Women play a dominant role in managing household finances, but most do not use the Internet as a tool for doing so.
Seventy percent of the nearly 1,000 women surveyed by Vanguard Media said they are in charge of their familys finances. Half of those surveyed have Internet access at home, but only 22% said they use the Internet to gather information about financial products.
Vanguard Medias study, which was done through the economic research center at the University of Utah, found that women are 55% of all active Internet users. But because women are skeptical about privacy and security on the Internet, they are reluctant to use it to gather health and financial information, according to the Salt Lake City firm, which specializes in advertising and marketing to women.
The good news for banks is that they fare no worse than large Internet portals in attracting women to their sites. The survey said that women who do use the Internet as a financial information resource are just as likely to go to their banks Web site as they are to a large portal such as Yahoo.
Women seek detailed information when deciding on financial products, said Lucinda Kindred, managing partner of Vanguard Media. The fact that their local bank is a starting point as often as a large portal gives credibility to a local banks online efforts.
Indeed, banks are well-positioned to gain the trust of women using the Internet, Vanguard said. Banks were rated as the most trustworthy among nine sources of financial advice, with female family members and newspapers No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. The Internet was ranked eighth, just ahead of investment clubs and just behind television. Brokers were ranked fifth.
Women also make up a large market for new-product sales. Though 64% of the women surveyed said they have savings accounts, only 31% had investments in mutual funds, 29% in stocks and bonds, and 23% in certificates of deposit.
Women are conservative in financial services, and they are very reluctant to be more aggressive, Ms. Kindred said.
Vanguard advises banks to take advantage of the trust women have in them by fostering personal relationships and creating Web sites with plenty of relevant, reliable, and easy-to-find information.
Establishing a group that women can speak to builds trust and credibility that women seek, Ms. Kindred said.
Zions Bancorp did just that three years ago when it created, on Vanguards advice, the Womens Financial Group, a team of banking professionals who provide a resource for financial advice and products. The return on their investment has been huge, Ms. Kindred said. Fifty percent of the customers in the Womens Financial Group are men, she added.
Banks can also attract the attention of their female customers by enhancing their Web sites, Ms. Kindred said. Women feel more comfortable making decisions, the more information they have, she said. One of the things banks can do is become an information source by providing information and links online.
Women are even willing to pay for personal service from their banks, Vanguard found. Only 4.5% of survey respondents said fees were a factor in picking their financial institution.