There have been many articles recently on the need for “new blood” in financial services. Usually the focus is on graduates but this article will look at a different pool of opportunity: women with children who want to return to work.
It is a fact that the majority of women under the age of 40 either have or are thinking of having children. Most want to spend some time off work to take care of their young children in the early years but, as the children get older, many mothers want to achieve a healthy balance between family and having a mentally challenging and successful career.
Back in 2006 I personally experienced the sad reality that most advisory firms are not interested in part-time advisers, thus losing out on many women who could be fantastic for the job. Unfortunately, little has changed since then, with the belief of many that to be an adviser you have to work full-time. Does that really make sense? Surely an adviser working fewer hours would simply have fewer clients or cover a smaller patch? If you are able to set up appointments within your part-time working hours, what is the problem? One excuse I have heard is “what if a client phones on your day off?” Really? So what do you do if a client calls and the adviser is off sick or on holiday? Does the world fall apart? No. If the query genuinely cannot wait another day, I am sure the career-minded, ambitious adviser would take an urgent call on a day off.
My own experience of professional women who work part-time in professions such as accountancy, HR and legal roles, is that those who can only work a certain number of hours a week work extremely hard to achieve the same success as their full-time colleagues. They are focused and do not allow themselves to have “off-days” where little gets done. Women are renowned for having empathy, being great at multi-tasking and highly organised, which is precisely what an adviser needs to be. For some reason, too many financial services companies still do not understand this.
Let’s assume we can get over that hurdle. Now the question is: how do these intelligent mothers get qualified? Why not take them on as apprentices? Get them working alongside paraplanners and advisers and performing a supporting role so that they learn the business while also sitting Level 4 exams. An intelligent woman with an opportunity to work part-time in a profession like financial advice with the salary they deserve will work hard to gain those qualifications as quickly as possible.
The next big question is who is going to take this step? Which firms are going to get out there and take the time to locate and entice these intelligent mothers to re-train and become an adviser? It will take work. They are not knocking on your door because most will not even have considered re-training as an adviser in a profession which is male-dominated and certainly has not proven itself to be welcoming of part-timers. Advisory firms need to get out there and find these women. Yes, that might mean attending events targeted at women with children and that may feel a little odd but what a great way to find a huge number of potential new advisers in one place. The task does not end there. You will then need to work hard to explain why the profession may be male-dominated now but also why things are changing. You will also need to hone your pitch and offer a genuinely supportive environment for gaining qualifications and learning the business.
If you get it right, you will soon become known as an employer of intelligent mothers who are looking for a professional part-time career. Slowly, things will change and you will be hearing knocks on the door.
It is going to be hard work but you will reap the rewards. Who is going to make the first move?
Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training