Let’s talk about sex (as in gender), baby!
Not so long ago, my company surveyed 1,000 people in the US and 1,000 in the UK to understand prevailing attitudes to banks, bank brands and other financial service institutions. We looked to see what people thought of high street brands, some of the new challenger banks and the products and services on offer.
We looked across genders, age ranges and socio-economic groups. We found some fascinating patterns, but one particular insight stood out; women and men seemed to differ in their attitudes to banks and banking products and services.
Overall, it seems that banking brands resonate more with men than women. When asked about familiarity, women seemed to be less aware of bank brands beyond the ones they were customers of.
With regard to positivity about brands, women were less positive. It would seem that at a brand level, banks have a bias towards men. This difference is not only towards the older, more established brands but also the challengers.
When it came to financial products, there seemed to be differences as well. Women felt that their financial needs and aspirations were not being met in the way they would like by existing products; men are interested in the here-and-now, women take a longer-term view.
Interestingly, the more a brand leaned towards investment and longer-term money management, the more positive women seemed to be about that brand and its product offering.
In terms of the services that banks offer, men seem to value functionality, whereas women are looking for tools and advice to help support that longer-term view. Men want transactional functionality that satisfies them in the present, and guess what? Banks have focused on building transactional gateways through desktop and mobile banking.
In terms of channels, women prefer mobile vs men, who still seem pretty happy to be logging on to internet banking through the desktop.
All this has got us thinking. Can this be true? Do women and men have different needs and attitudes toward money? Could it be that the finance industry, an industry that men still dominate, has created brands, products and services that are biased towards men? Could there be an opportunity here to rebalance and actively address the needs of women?
These findings fuelled further, more in-depth qualitative research. Overall we have found that, yes, there are differences between genders:
- Women have a longer-term view of money from a much earlier age. As a result, they are interested in and want access to investments and savings well before men.
- Women generally achieve more control over their finances from an earlier age and then sacrifice this control as they start having children.
- Women want more advice and guidance. But from other women, not men.
Add to this some hard facts. Here are some examples courtesy of Annabelle Williams in her book, Why Women Are Poorer Than Men and What We Can Do About It:
“It’s not just the 18 per cent gender pay gap – which at the current rate will take 257 years to close – but the 40 per cent pension savings gap, which means when we talk about poverty in old age, we are really talking about women.
“It’s the fact that just one penny in every pound of venture capital investment goes to start-up businesses led by women.”
And this one (gulp):
“There are more men called Dave running top 100 firms than women of any name.”
But banking in 2021 remains resolutely one size fits all. There is little consideration for differences, even at the broadest segmentation level, gender—what a waste for both customers and the banks.
All this really got me thinking. How can the banking industry respond?
I don’t think this is about just creating women-focused propositions, although there is definitely space for these.
How much better would it be if gender, age, preferences and behaviours were used to mould the experience and proposition around the individual. And then adding insight from broader macro trends. Imagine marrying the knowledge that women live longer and tend to be poorer in old age with the interest that women show in long-term savings. That feels like the spark for a worthwhile proposition.
That way, these gender imbalances will start to disappear.
And that is the big challenge for the industry – making finance more personal. And helpful. And relevant.
About the author
He is a passionate customer advocate and champion and a successful entrepreneur.