Financial advice is still a man's world
... but change is coming, says Sam Dunn, as demand grows for women to enter an industry in sore need of a shake-up
Sunday 27 February 2005
The minister for women, Jacqui Smith, was banging the drum last week. British women were excelling in business, she crowed, and entrepreneurship was on the up: in fact, start-up businesses were "rocketing".
Ms Smith's speech may have been greeted with applause in some industries (and in Whitehall), but across the financial-advice sector, a stony silence would have been more appropriate. Less than 5 per cent of the UK's independent financial advisers (IFAs) are female - barely 1,500 at a rough estimate - a figure that has refused to budge in the past couple of years.
This imbalance is thrown into sharp relief by new figures that suggest more people now want to sort out their finances with a female IFA.
Around 1,700 online requests for contact with a woman adviser were made to the IFA marketing body IFA Promotions in January - a rising number. And in a survey from Clerical Medical, one in five people who had recently visited an IFA said they had opted for a female adviser.
Older, married men now prefer female advisers for planning, says Gill Cardy of IFA Professional Partnerships.
"They feel more comfortable at the thought of their wife dealing with a woman adviser once they've passed away," Ms Cardy says.
The shortage of female advisers is of particular concern as the industry is trying to shift away from a hard-bitten, macho, sales-driven culture to one requiring skills that often come more naturally to women. These include developing long-term client relationships, having empathy with people's money problems, and counselling them to help overcome these.
"The industry is all about interpersonal skills, and this is what women have [culturally and socially] been good at," says Ms Cardy.
The problem is partly due to a lack of effort to recruit female advisers in the past.
There hasn't been a single major push to entice more women into the industry, concedes Fiona Price, head of the Women's IFA Group (WIG), set up to raise the profile of those who have already qualified as advisers. She says this is in part down to the fragmented nature of the industry, with thousands of IFAs spread out across the country, and its struggle to adapt in response to recent government and regulatory changes.
Another major issue has been an ageing professional population - the average is 48 but falling - and, particularly in the past, the boorish IFA culture.
"The financial community has been so off-putting for women, both as practitioners and clients - it's full of jargon, and the 'hard-sell'," Ms Price adds.
This perception of the industry and of those who staff it has not been helped by a series of mis-selling scandals such as endowments, split cap investment trusts and high-income "precipice" bonds.
Opening up our personal finances to advisers in the wake of the industry's chequered history is not easy. In any case, talking freely about money matters is something many of us still find difficult. Middle-aged male advisers with a tendency to talk down to clients are hardly helping to change this situation.
More than one in 10 of us feel we don't know enough about finance to be comfortable visiting an IFA, while 6 per cent admit to feeling at least intimidated, the Clerical Medical researchers found.
The male dominance of the financial advice industry is in danger of alienating women in particular, Ms Cardy adds.
"[When couples visit], the male adviser will often treat the woman as if they are not part of the conversation. "This is crazy since, statistically, their husbands are going to die before they do - and, having been poorly treated, a widow will go elsewhere for advice after all the assets have passed to her."
Yet growing numbers of women - both young and old - are seeking advice as they earn, save and plan for their own financial future. More women than ever before are choosing to pursue a career and stay single, and the rise in divorce rates has not let up.
With such a clear demand for women financial advisers, it is good to find signs that change could be on the way.
A co-ordinated drive to recruit women remains one of WIG's "longer-term aims", Ms Price says. "It's a shame that more women aren't aware of the career because it's intellectually challenging, you can make a difference to people's lives, and the money can be good."
Faye Goddard, director of the Association of IFAs, says the flexibility of the work, which can often be done from home, will also broaden its appeal. "While the industry's average age may be 48, that of women [in financial services] is much lower - and we are expecting more women to come through."
The age factor could work in their favour as many older male IFAs will be retiring in the next few years. Their companies are likely to recruit internally for their replacements.
Ms Price adds: "Once this economic driver kicks in, firms will look at their own staff, where most of the administrative roles are filled by women,"
A greater choice of financial degree courses at university should also broaden the appeal of the industry for both sexes.
Ms Price has hopes, too, for a change in culture. "[There's still an attitude that] money is not a woman's subject, that whatever her career or interest in personal finance, she'll be taken care of. Of course, this has changed with younger generations but it's still deep rooted. It makes a lot of women less confident around the industry generally."
This lack of confidence is reflected in "execution-only" business calls, where clients do not require financial advice. At IFA Hargreaves Lansdown, 95 per cent of orders come from men on behalf of themselves or their wives.
The lack of financial education in schools also remains a sticking point. While personal finance stays on the periphery of the national curriculum, it will be difficult to get youngsters of either sex interested in how money works.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportUnder-10s football coach sacked for telling parents he was 'only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
indybestMake getting out of the wrong side of bed on cold winter mornings a thing of the past with our selection of night-time covers
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Banks are brought to account by switchers as growing number of people expect to be rewarded by their bank
Bargain Hunter: Playmobil plays to the gallery with discounts on its toy range
How to start your own internet business
Five ways to make money on the internet
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 4 Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida
- 5 ‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert
iJobs Money & Business
£Negotiable: Citifocus: The role will suit a fund product specialist, current...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits : Harrington Starr: An award wi...
£300 - £400 per day: Harrington Starr: My client is currently looking for an e...
£300 - £400 per day: Harrington Starr: My client is currently looking for an e...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.
A charming barn conversion in the picturesque Cotswold village of Ilmington with three bedrooms, a detached garage, workshop and beautifully manicured gardens £675,000.
A three-bedroom new build, ground-floor flat with two bathrooms, close to Bermondsey tube, £445,000.
A three-bedroom house in an enviable new development moments from Oxshott High Street, with secluded garden and decked area, £385,000
A two-bedroom split-level flat with stunning south-west facing roof terrace in the popular Brondesbury Conservation Area, £549,950.
A charming 16th century, three-bedroom detached house in Bidborough with picturesque garden
A top-floor one-bedroom flat in the heart of Pimlico with a terrace providing spectacular views over London, £495,000.
A six-bedroom house, with three reception rooms, 1.5 acres of land and stables, £450,000.