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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

MFS Offers Tips For Better Serving Female Investors

Reported by Andrew Lusk

To mark Women's History Month, the team at a Northeastern asset manager is spreading the word about specific strategies financial professionals can take to better help their female clientele.

Jenine McKenna Garrelick
MFS Investment Management
Senior Managing Director
Jenine Garrelick, a senior managing director at Boston-based MFS Investment Management, tells MFWire that a historic lack of women-centric materials within the financial services industry has caused a major deficit in advisors' skills navigating women's unique circumstances.

A few years ago, Garrelick sat down with a longtime colleague to reevaluate the firm's women-centric materials. What she found was the same set of presentations that were shown when she was a new arrival to the industry decades earlier.

"The industry wasn't connecting with women because we weren't talking to women," said Garrelick. "We weren't talking about what was important to women."

Overall, Garrelick explains that jargony approaches to women's finances just don't resonate. In her experience, she has found that women are much more likely than men to view their financial situations in terms of life events. Instead of delving exclusively into benchmarks, asset classes, and the strategic angles of a specific portfolio, asset management professionals and advisors looking to better connect with female clientele should ask about what types of things these savers are looking forward to.

"How does this bucket of money help me and my family?" Garrelick illustrates as an example of some women's approach to their finances. "How does this bucket of money help when I am pulled to be a caregiver for my elderly parents? How does this bucket of money help me feel more secure about those curveballs that women get hit with?"

"What we don't talk about enough is how the role of women — depending on generations and cultures — have changed dramatically," she notes. "We need to cater our benefits to those needs."

Irrespective of a client's gender, however, Garrelick says that the best financial professionals are those who listen intently and respond to the individual's needs. "They ask good questions and it's not about themselves — it's about their client and connecting."

When it comes to women, you can't lump them together or refuse to personalize your approach, Garrelick adds. "I think our industry is always better when we are better listeners and really trying to figure out what is on people's minds."

The MFS Advisor Edge program, notes Garrelick, is a resource designed to facilitate better questions. The program's Social Security seminar remains one of the most popular, and covers issues specific to women who rely largely on Social Security benefits later in life.

The team's Heritage Planning materials are also available for those looking to better understand clients' needs with family-specific financial planning.

As for what she'd like to see come out of Women's History Month in 2023, Garrelick says that she hopes more young women consider going into finance, breaking the last of the barriers to equal representation in the industry.

"What I always say is that, in our world ... true freedom is financial freedom," she concludes. "More and more women should jump on board and come on in, and it's a great industry to be in. I think women would thrive."  

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