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Lisa Winnard: Giving financial advice is not just for middle-aged men

Financial advice is still seen as a male occupation and a lot of work needs to be done to attract school leavers and women into the industry.

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The Financial Adviser School this week welcomed its latest cohort of 35 students, bringing the total number to 125 students entering through our doors in the last two years to train to become professional financial advisers.

As I looked around the induction class, it was apparent that the majority of the students were male. In fact, we had 28 men and just seven women that made up the latest intake.

Perhaps this is not surprising given a UK-wide survey, conducted for The Financial Adviser School, which found that just one in 10 people thought of a financial adviser as being female. This view was held equally by men and women. Nearly 60 per cent of a poll of over 2,000 people thought that a typical financial adviser would be a man in his fifties.

This research reinforces the need for new blood in our profession to prevent it from being seen as a middle-aged man’s world. The financial services industry is going through a period of great change following the implementation of the RDR and some experienced advisers are unfortunately choosing to leave the industry. While challenging in some respects, this also gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change public perceptions of financial services professionals.

At The Financial Adviser School, we have already seen evidence of this change taking place. We have some fantastic female students coming through and women currently make up nearly a third of our total intake. Furthermore, 58 per cent are in their twenties, with 53 per cent having had no prior links to the financial services industry before applying. This shows that pursuing a career as a professional financial adviser can be an exciting and rewarding option for people from all walks of life.

Last week, along with other industry leaders, I attended a workshop with the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership in London, where we reviewed the areas where skills shortages exist within our sector.

Not surprisingly the gender gap was one of the key topics discussed: interestingly, whilst some reported that the gender gap is not a concern in the corporate arena, in terms of developing talent for the adviser community it still fell short when looking at attracting new blood and particularly women into the sector.

Over the past five years, the sector has been hit by the negativity surrounding the industry and this has been impacted by job seekers who do not see financial services as an ‘industry of choice’.

The good news is that we have seen some positive changes with the recent Government initiative to implement financial education in secondary schools. This should help create more awareness of the importance of personal financial planning and also provide the industry with an opportunity to build on this education to promote roles within our profession.

However, until these pupils start to enter the world of work, there is still much to do to promote our sector to those already in the workplace and perhaps looking for their first role on the career ladder, or indeed a second time career and change in profession.

My message to those who are giving thought to a career in financial advice is simple. Whether you have that entrepreneurial flair and want to set up your own business or you are looking to move out of a corporate environment and have a natural ability to work with people and deliver excellent customer service, then the role of the professional financial adviser continues to offer a fulfilling and rewarding career.

Lisa Winnard is HR director at Sesame Bankhall Group

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