Empowering women in finance

Bringing gender sensitivity to the design of financial services

The challenge

An elderly lady sat down

Tracy Simpson Financial Consultancy is a Financial Advisory Services provider in the United Kingdom looking to reach women with customised products. Women in developed countries such as the UK hold 51% of household wealth, but there is a perceived apathy for Financial Advisory services among women, being at risk of poor financial wellbeing especially after retirement. This apathy may be due to more general gender different attitudes and patterns of ownership of financial products and to a lack of trust in the financial sector given various mis-selling of financial services such as insurance and investment products or the effects of the 2008 credit crisis. Interestingly some studies have pointed out that women have up to a 10% higher preference for alternative financial services outside of the mainstream compared to men. This finding suggests that the design of financial services may play a major role in improving uptake among women.

This project aims to explore the drivers of this perceived lack of uptake of financial services among women in the UK and employ these insights to feed into product development and a marketing strategy to reach women in the UK with a portfolio of products tailored to suit them. 

The solution

In academia, we are constantly asking questions, but this programme has really challenged us to find solutions. The Collaboration Labs has been extremely rewarding because our partner is in the early stages of her business, and because of this, it feels as though we are really going to make a difference in shaping her business plan going forwards.

Alina McLellan / School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, The University of Manchester.

The Research Team will capture the voice of the female customer to fill the knowledge gap described by the Challenge around the design and marketing of Financial Advisory Services for women and thus aim to improve market penetration in this particular segment. Mixing primary and secondary research (literature review, survey and ads analytics), the project will: 

  • Gather market intelligence on the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of women towards financial services.
  • Set performance dimensions of what would be a successful Financial Advisory Service for women by testing female customers' desirability of a women-to-women tailored financial service offered by a financial advisor and understanding what women need from a financial advisor.
  • Devise a marketing strategy for the company on the basis of the data gathered.

Research Team 

  • Alexandra Ciocanel, PhD Researcher in Social Anthropology (University of Manchester. School of Social Sciences)
  • Alina Mclellan, PhD Researcher in Linguistics (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, NWCDTP)
  • Arinze Ekwem, PhD Researcher in Business and Management (University of Manchester, Alliance Business School)


It has been an absolute privilege to work with such a great team of researchers. This experience has been one of the greatest highlights of my career.

Tracy Simpson / CEO, Tracy Simpson Financial Consultancy Limited.
  • The resounding success of this research project is in part due to the over 100 engagements from women in the North West, whose feedback boosted the validity and reproducibility of findings. This questionnaire, in combination with a comprehensive literature review and an analysis of the client’s online advertising campaign, offered clear insights into the low uptake of financial services amongst women.
  • With these findings, the project developed a comprehensive set of evidence-based recommendations on how levels of engagement might be improved. Tracy Simpson will now be better positioned to serve women in this sector and achieve her primary aim of making financial services more accessible to women.

This project was completed in 2019-20 as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, created by REALab, with funding from the ESRC, the NWCDTP and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.