Winning over female customers

The female economy represents a huge potential market for lenders, so how can they tap into it? Jen Dalitz, CEO of Women in Banking and Finance, explains

Winning over female customers

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. Or her shoes, in the case of the lucrative market for home loans that single women represent.

Once the sole domain of working men or dual-income households, single females have been steadily tip-toeing their way into the homebuyers’ market and now present a substantial opportunity for mortgage lenders that are willing and able to respond to the needs of this growing segment.

Analysis by mortgage broker Loan Market found the proportion of single female first home buyers applying for a home loan has risen from 15.7% to 22% over the past year, becoming one of the fastest-growing home-buyer demographics in the market. This is hardly surprising when you consider the underlying data: women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy is growing every year.

The female economy is estimated to be worth $28trn worldwide – which is bigger than the economies of China and India put together twice over. The sheer scale of this business opportunity is obvious, but not all strategies are equal in winning over women as customers.

In Australia, women comprise 50.4% of the population, 58% of all university enrolments and 47.2% of all employees. The pandemic has turbocharged the shift towards flexible and remote work, ensuring that more women than ever before will have access to meaningful work, and providing pathways to affordable housing markets outside of major capital cities. 

Recognising these trends, home lenders should be honestly evaluating how well they are positioned to respond to the needs and wants of women as customers, and asking the following questions:

  1. What perceptions do we present about the value of women in our organisation? Is this an attractive place for women to work? Are we supporting women in their career development, from entry through to leadership roles? Does our website and branding make women feel welcome as employees and customers? There are countless ways you can demonstrate through your words and deeds that women are core to your business and their contribution is valued.
  2. How good is our gender intelligence? Far more than just a feel-good factor, diversity and inclusion initiatives are about ensuring the contributions of women are valued and recognised in order to attract and retain women as employees, who in turn bring diversity of thought to the products and services you offer to customers. Women bring a wealth of lived experiences and knowledge of what women want and need.
  3. Where can we innovate and improve products and services to meet the emerging needs and wants of women as consumers?  There is a real opportunity to build products that align with the career life cycle of women, which is often very different to that of men. For example, where men typically follow a linear career trajectory, the career path of women has been shown to be M-shaped and correlated with a dip in earning during early child-raising years. Do your home loan products include flexibility to vary repayments or balance cash fl ow over these years? Could you assist women in saving and planning for these major life events? Could you offer life coaching or other services to help them navigate unplanned changes in circumstances, such as divorce or the death of a partner?

The ability to win market share across any segment hinges on first knowing and then meeting the needs and wants of the target customers. Organisations that want to attract women as customers realise they need to engage women right throughout their business – from the frontline right through to leadership roles – and rightly recognise women for the exciting market opportunity they present.

Jen Dalitz is the CEO of Women in Banking and Finance, a not-for-profit membership association aimed at increasing the representation of female leaders in the banking and finance sector.