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Greater gender-balance will boost advice sector’s bottom line

From left to write: Justin Cash, Lena Patel, Anna Sofat and Kim North

Encouraging more diversity in your business has benefits for the bottom line, but advisers have a long way to go to realise the benefits of equality in their firms.

Speaking as part of a panel debate on diversity in advice, which mainly focused on gender diversity, three female advisers shared their views on why the industry needs to adapt to be more inclusive of women wanting to get into the profession and better meet their needs.

Addidi founder and managing director Anna Sofat told delegates at Money Marketing Interactive Harrogate earlier this month about the opportunities for their businesses if they can encourage more women to become clients.

Sofat said by 2020 just over 50 per cent of investable assets will be controlled by women and that more than 70 per cent of financial decisions are already being influenced and made by women.

She said: “Even in 2008 when we launched there were more female millionaires under the age of 44 than men. Women millionaires are growing at a faster rate than men. Our industry has to change because more than 50 per cent of the women who have this wealth are disengaged with financial services for various reasons.”

Sofat adds: “It is good for your bottom line to have a diverse business. There is a lot of research that says the more diversity you have at a senior level the better for the bottom line. It is better because it is a growing market.”

Technology and Technical managing director Kim North says women are also seven times more likely to refer a professional service to family and friends.

This is an opportunity many advice firms are potentially overlooking.

North says: “This is something this industry needs to think about to increase sales and to have a better, more gender-neutral industry.”

The panel also discussed the pressing need for the advice sector to encourage more women to consider it as a good career option.

ISJ Independent Financial Planning director Lena Patel says some of the soft skills that advisers have to excel at, such as adding value to clients by talking and listening to their stories and needs, are not shown in job advertisements. The role is still seen as a sales job, which puts off women.

Patel says: “We need to be positive role models and be out there saying this is a great career. It is flexible with children. I earn a lot more money than solicitors do, accountants do and doctors do, to be fair. But in my family they don’t realise what I do. If I was a doctor they would probably think I was a lot better.”

She adds: “It is the perception of the role, that is where the profession will grow, if the job is shown as a positive thing to go into.”

North agrees saying some female IFAs are “writing more business than you can imagine”.

She says: “To get to gender equality, your approach to financial services needs to be more female-orientated if you want to take the benefits for your business and the bottom line. You can’t be command and control from the top; [there needs to be] flexible working time and sharing cultures. Command and control does not produce the best businesses in the UK.”

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