TD Canada: Winning with Women

Vanessa Iarocci
Vanessa Iarocci,
Director of Women Investor Strategy,
TD Wealth

Perhaps noted author John Gray summed it best with the title of his ’90s blockbuster book, Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus. Certainly there was something to that notion, since the book spent 121 weeks on the bestseller list and is hailed as one of the highest-ranked works of non-fiction. Gray, of course, is not alone. The topic of the male/female dichotomy is about as old as time itself; university programs study it, people argue about it, and experts tour the world discussing it with vast and varied audiences.

TD Wealth in Canada has also spent time and resources researching this gender divide, specifically when it comes to investment experiences. The findings? Women are significantly less engaged in financial planning and investing than men. But, don’t let that fool you. Women also wield significant control despite their lack of engagement. Data tells us that Canadian women influence $1.3 trillion dollars.

So, if women have so much power, why aren’t they more engaged in financial planning? The simple answer is that women are looking for a different experience than their male counterparts. Leveraging insight garnered from a commissioned report, TD decided to address the underserved women investor group by developing solutions to train their advisors on the compelling opportunity and also spoke directly to women investors.

In need of a partner that could help create a breakthrough program around this progressive idea – something beyond a typical “pink” marketing campaign – TD partnered with Root Inc. Together, they created the industry’s first end-to-end investing experience for women.

We sat down with Vanessa Iarocci, Director of the Women Investor Strategy at TD Wealth Management to fill us in on what happened next.

When TD decided to create a centralized program that successfully differentiated its brand from the competition in order to “win with women,” the brand knew that two things were necessary:

1)      TD had to educate its people. While the industry data wasn’t a secret, there still hadn’t been a market leader when it came to women investors, so TD advisors received reminders of the opportunity at hand.

2)      TD had to create tools that specifically appealed to women. Iarocci says her team “wanted to make sure we were delivering a rich, personable, and genuine solution – something that would make women feel comfortable with our advisors for the long term.”

To accomplish these goals, TD and Root joined forces to create a Women Investor Program comprised of two distinct elements: advisor trainings and client workshops.

Mandatory advisor trainings made sure TD’s people understood the identified gender-based gaps and were prepared to successfully take ownership of the market opportunity. Root trained TD employees who then went from city to city conducting in-person trainings with advisors. Through these sessions, all 1,400 TD field advisors were armed with the tools to build better relationships with women.

The client workshops were designed to help advisors provide women with an experience they were looking for in order to begin building long-standing relationships and help women be confident successful investors. The advisors were trained to hold engaging workshops where approximately 10 women could talk openly and freely about investing. While TD holds many meetings, formal events, and functions, these workshops are different. They’re purposely designed to have a casual, grassroots feel, absent of any elements that might feel intimidating or uncomfortable to participants.

TD and Root began by creating one workshop that would be customized for each of the six different client segments of the TD Wealth business. After completing one round of customization, the team came to a profound realization – it wasn’t necessary to modify the workshop for each segment. It stood on its own, regardless of the type of planner or investor using it. TD had found a vehicle that all of its people could use for the same goal.

“This was a big ‘aha’ moment for us,” Iarocci explains. “We found that we not only had created a tool that really worked in terms of resonating with women, but it also was scalable and flexible because it could be used by our advisors across all segments.”

After being held just a few times, the advisors piloting the workshop found it to be such an excellent client acquisition tool that TD decided to elevate the program into a full curriculum of workshops.

Iarocci and Root then regrouped to brainstorm and discuss what a more in-depth program might look like – one that included a series of workshops that addressed the most common needs and concerns that existed for women. Together the team mapped out the current state and ideal future state – all with the end goal of establishing TD as the number one recommended wealth management provider for Canadian women. Today TD is proud to offer a robust, end-to-end Women Investor Program that includes several need-based workshops, which help women engage in the investment world with confidence. And, there are more workshops on the horizon.

Here’s a snapshot of what Root helped TD to build:

  • Internal awareness and outreach programs
  • Advisor training  (in-person and electronic)
  • Advisor tools and resources
  • A client-focused curriculum, which includes:
    • Focused workshops
    • Standalone tools and resources
  • External communications

The advisors who have adopted the program have reported that they are now able to generate new business faster and deepen relationships with female investors in a personal and unique way; the workshops allow participants to say more and to feel more comfortable. This was precisely the goal – to reach women in a way that best works for them. Feedback from the field includes:

“I think women prospects and clients have been waiting for an opportunity like this, to have an open dialogue with their advisor and learn more about financial planning and investing.”

“By providing women with a forum to openly discuss their goals and concerns, I learn so much more than I would have in a traditional first meeting and I am better equipped to provide proactive suggestions about how I can help.”

“The women investor workshops provided me with the chance to connect with my existing female clients who are part of a couple, but where the man in the relationship was my primary contact.”

“I have never had this high of a closing rate from a seminar or workshop.”

In addition to anecdotal successes, TD has the numbers to back it up. The company’s Client Experience Index (CEI), which tracks how likely someone is to recommend TD to a friend or colleague, confirm that women are substantially more likely to recommend TD than men. Iarocci also reports that the majority of new clients at TD Wealth are women. Voila! Just what the team was aiming for.

“With its macro soup-to-nuts view and unparalleled expertise in engaging people, Root has been integral in the build-out of TD’s Women Investor Program. We know the content is good, and we know it works. Now we are focused on scaling the program in the field,” Iarocci says.

Currently, TD Wealth in the U.K. is adapting the Women Investor Program, which will launch on International Women’s Day. It appears that all of the planning, focus, and dedication to this unique program have been worthwhile.

Iarocci concurs: “TD’s Women Investor Program will continue to be an integral element of our brand for the long term.”

Vanessa is the Director of the Women Investor Strategy for TD Wealth. Working with a pan-enterprise team, she has accountability for designing, driving and measuring advisor training and client engagement programs to position TD Wealth as the leading Canadian financial institution for women investors. Prior to joining TD Wealth in 2012, Vanessa spent over 10 years with a global consultancy firm. Vanessa has her CA designation and is a graduate of the Rotman School of Business at University of Toronto.