The Content Strategist

Contently Case Story: How Brown Brothers Harriman Used Infographics to Combat Financial Mansplaining

Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.

When Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (BBH) made an effort to engage more closely with women, the nearly 200-year-old investment bank focused on a prevalent problem in the finance world: “mansplaining.”

According to Adrienne Penta, executive director of BBH’s Center for Women & Wealth, many conversations about wealth management are directed toward the man in the room—even when its a woman’s income in question. The issue is widespread: A study by the Center for Talent Innovation reveals that two-thirds of affluent women worldwide feel misunderstood by their financial advisors.

In response, BBH turned to an old adage and decided to change the culture by changing the conversation. In 2015, it created the Center for Women & Wealth, which provides investment planning, philanthropic resources, and forums for women to ask questions and access tools to manage and grow their wealth.

Growing confidence through content

Although U.S. women are just as financially literate as men, they are 44 percent less likely to consider themselves knowledgeable on financial topics, according to the Center for Talent Innovation.

“One of the goals of the Center for Women & Wealth is to close the confidence gap for women around wealth management,” Penta said. To meet this goal, BBH embraced a best practice shared by Contently: Defining a target audience by behaviors and challenges, rather than just age or gender.

To focus on behavioral change, BBH created a quarterly magazine on women’s leadership, with a focus on growing confidence. For example, the cover story on Claire Shipman, author of The Confidence Code, highlights confidence as the key connection between idea and action.

The magazine is part of a strategy to get women to connect wealth management decisions to other parts of their lives. “Our content doesn’t just focus on investing. It doesn’t just focus on estate planning. It doesn’t just focus on leadership ability. Really, it focuses on the intersection of all those things,” Penta said. “How do you tie these things together in a way that engages women?”

“With this digital age, there is something really special about having a piece of printed material where the look and feel is commensurate with the quality of insights that come inside.”

For now, BBH focuses on women with an ultra-high net worth of $10 million in investable assets. In the magazine, heavyweight paper stock, high-quality images, and foil lettering are designed to appeal to the firm’s upscale clientele.

“With this digital age, there is something really special about having a piece of printed material where the look and feel is commensurate with the quality of insights that come inside,” Penta said. The content covers many different aspects of home and work life. “To publish a quarterly publication, we knew that we would need to have a really distinct voice.”

“Contently added a lot of value when we started thinking about how to visualize the story that we were trying to tell, and how to tell it in a compelling way.”

When BBH realized the magazine would be a departure from its usual content, leaders at the financial institution turned to Contently’s freelance network, which created infographics published both online and in the magazine. “Contently added a lot of value when we started thinking about how to visualize the story that we were trying to tell, and how to tell it in a compelling way,” Penta said.

A March 2016 infographic, for instance, titled “Bridging the Funding Gap,” told the story of challenges and opportunities for female entrepreneurs who own their own businesses.

The bank also worked with Babson College’s highly respected Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership to help reach millennial entrepreneurs.

“Women tend to have more big life transitions,” Penta said. “We are being really cognizant about [how to use stories] to help women plan for those issues to the best of their ability, and having the foresight to understand what may be happening in their lives.”

Changing the conversation

For BBH, there’s a clear business case for motivating women to be proactive when managing their own finances: Women continue to control more of the nation’s wealth.

They also tend to outlive men by about 15 years and make or contribute to 90 percent of philanthropic decisions in the U.S., according to a study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. If women don’t already control wealth, they’re increasingly likely to in the future.

The empowering message conveyed in BBH’s content is thus an important part of a long-term business strategy. “We know that there’s going to be significant change of authority in wealth,” Penta said.

Future themes for the magazine include financial planning and charitable giving, though the core element of BBH’s strategy, regardless of topic or medium, is a commitment to valuable insights for women. The magazine, like the rest of BBH’s content, is a way to bring women to the table to discuss the firm’s resources for managing wealth.

“We’re talking about things that other people aren’t talking about,” Penta said. “We’re changing the conversation.”