Navigating Evolution: Women and Wealth Management

06 March 2024

Women represent over half of the global population and own approximately 40% of global wealth – yet have historically been overlooked by the financial services industry. Over the last decade however the needle has started to shift as women investors become increasingly empowered and, perhaps more importantly, women across the world participate in economic decision making and activities, thereby both controlling and growing their own, or their households’, wealth.

Within financial services women have become a major force, investing across a range of asset classes as well as making a significant impact as board members, stakeholders, and shareholders. This progress, proportionally, is monumental given the significant challenges that women have had to overcome in an industry traditionally dominated by both male investors and male-professionals. Nonetheless, in absolute terms women still represent a significantly smaller portion of the financial industry and progress cannot slow now. Within the industry, men should, rather than stepping aside, help make it happen.

Women were often perceived by financial professionals as less financially savvy, more risk averse, and less confident when making financial decisions. The gender wealth gap that arose from this has set a large proportion of women back in terms of financial empowerment: 48% of women invest in the stock market compared to 66% of men according to a study from 2023, and of those that do a Vanguard study from 2020 highlighted that 50% of women were less likely to be actively trading compared to men. A survey from Fidelity further highlighted that only 33% of women respondents felt confident in handling their own investments, while a BNY Mellon study showed that only one in ten women felt they fully understood investing. “It is true that there are still fewer financial professionals and company founders among us, who would have familiarity with corporate finance; research tells us that 70% of women still receive wealth through inheritance or divorce,” notes Olga Bogdanova, Head of Investment Advisory for North & Central Europe at Citi Private Bank.

However, ‘the times they are a-changin’ as Bob Dylan so wisely noted. The same Fidelity study noted that 67% of women were investing outside their retirement accounts in 2021, compared to just 44% in 2018. FT Advisor found that in the UK, on average, women started investing three years earlier than men, 32 compared to 35.

Women also tend to, on average, be better investors than their male counterparts. A Warwick Business School study highlighted that over a three-year period, female investors outperformed both the FTSE 100 and their male peers. Hargreaves Lansdown points to three reasons why women are likely to outperform men over the long-term:

  1. Women’s portfolios tend to be more diverse, thereby spreading risk.
  2. Women are less likely to hold significantly risky assets, such as single company shares of small firms – likely showing a more nuanced and sophisticated risk profile.
  3. Women are more inclined to invest over a longer period, reducing the effects of market volatility and trading costs.



Women are looking for advice and wanting to play a more active role in the management of their wealth.

Géraldine Biebuyck and Catherine Thibaut, Lombard Odier

Women often ask for more detailed information regarding an investment product than male clients.

Olga Bogdanova, Head of Investment Advisory for North & Central Europe at Citi Private Bank

According to Géraldine Biebuyck and Catherine Thibaut of Lombard Odier, their client base has reflected these changes with “more women looking for advice and wanting to play a more active role in the management of their wealth.” This also translates to how women engage with their managers. Bogdanova notes that “women often ask for more detailed information regarding an investment product than male clients. Their ‘leave nothing to chance approach’ has given rise to a misconception that women are more averse to risk”. It is perhaps more appropriate to consider that women have a more holistic and balanced approach to investments, considering a wider range of factors that might be applicable prior to making an investment decision.

By 2030, in the US alone, women are expected to control a significant majority of the $30 trillion in financial assets that baby boomers will possess at that point. Furthermore, when women take over financial decision-making in a household they tend to seek out new wealth management relationships according to a study by McKinsey.

A different type of investor is therefore coming to own a significant portion of assets under management and wealth managers must evolve their operations in order to retain these clients. This goes beyond fluffy marketing campaigns. The wealth management industry has already made strides in this area with financial-literacy events and experimenting with women-only product offerings however this will not be enough going forward.

Fundamentally, wealth management firms must transform operating and client-service models to now serve a variety of clientele. Success will not be a (wo)men-only or (wo)men-first approach, but rather a holistic client-specific or household-specific approach that takes into account a range of factors including unique risk appetite, asset-class preference, portfolio diversity requirements, relationship management approach, and more.