Research out of the UK has revealed significant differences in the way men and women view financial advice, with the contrasting concerns indicating that more gender-specific service design and marketing approaches would help attract more people to advice.

In a paper released recently by the International Longevity Centre, Peace of mind: Understanding the non-financial value of financial advice, researchers state that while men felt that advice would increase their financial control, women were more sceptical and felt concerned about losing autonomy to an adviser.

“Men who had taken advice more clearly reported that it added to their feelings of being in control of their finances,” the report stated. “Women (who both had and hadn’t taken advice) expressed concern about a potential loss of control in taking advice and worried about decisions being made for them.”

In a webinar discussing the findings, ILC Research Fellow Arum Himawan explained that men expressed the feelings of control advice gave them in a number of ways; from having an expert consultant with them to learning about different product options, benefits and risks. Women, on the other hand, were “particularly worried” about potential drawbacks.

“This included concern about a loss of control,” Himawan said. “They felt that because they were no longer the sole person in charge of their financial decision-making, because they had someone else involved, they felt that advisers might be able to make changes to their financial situation without their knowledge.”

Arun Himawan, ILC Research Fellow (Source: Twitter)

While women who hadn’t taken advice said this perceived lack of control was a barrier to seeking advice, it was noted that those who did seek advice had this concern allayed by their adviser. “They say they were able to build a positive relationship with their adviser and they were able to overcome that control issue quite quickly,” Himawan added.

The implication for UK advisers, according to the study, is that action by the industry and policymakers to address “misconceptions over the loss of control” may well increase the uptake of advice among women.

“This perception is actually a misperception and more needs to be done to help women understand that when they do take financial advice they will be able to retain the level of control they feel comfortable with,” Himawan said.

Of all the differences among sub-groups in the study – which incorporated interviews, roundtables and a survey – the “most marked difference in views” were between men and women.

Of those in the study who reported being under advice, women spoke of increased financial literacy and subsequent empowerment as the main non-financial benefit while men said it made them more confident to try new ways of investing.

And while most participants who had not taken advice expected it to reduce their worry, women – particularly in the lower wealth group – were concerned that it might have the opposite effect.

“These participants only felt that their worries would be less if their adviser provided solutions that they could easily implement; they felt if their problems were too complex, their adviser would not be able to suggest actions that would be within their capacity to implement,” the report states.

Similar challenges

While the UK financial advice industry has undergone changes similar to the Australian industry in an effort to engender trust among consumers, the study found that people have not responded as positively to the uplift as hoped.