Andy Thompson says a cultural shift is needed to encourage more women to enter the financial services industry and to seek advice
I started off in the advice sector over 30 years ago as a financial adviser. And I can easily say the sector we have today is vastly different from the one I started in. And the overwhelming majority of that change is for the better.
And yet some things have not transformed as much as we would like; in particular, the perception of the industry hasn’t evolved. An unfortunate number of people believe it is a competitive, sales-driven environment where the main goal is to push a product.
Perhaps one reason for this continued vision of the industry is it looks the same. It is a heavily male-dominated profession with the majority aged in their mid-40s or over. Myself included.
Indeed, figures from the FCA show that just 14.2 per cent of CF30s in the UK are women. That percentage is hard to accept in 2019 and we must ask ourselves why it is so low.
Most advisers I speak to scratch their heads at the figure, saying they don’t think a bias exists within the profession. However, when I speak to female financial advisers some bluntly say they acutely feel they are the minority, and some biases exist when it comes to women and money. And regrettably I have seen instances where those biases are definitely apparent.
This perception and bias is having an impact on our businesses as figures from WealthiHer Network show 36 per cent of women have felt patronised when dealing with our industry.
This means we are currently at risk of putting off half the population from getting financial advice and they are missing out on the benefits it has to offer. With women expected to control 65 per cent of the UK’s wealth by 2025, a mere six years away, this is something we desperately need to tackle.
One of the best ways to achieve the necessary cultural shift is to continue to encourage more women to enter the industry.
Quilter research shows women want more female advisers as they are more likely to empathise with their needs. Indeed the WealthiHer study shows 72.5 per cent of women believe they have different attitudes and needs when it comes to their wealth.
Women make excellent advisers and are a good fit for this reformed sector. But the outdated stereotype of high-pressure policy salespeople is unlikely to entice women to enter the field.
As the nature of advice has changed, so has the profile of the individual best equipped to deliver it. Academic research sponsored by Quilter, due to be released shortly, shows advisers exhibit high levels of conscientiousness and intellect.
These traits, which I see in the best of advisers, are the ones that we need to be stressing in order to ensure women feel comfortable not only seeking advice but also entering the industry.
This article first appeared in Money Marketing on 13 November 2019.