Asset Management

Biases Working Against Female Investors, Behavioural Study Suggests

Jackie Bennion Deputy Editor 13 August 2019

Biases Working Against Female Investors, Behavioural Study Suggests

A sizable sample study has shown how certain biases affecting financial decisions if picked up early can make a notable difference later in life.

Since October 2017, Schroders has tested more than 23,000 UK investors about their investment traits and found a significant contrast between women and men’s behaviour that could be holding female investors back.

The Schroders investIQ behavioural bias test, designed in partnership with cognitive scientists at Decision Technology, found that women are far more likely than men to be influenced by the thoughts and behaviour of those around them – otherwise known as the ‘herd’ bias.

In particular, the test has found that Millennial women (aged 18-34) are 14 per cent more likely than the average to display this tendency, compared with just 4 per cent for men in the same age group.

It also found that the herding mentality becomes far less prominent in both genders as they get older. By the time men and women reach the age of 65 and over they are 11 per cent and 10 per cent less likely respectively to display this trait, the sample study has found. Identifying and countering these kinds of behavioural traits at an early age can be critical to making good financial decisions later in life.

Claire Walsh, personal finance director at Schroders, believes that the herd bias can play a part in classic investment mistakes such as buying high and selling low or chasing potential investment bubbles, but it is also driving how women engage with their finances more generally. “Most young women don’t invest, so if they are talking to friends they are likely to reinforce that behaviour and may end up keeping their money in cash.”

Over the longer term, if women are not investing in stocks and shares, they are losing out, and “when it comes to their pension, this can have a big impact,” Walsh said. Research from the Pension Policy Institute bears this out, indicating that women in their 60s hold an average of £51,100 ($61,629) in their private pension pots compared with £156,500 held by men.

Schroders told WealthBriefing that it designed the test to help users understand their behaviours and improve their investment knowledge to drive more informed investment decisions. Once they have completed the test, they receive a detailed report summarising their investment personality, with tips on how to manage their behavioural traits more effectively; it also shows them how they compare with the wider universe of respondents, the asset manager said.

Walsh said she is “passionate” about closing the gap for women and getting them to be more proactive with their finances.

Decision Technology co-founder professor Nick Chater, who sits on the advisory board of the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insight Team, popularly know as the 'nudge unit', which uses behavioural insights to direct policy on how the nation can manage its finances more efficiently, said biases such as herding “can be problematic if personal needs are unusual or when the entire herd takes a wrong turn.” All investors are not the same, he said, and the test helps people understand their own preference and perhaps blind spots to help them make more thoughtful financial choices. Most studies indicate that the UK population is saving far too little for the future, he added.

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