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Value-enhancing women enrich financial services

21 August 2008 Liberty Group

Women's conceptual strengths and ability to see the big picture are having an impact in an area traditionally assumed to be a male domain – financial services; specifically, the life assurance business.

Industry research indicates that only 12% of women are the focus of financial planning sessions, but change is on the way, driven by socio-economic developments and the breakthrough of women into senior positions in this sector.

Jay Naidoo (pictured), Divisional Director of Learning at life assurer Liberty Group and the person accountable for all the company’s sales and distribution training, says women are increasingly valued in the industry for their engagement with new concepts and knack of spotting wider ramifications.

Their people orientation is important, too.

“Systems and technology may be vital,” says Jay Naidoo, “but people build a business. Empathy for people’s wants and needs is crucial.”

The people focus certainly underpins her own work.

Naidoo’s department plans, designs and implements all the strategic training and development requirements across the Liberty sales and distribution function. Often, the starting point is early identification of needs – whether strategic or individual.

Concern for people is not some feminine foible that detracts from building value. It’s a foundation for business growth and improved corporate performance.

“In recent years, one of the most important realisations by management science is that the so-called soft issues are also bottom-line issues,” she notes.

“Empathy for customers is essential when developing and retaining business while understanding your own people is crucial if you want to build a business and continue to grow.”

One benefit of a wider perspective can be a woman’s heightened awareness of socio-economic trends that could be industry transforming.

Naidoo explains: “The dual breadwinner household is one example of a relatively new concept with big societal impact and huge implications for the financial service industry.

“Household expenses are shared and the woman’s contribution is often essential for maintenance of the current lifestyle. This broader context has to be considered by a financial adviser in any holistic appraisal of client needs.

“If you continue to think within the traditional ‘box’ and fail to appreciate the broader context, these are missed opportunities for both the consumer and the financial service provider. A woman is instinctively sensitive to the big picture – a significant advantage when you have to think through the business ramifications of major trends or novel concepts.”

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