Nick Bamford: Moving beyond the gender in advice debate

Nick Bamford

According to newspaper reports last week, women swear on average more times than men. I have first hand experience of this sharing an office with our financial planning director. To be fair, she usually only swears where the context suggests she needs to. It is just that there are so many contexts where that seems necessary…

I work in an environment where 50 per cent of our staff are female, as are three-fifths of our board. It seems to me the two sexes working together makes for an altogether more rounded workplace. I honestly cannot say any of us treads more carefully around any other in terms of language or general behaviour. I guess that is a function of a well-bonded team that works so well together.

HM Treasury is sponsoring the Women in Finance Charter: a pledge for gender balance across financial services. The Government aspires to see such balance at all levels across firms, by which it means a commitment and recognition that women should hold senior roles.

It would be difficult to argue gender equality is anything but a good thing. But do we actually need a charter to achieve this?

One of the single biggest challenges we are faced with as a small firm is recruitment. There is a dearth of quality candidates for many roles in our business – be that administration, paraplanning or financial planning responsibilities.

I really do not care if the candidate is male or female. What I do care about is whether they have the relevant experience, qualifications and skills to do the job. And I care more that they are proper team players.

A team player has certain attractive attributes: they are highly teachable, service orientated and able to cope with change. They also have their egos under control. Despite the fact most will say how much of a team player they are on their CV, relatively few people actually will be.

When push comes to shove, it is interesting to see how quickly some people demonstrate their own best interests are superior to the benefit of the whole team. In some respects this is understandable. But when a business is going through great change you really need everybody committed to that.

Apparently 100 financial services firms have signed up to the Women in Finance Charter. And yet twice I have asked the Treasury to tell me what percentage of the top roles there are held by women, just to be met by a stony silence. What are they hiding, I wonder? Could it be this is a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’?

Some readers may find it strange that a man is writing on this subject, but surely that is about gender balance as well? I would have no problem with a woman writing about men in finance in the same way. After all, none of us are in control of our chromosomes.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice