Interview with Barbara Provost
Ed: Thanks so much for joining me in this interview today, Barbara! You have a wealth of experience in both education and financial services. Please tell us your story of what attracted you to both.
Barbara: As you a young girl my family owned a 7-11 franchise for 7 years. I was exposed to all area of running a business, from stocking shelves, to financials and serving customers. Then I worked for several banks, in various roles, which increased my knowledge of savings vehicles and mortgages. I then transitioned from roles where I served the public to roles where I served the internal employees through training and development. Ultimately, I moved to the insurance/financial industry, in a role where I designed and developed education to equip new agents on how to open their agency, to onboarding insurance and financial professionals, to project launches or technology changes – the whole gamut.
During this time, I was always in school learning about business and adult education and applying my learning directly to my work responsibilities. My passion is helping employees feel confident and competent to be successful in the job that they do through engaging and pragmatic training /educational experiences.
Ed: You’ve had the opportunity to use your knowledge and skills in a very large financial organization. One of the things you shared was an observation you made and took it all the way to the C-Suite in the company.
Barbara: That’s right. As I worked with new agents and financial professionals who sold financial products and services, I could see how the resources and processes used were not addressing the female market. The product brochures didn’t display people that looked like me, the sales processes were very transactional with the end goals to just sell a product, the language used was loaded with financial speak, the people selling the products were not people who could relate to me and my life and my needs. I took my observations to my leadership time and time again. I was even able to present my observations, findings and a proposal to a Senior Vice President of Marketing.
Ed: So, you shared this information with the executives that would have put them light years ahead of other companies in the industry and what was their response?
Barbara: I was able to move my mission from my leader, to a Senior Sales Leader who could see that “there was something there.” She was able to get us an appointment with the Senior Vice President of Marketing where I presented my findings, but the outcome was disappointing. He didn’t see the void as I saw it and didn’t feel a need to invest in engaging the female market. After that, any effort toward this mission was dead in the water.
Ed: That gives us a great segue into talking about the difference when giving financial advice to women and to men. Would you give us 3 – 5 key ways that are different when giving financial advice to women versus men?
Making a financial purchase:
When women are making a purchase, be it financial or other, they like to gather information in order to make the right decision. This is because women are thinking through the impact of the decision on herself, her family, or maybe even her extended family. She wants to make the right decision so that she feels confident without feeling like she will have to address this decision again. She’s thinking, is this the right investment for me? Is it flexible to meet my needs? How will this be the best option for me and my family? Are these investments supporting green companies, companies that have female leadership, companies that are not using child labor?
When men make a purchase, they are more likely to go directly to what their end game is. He’s thinking, What’s the return on my investment? What does it cost?
Office atmosphere / surroundings
Women can sum up an opinion of an office environment very quickly when she walks in the door. Her senses are picking up queues such as. Am I comfortable here? Do I feel welcome in this space? Is this going to be easy for me? Do I like it here? Am I treated as a valuable individual? Much of this comes through the environment and first experience.
Men are often thinking; how long will this take?
Ed: The statistics are mind-blowing when you research what’s happening in the Private Wealth sector regarding gender. Two that I found are that, by 2020, women will control 67% of Private Wealth in the U.S. and that women Asset Managers outperform men Asset Managers 4:1. What are some other statistics that financial organizations should be paying attention to in regards to women?
Barbara: Here are some important stats that show the power of the female market and how they obtain and share information across their peer groups.
Ed: If you could give only one piece of advice to women in the Financial Services Industry, what would it be? To men?
Women in the Financial Services Industry are working in a man’s world – and it’s difficult. Many do not last. I would encourage these women to think about what they need to be more productive and comfortable working in the Financial Services Industry. Then, create or join advocacy groups – like Females and Finance – to help build out support and encouragement to make changes. Women are needed in this industry – yet many women in this industry work differently than men – and they need to find support.
I would encourage men in the Financial Services Industry to learn as much as they can about the power of the female market and what they need to do differently to support and serve the female market. The future is female, and the future is now!
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