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Jason Butler: Advice firms should hire more females

Jason Butler MM blog

I read a good article in The Times a couple of weeks ago called ‘Highly educated housewives: What an economic waste’ by Bridget Ohlsson. The story set out some stark stats. It said 60 per cent of graduates are female but fewer women than men work. Only 10 per cent of European quoted company board members and only 24 per cent of parliamentarians are female. The pay gap between men and women is 18 per cent, even though research from UMEA University shows that women’s participation rates (62 per cent) were similar to men’s (76 per cent). If this was addressed UMEA estimates that EU GDP would rise by 27 per cent.

The World Economic Forum’s latest gender gap report shows there is a positive correlation between sexual equality and competitiveness, per capita GDP, economic and social development.

My view is that there is a terrible waste of talent in financial advice firms due to them being predominately male (just attend a conference). Perhaps it was the historic sales culture, inflexible working hours or a bias for full time staff, but the fact is there are a lot of very capable, well educated females out there who are not getting the opportunity to build a good career in advice businesses. This is costing advice firms dearly.

For our part we have a team of 10, of which eight are female, including three advice professionals. We offer day release, part time, flexible working, some home working and our maternity leave terms are way in excess of the state minimums. The point is this: We recruit people based on attitude, ability, intelligence, diligence and then work to build their loyalty, trust and sense of value. We are not a perfect firm and we have made many mistakes along the way but we see a lot of potential to continue to build our excellent team further by casting our net wider than the usual (often male) suspects.

We are always on the lookout for high quality people regardless of their sex, but most clients want to deal with empathetic, caring, diligent and relationship-orientated people and, more often than not, women usually possess those qualities more than men. Who cares if women have babies (the main reason why firms discriminate against women in my opinion)? Instead of running away from the issue adapt to the reality that women want to have career breaks, work less hours or days and need some flexibility. There is a good chance, if you are progressive and supportive and have a nice culture, that they will stay with you for the long term.

Jason Butler is a partner at Bloomsbury Wealth Management


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There are 10 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Why not stick to men and not have the problems you detail above?

    < empathetic, caring, diligent and relationship-orientated people > Are you married?

  2. Jason,

    I’m a bloke – there’s nothing I can do about it.
    I’m white – there’s nothing I can do about it.
    I’m middle class – can’t help it.
    I’m incredibly good-looking – there’s nothing I can do about it!

    We can’t help who we are, but I accept we can help who we recruit.

  3. This may change as the FSA looks to move its fees to a percentage of turnover rather than fixed by the number of RI’s. We all know why they are doing this but one of the unintended consequences may be that the business case for part time IFA’s becomes stronger.

    Having said this I think that most of this article is guff. I suspect that there are few female IFA’s because they understand that its a dying business and generally unpleasant to work under a totalitarian regulator.

  4. Being an ifa involves working unsociable hours for at present an unlimited liability on the advice you provide.

    Women are obviously more intelligent than men by rejecting this career path.

  5. Jason

    It makes perfect sense that firms should do all they can to attract and retain the best people.

    However, I suspect that one historical deterrent has been a preference for self-employed advisers; so that sales-focussed firms can avoid maternity leave costs and hire & fire at will.

    For the avoidance of doubt, and so that other firms can emulate your exemplary model, please could you confirm whether your support and paraplanning staff are, in fact, employed with statutory entitlement to maternity leave etc?

  6. Anonymous – I suspect that even if their staff are self employed they could still claim they are employed and are entitled to maternity rights. Not far from us is a firm of plumbers employing women only. You will see nothing like it in the plumbing trade. Organised, disciplined and professional, they get on with the job and do it well!

  7. @ Sam

    Actually, that is isn’t the case; which is why HMRC is increasingly taking action against firms who require staff to be self-employed ‘partners’, when in reality there is a clear ‘master/servant’ relationship.

    The benefit for the firm is that they avoid Employers NIC. However, the affected staff lose a number of important statutory and financial benefits, including employment rights and maternity/holiday pay. This is particularly abusive where the majority of staff are female.

    No doubt Jason will be happy to confirm that, in keeping with the standards espoused in his blog, that his firm does not (and has never) engaged in such ‘sharp’ practices and that all support staff and paraplanners are employees, and not self employed?

    By the way, your local firm of plumbers sounds excellent!

  8. As an observation, it goes without saying that women are under-represented. The IFA sector is also very ‘white’.

    Compare this to the Law, Accountancy or indeed General Insurance. [Look at the names of people qualifying as ACII – more female and far more non-Anglo names].

    The IFA sector also appears relatively old…

    And herein lies the issue: every year, the legal professions still manages to issue a reasonable number of training contracts or pupillages [however scarce these feel for the applicants] whilst Graduate training schemes absorb plenty of people into accountancy, general insurance et cetera. By contrast, the IFA sector is declining: hence limited opportunities.

    Its just not the fault of IFAs that they tend to be male/pale and older. IFAs are ‘people people’ and broadly more open minded than other male/pale people of a similar age.

    Its the absence of serious openings and the continued pressure on the Advice sector from all the usual suspects…

  9. Going off at a tangent, ethnic minorities seem to be under-represented in the IFA sector. Whenever I attend seminars I find myself surrounded by white, middle aged, middle class men in dark suits. Occassionally there may be the odd asian man as they are steroetypically viewed as being good with money. However afro-caribbean people seem to be virtually non-existent. I can’t believe this situation has arisen because ethnic minorities do not wish to join the sector. I believe it exists because like attracts like and the people doing the recruiting are white middle aged and middle class and look for people in their own likeness.

  10. @ Jason Butler

    In view of the very worthy claims you’ve made in your blog, about supporting women in financial services, please can you provide your view on the legal position and morality of firms that require non-advisory staff to be self-employed, thus denying them the normal statutory and financial protections afforded to employees?

    From the claims made in your blog, I presume that you would condemn such abusive and sharp practices by unscrupulous firms, and that your firm has never required staff taking up support and paraplanning positions to be self-employed, thus losing such protections?

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