Leveraging the female millennial in financial services in Asia – the steps that leaders should take

Despite significant effort being made by the financial services industry to develop programmes to increase the number of women in leadership positions, the global media has continued to focus on the lack of women in senior leadership in financial services.

A case in point – in May 2015, the global media reported on a speech on ethics and finance by Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund managing director, where she mentioned a question she had posed in the past: “What would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters”?

However, to achieve sustainable change, organisations shouldn’t just focus on the top ranks of their corporate leadership – they must also drive parallel efforts that focus on developing their talented junior women from day one for future leadership roles.

Pictures on elements which support the career progression of female millennial in financial services in Asia -

More can be done

It appears that the financial services industry still has some way to go. According to a recent PwC report, “Female millennials in financial services: Strategies for a new era of talent”, whilst 60 per cent of female millennials in financial services see opportunities for career progression as the most important attribute in an employer, limited opportunities for career progression was the number one reason female millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) left their last jobs in financial services.

Further, the outlook for those still working in the industry is a concern as two-thirds of women working in financial services believe they won’t be able to reach a senior level within their current organisation. This compares to just three in 10 male millennials.

An image problem?

Globally, the financial services industry has an image problem – something which it must improve to attract the increasing number of female millennials joining the workforce. 13 per cent of women surveyed wouldn’t work in insurance because of its image, and 10 per cent indicated they wouldn’t work in banking and capital markets, though in asset management this is only five per cent.

Fortunately the results in Asia-Pacific are much more favourable across all sectors of financial services, reflecting both the less dramatic impact of the global financial crisis and the greater presence of women holding senior leadership positions in financial services within the region.

Leveraging female millennials makes business sense

Leveraging women to improve the ability of the financial services industry to build relationships and engender trust, and give firms an edge makes business sense, and is something which organisations should consider on particularly in the growing wealth management sector in Asia where often both men and women prefer female private bankers as they are perceived to be sensitive and empathetic.

Changing demographics also mean that female clients will become increasingly more influential and financial institutions should seek to cater to them as a growing client base in Asia. A 2013 PwC Private Banking and Wealth Management Survey report highlighted the growing importance of the female demographic in private banking. While female clients have many requirements similar to men, they also often have different attitudes, life stages, risk appetites and decision-making criteria when making decisions about their wealth. Private banks and wealth managers need to better understand the different networks of influence on which many female clients rely for decision making.

There are many areas which organisations can focus on to make them more attractive to female millennials. However, one of key success factors that financial institutions need to do to restore trust in the industry, is to be seen to promote diversity and inclusiveness at the core of their employer brand. Setting and tracking clear targets to identify priorities for intervention and demonstrate the organisation is genuinely committed to promoting equality and inclusiveness will be vital.  Finally, employers should reinforce this through a strong leadership tone from the top, and having visible female role models.


First published on LinkedIn on 13 June 2015 here.

What are some of the other ways to leverage female millennial in financial services in Asia?