Do women bank customers face subtle bias?
When the talk turns to gender bias in the financial services industry, the focus is always on employment practices. We've seen some interesting cases recently, from the Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) Mommy Track suits, to the suits alleging poor treatment of female financial advisors at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE: BAC), to the suit by Debrahlee Lorenzana, the banker who claims Citigroup (NYSE: C) fired her for being "too sexy."
But a Forbes commentary suggests that there's an equally insidious bias against female customers of banks. Are men treated better than females at the customer service level? Well, that's a tough one to answer. But as women gain more clout in the business world and financial resources personally, this may become an issue to watch.
Nazita Aminpour, a New York dentist, is "suing Chase bank for babbling about her secret $800,000 account to her husband." Apparently a "cold caller" from the bank called the husband, assuming he had to be on the account. There are many examples of women who are treated with disdain, even though they are the primary breadwinners in their families.
This in a sense is an issue across the economy. Picture a woman and a man walking into a wealth advisory firm office, you can easily see a male rep directing most of his comments to the man. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If the man is taking the lead in asking questions and such, it seems a natural response. But in no case should the woman be treated brusquely. Frankly, being nice (not patronizing) to the spouse is a good sales strategy. Banks need to be sensitive to this. Training would seem to be a must for anyone facing the public.
In Iran, a state-owned bank recently "opened the country's first branch where an exclusively female staff will serve exclusively female customers. It's located in one of Iran's holiest cities, Mashhad," notes the Forbes commentary.
Female-oriented financial services firms have been tried in the United States as well. But they have not made a huge splash. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (NYSE: MS), for example, apparently still offers Women & Co. But it does not appear to be marketed heavily. - Jim