Insights – Yes She Can

News Release: 28 November 2019

Financial and Professional Services Firms Collaborate To Help Close The Savings and Investment Gap
– a potential £350bn industry opportunity –

  • Encouragement: being encouraged to invest is a significant factor in becoming an investor and women are less likely to be encouraged, including by the industry
  • Engagement: highlighting why investing is important, and that many are already investors through pension schemes, women are more likely to engage
  • Auto enrolment: auto enrolment has handed the industry an un-tapped opportunity as it has created even more investors – but people just don’t realise they are
  • Technology: digital technology can inspire women to invest – and this project has identified the nudges and tools that work

The Wisdom Council and seven leading financial and professional services companies shared the Yes She Can project key findings and industry actions at an event on 27 November 2019. This collaborative project has revealed an opportunity for the sector to address the savings and investment gap for women in a meaningful way. It began as an initiative to test how to make investments appeal more to women, but discovered a fundamental truth: most women have simply never considered investing in the first place. Investing and long-term saving is just not on their radar.

The Wisdom Council, along with Aberdeen Standard Investments, EY, HSBC Global Asset Management UK, Royal London Group, Scottish Widows, St. James’s Place and Vitality have been working collaboratively with over 3,300 women around the country over the past six months, tackling the challenge of making the proposition of long-term savings, investments and pensions more engaging and relevant for women and ultimately everyone.

The project embraced the innovation techniques and strategies used by many of the most popular consumer brands who are adept at engaging women.

The key conclusions were:

  • The industry isn’t just speaking the wrong language for women, it is often having completely the wrong conversation which results in many communications falling on deaf ears and having no impact
  • Advertising and communications targeted at women often reinforce the outdated mantras that women are risk averse and lack confidence as investors
  • Women have a different view:
         o They describe themselves as CEOs of their households, taking  controlled risks on a daily basis
         o Women investors are just as confident as men and are more likely to talk about it
         o For women, femininity is about strength and resilience. They are ambitious for their futures
  • In talking about lack of confidence and barriers, the industry risks reinforcing the perception that investing is not ‘for people like me’
  • To address the gender pensions gap and encourage long term savings we have to get on women’s radars by making investing and long-term savings part of everyday conversations
  • Most women (and men come to that) don’t realise they are already investors through their workplace pension. Tapping in to this realisation can be powerful. Over 75% of the final sample of 2,250 didn’t know that they were investors, despite the recruitment criteria specifying that they had to have a workplace or personal pension
  • Most of the women involved in this project had simply not considered investing, as opposed to consciously deciding not to invest
         o 59% of non-investing women had never thought of investing as an option
         o 87% of non-investing women had never been encouraged to consider investing
  • Family and social circles can often play a critical role in motivating and encouraging individuals to invest, especially for women
         o 85% of non-investing women involved in the project don’t think people like them are investing

Anna Lane, CEO, The Wisdom Council said: “It is rare to have such a genuinely collaborative cross-industry project tackling the savings gap in such a practical way. The firms involved in this project, along with their sister companies, represent approximately 50% of UK consumers, lending huge momentum to the project. Closing the savings gap is a huge social issue. Yes, there is a £350bn commercial opportunity for the sector, but there is also a massive need to help people fund their financial futures. This is a perfect storm.”

“We talked to women as consumers, asking them about the relationships they have with the brands they love and why. Working together we have explored and tested innovative ways that these learnings can be applied to the world of long-term saving and, specifically, investing. Through our female-curated digital stories and behavioral nudges we’ve proven that when you tell the right story, in the right way, you can change behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“At the current pace of change it will take a minimum of 100 years for the gender pensions gap to close. That’s just not good enough. The Yes She Can project has demonstrated that if we work together we can engage women, get investing on their radars and encourage them to take action.”

The project findings identified 3 key misconceptions that were then tested:

  1. Women don’t like taking risks
  2. Women lack confidence when it comes to investing
  3. Women have taken a conscious decision not to invest

The Yes She Can project identified the things that matter most to women when purchasing from the consumer brands they love, then applied them to financial services. Looking at these purchase triggers and identifying a set of six pillars that underpin women’s lives, we then validated these with large-scale data-driven insight in the form of behavioural analysis and social listening.

Working collaboratively with female consumers, 60 ideas were developed and designed to engage and inspire women to invest. Two of these were prioritised and transformed into digital “stories” and framed around real people and their lives. The final stage was to test these with 2,250 women and men, using a short survey delivered through The Wisdom Council’s highly engaging AI-driven personal survey bot, Kit.

After seeing the videos created as part of this project, there was a statistically significant increase in women’s intention to invest and 21% of the total sample went on to “find out more” and read more tips on investing at the end of the survey. The average click through rate is usually 1 -2 %. Clearly the stories resonated and the highest scoring feedback was “inspired” and “intrigued”, with 58% of the total sample awarding the video a 4 & 5 star rating.

Anna concluded: “To address the gender pensions gap and get investing on the radars of women we need to make it part of their networks and conversations. This is a big challenge and one that is not possible for one firm to do alone. It needs the wisdom of the crowds and diverse minds working together, so the industry and society will benefit. Collaboration is very much the zeitgeist.”

Further quotes from the collaborative financial services firms can be found in the Notes To Editors.


For more details on the Yes She Can project and how you can get involved with the upcoming 2020 project, please contact:
Martha Webb, Research Manager, The Wisdom Council 


About The Wisdom Council
The Wisdom Council is a customer engagement specialist, bringing intelligent insight to financial services firms and helping them to shape their thinking on strategy, propositions, new product development and service delivery. We believe improved engagement with clients is critical to the future success of wealth firms and the wider industry. The Wisdom Council team has long-standing experience of working with wealth and asset managers, drawing on deep technical knowledge as well as expertise in client engagement. Anna Lane is founder and CEO of the business.

Additional Quotes
Aberdeen Standard Investments
Campbell Fleming, Global Head of Distribution, Aberdeen Standard Investments said: “It’s an important fundamental of asset management to engage with investors, and yet it’s clear from the research that women are financially disadvantaged in this area. What’s so encouraging about this research, is that women are interested and ready to take action to manage and improve their long term savings and investments. It’s up to us as an industry to empower all customers to make informed investment decisions. That means thinking about the way we present, communicate and educate people about the options available to them at each stage of their investment journey. The research highlights important themes for our industry, including the fact that all consumers, women in particular, care deeply about environmental issues and the impact of climate change, which is something that Aberdeen Standard Investments recognises with ESG practices embedded in the heart of our investing processes.”

“We welcome the opportunity to be part of this collaboration – we’re coming together to give everyone the opportunity to take control of their financial future.”

Caroline Hurst, Sustainable Finance, EY said: “The work of The Wisdom Council challenges traditional stereotypes about why women do and don’t invest and helps the financial services industry move forward by identifying and testing solutions that will ensure it properly serves the needs of female investors. The end outcome should give the industry access to a much broader pool of investors and women access to better products and services.”

HSBC Asset Management UK
Andy Clark, HSBC Global CEO UK said: “If investing is the answer, what is the question… so many people (men and women) do not even realise they need to be thinking about investing and that is what this project has revealed”

Smera Ashraf, Head of Group Distribution and Discretionary for HSBC Global Asset Management UK said: “So many women and other segments of communities I speak to, like the Pakistani community, have never touched an investment product. This project is not just a commercial opportunity, but a social need. I have been fascinated and excited by the results.”

Royal London
Becky O’Connor, Personal Finance Specialist for Royal London, said: “The reasons women are not investing are not a lack of confidence or risk aversion, which are the supposed ‘barriers’ often cited. The Yes She Can project findings suggest instead that investing is not even on the radar of most women. Why is it not on their radar? A big reason is women have never felt encouraged to do so by anyone – family, friends or the industry, according to the research.”

“The problem of women in general not investing needs to be addressed urgently. In a world where all of us – male or female – must take responsibility for our own long-term security, this lack of engagement of half of the population must be fixed. No one should be in a position where they are dependent on a partner – or the state – for their future. The project suggests that pulling apart stereotypes and misunderstandings, as well as changing the perception of what investing is and does, will be a vital parting of fixing this imbalance.”

St. James’s Place
Claire Blackwell, Director of Marketing at St. James’s Place said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Yes She Can project. Research for the project has shown there is a desire for more financial understanding among women, and a need to build their awareness and confidence when it comes to financial planning and investing, and we fully support this recognition.”

“We know that financial advice and management is deeply personal, which is why we believe in face-to-face bespoke advice. We think it’s important that women are not inhibited to access advice and investment services so that they are equipped with the right knowledge and understanding to make informed financial decisions and take control of their future. We also know that women gain confidence from other women, and at St. James’s Place we have an industry leading number of female advisers who can help other women with financial advice.”

“We wholeheartedly accept that more can be done both within ourselves and our industry to break down barriers to getting advice and support more women when it comes to their financial futures – we therefore believe the Yes She Can project is a fantastic initiative and intend to work with them and use this research to make a positive and measurable difference.”

Scottish Widows
Catherine Stewart, Head of Workplace Pensions & Investments, Scottish Widows said: “A range of life events compound the difference in savings between men and women, including maternity leave, career breaks, divorce and part-time working. Getting behind the Yes She Can project as an industry will help address the lack of awareness of the benefits of investing in the longer term and by doing so ease the financial stresses that disproportionately impact women. Although we’ve seen some progress in improving the gender gap in pension savings, there is still a long way to go in helping women to be better prepared for their financial future, and the more energy we can put into making progress together, the better.”

Hilary Banks, Director at VitalityInvest said: “The Wisdom Council’s report shows many women are simply not even considering investing. This is especially worrying given we know women’s pension pots are smaller than men’s and face further pressure from things such as a longer life expectancy than men, and being more likely to take time out of their career to raise children or care for elderly relatives. It’s really important that women feel empowered to put in place a financial plan that will support them into retirement, and allow them to do the things they want to do when they reach later life.”

“Encouragingly the report also shows women are taking a preventative attitude toward their health and wellbeing. We believe good health and wealth are intrinsically linked to giving us the kind of later life all of us want to live, and having a financial solution that rewards healthy lifestyle choices and positive savings actions can benefit both women and men now and in the future. There’s so much more the industry can do to boost female investing and I hope this report leads to some real change that will better support women when it comes to investing.”