the biggest financial challenges you see for women in creating and managing their financial and family affairs?
Women typically aren’t naturally interested in their financial affairs and therefore they often get neglected. Women today are often more educated, earning more than ever, and are projected to own more financial assets than men over time. However, they are not usually driven by money so, there is often less motivation for them to educate and empower themselves to be financially independent.
With almost one in two marriages ending in divorce and women living longer than men, this is a major issue for Australian women.
Women are projected to own more financial assets than men over time
Being a widow myself, I can relate to women who are solely responsible for making all their financial and family decisions. To empower more women to engage with their finances, I created a service that is accessible to women and widows in a way other services are not. For example, as one of my services I offer My Prosperity, which is an easy to use budgeting and cash flow solution. It can be accessed as a mobile device application or website and customers can capture all their financial information in one place, set goals and track against them. Tools such as these can easily be used by busy women who are managing all their financial and family affairs.
2. What technical and soft skills do financial advisers need in order to maintain relationships with female customers, particularly those who may be widowed?
Firstly, show that you care. Be kind and patient. Connect with your female clients equally as to how you connect with your male clients. In my own practice, I take the time to understand what is important. I respect my customers’ decisions and listen to their concerns. My role is not to jump to conclusions about what’s “best” for them or judge their decision making. I provide trust and honesty and am not afraid to discuss the emotional aspects of life. I listen with compassion, make the connection of money to their life and build their confidence to empower them to achieve their future goals.
I would also suggest avoiding the use of technical jargon. Advisers can often confuse and overwhelm women with these terms as well as widows, who are already going through a challenging time. Using technical jargon can make them feel inadequate, and our role as advisers is to make all our customers feel empowered and to educate them as best as we possibly can. For widows in particular, try to keep it simple and follow up with an email outlining briefly what you are doing and the next steps.
In terms of the technical skills that advisers should have when dealing with customers who may be widowed, knowledge in insurance and estate planning advice would be beneficial. These services can ensure that peoples’ families are protected and their quality of life is maintained in the event of death and disability.
I think the industry still has a lot of work to do in finding a way to speak the language of women
3. Why do you think 70% of widows decide to change their financial adviser after their spouse has passed away?
I think the main reason is because they haven’t managed to develop a strong relationship with their existing advisers. The feedback I get from the women I work with is that the advisers have always directed the meeting towards their husbands/partners. They also often confuse them with numbers and acronyms, which in turn disempowers them rather than educating and empowering them. I think the industry still has a lot of work to do in finding a way to speak the language of women.
4. How has winning the AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice award given you a platform to lobby Government for policy changes in the Estate Planning space to better support women, particularly those that are widowed?
The professional recognition I’ve received from winning the AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award has allowed for my voice and concerns to be heard with more credibility. I will continue to pursue this now that our government has been set.
My concerns relate to the way Estate Planning and bereavement are currently handled, which can further compound the grief that many families experience when a loved one dies.
Currently there are many administrative hurdles involved in trying to wind up an estate, including accessing superannuation and insurance benefits. For example, if someone dies without leaving behind a will or having a Binding Nomination in place, not only does it delay the process, the choice of who the estate is paid to is determined by the courts or the trustee of the superannuation or insurance fund. Not only are the outcomes often not ideal for the family, it often leaves the widows behind without any support for themselves and their families for a significant period of time and when they need this help the most.
With certain policy changes in Estate Planning, we could make the process a lot more streamlined
With certain policy changes in Estate Planning, we could make the process a lot more streamlined and interlinked and less complicated and confusing, in order to better support women who are widowed.
5. What is the importance of insurance and estate planning for this customer base?
Having the right insurance and estate planning advice can ensure that widowed women and their families are protected and their quality of life is maintained regardless of death or disability. Widows can place particularly greater value on insurance and estate planning because often their partners may have managed the lion’s share of the families’ financial affairs and the impact of their partners’ death can be either eased or burdened depending on what insurance and estate planning measures they had in place.
Donna Lee Powell is the Owner and Founder of DLP Life Design and the winner of the 2018 AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award. Donna is passionate about providing advice that is personalised, empowering and delivers outcomes based on customers’ goals. Women represent two thirds of Donna’s client base with half of her client base being single women. The AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award recognises women in financial advice who are making a significant contribution to their profession, their community and their clients. The Award promotes positive change in the financial advice sector, encouraging more women to enter the industry and to take leadership roles. Importantly, it aims to give choice to Australians when it comes to getting financial advice. For more information on the Award, visit: afafemaleadvice.com/award.