Financial services marketers are out of touch with the attitudes and perceptions of their customers and female marketers could be perpetuating gender myths, according to a new study.
Financial services specialist agency Yell surveyed 250 senior marketers (68 per cent of respondents were female) and, in conjunction with Ipsos, asked 1,500 consumers to share their views on a range of issues for its third annual State of Financial Marketing report.
While the vast majority of consumers felt gender had no impact on how they perceived the trustworthiness and capability of financial professionals, the result was significantly different when it came to the perceptions marketers had of their customers.
Asked ‘When thinking about a financial service professional, which gender would you trust the most?’, 78 per cent of consumers said both genders were equally trusted, with just 12 per cent favouring males and 10 per cent females.
When financial services marketers were asked which gender they thought consumers trusted more, almost 50 per cent said consumers would express a preference of sexes, with 25 per cent saying men would be more trusted – ahead of women at 21 per cent.
However, when the responses from just female marketers were separated out to compare to consumers, there was even greater disparity in perceptions.
While just 21 per cent of female consumers had a preference for one gender over the other, 49 per cent of female marketers felt that consumers would have a preference.
29 per cent said that they thought consumers would prefer males and 20 per cent answering females.
The perception divide between consumers and marketers was even more pronounced when it came to the capabilities of financial professionals.
Asked: ‘Thinking about financial services professionals, which gender do you think would be more capable and deliver better outcomes for you?’, 82 per cent of consumers said both sexes were equally competent.
When marketers were asked to predict what consumers would think, just 59 per cent thought consumers would think both equally capable, with 37 per cent believing consumers would pick men and just 3 per cent saying females.
Again when the results from female marketers was isolated there was a much greater gender divide.
48 per cent said customers would have a preference of one gender over the other, with almost half of all respondents (45 per cent) saying consumers would think men would be more capable and drive better outcomes for them.
Yell founder and partner Nigel Roberts said: “Unfortunately it would appear that our industry doesn’t know its customers as well as it thinks and the recent focus on equality with the #metoo movement and diversity issues hitting the headlines hasn’t fundamentally changed its approach to gender-specific issues.”
“Reassuringly, gender is not a factor for consumers when it comes to trustworthiness or competence of financial services professionals.
“The same can’t be said about the perception of marketers.”
“What also seems apparent is that financial services marketing, a discipline with a strong female skew, appears to undervalue the perception of females in the minds of consumers, meaning female marketers could be perpetuating myths surrounding gender stereotypes.
“This may be for valid reasons however, such as working in an industry traditionally dominated by men and amplifying the perceived importance of men in the finance industry.”
Further highlighting the disconnect between financial services organisations and their customers is the response from consumers when asked if marketing from financial services companies represents them, their gender, age, race or sexual orientation.
Only 12 per cent of those asked said they felt adequately represented in marketing, with more than a quarter (28 per cent), of the population believing the industry doesn’t talk to them at all.
Roberts added: “Australia is a hugely diverse country with 25 per cent of the country speaking a language other than English at home.
“But while we now have the means to create targeted, segmented communications, it seems very few businesses are doing it well.”