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Nic Cicutti: Ditch the macho culture to attract more female advisers

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Among Gill Cardy’s many and varied attributes, one that I always appreciate is her sharp eye for an absurd comment.

One that comes to mind is Gill reflecting in a newspaper column 12 or 13 years ago about one of her first attendances at PIMS, the annual shipboard conference where she is now a regular speaker.

In passing, Gill’s column neatly skewered me by mentioning an alleged earlier remark of mine about the dearth of female dancing partners on PIMS providing an excellent reason for recruiting more women into the industry.

Did I say that? It’s possible although I keep copies of everything I write and never found the comment she referred to, sexist language is, sadly, as common among those, like myself, who pretend to be holier-than-thou as with anyone else.

But I am totally in agreement with fellow MM columnist Neil Liversidge that firms should be recruiting more women because on the whole they make far better advisers than men. Last week, Neil wrote of his concern over the fact that only 17 per cent of advisers are female. I agree entirely.

Neil added that in his experience “women in this profession are also on the whole more ethical in the treatment of clients than many of their male counterparts. They also tend to be more loyal and conscientious where their employers are concerned.”

In my opinion, this is not a genetic thing. At its heart, it is about socialisation, the process by which boys and girls start to gain the skills they need to operate as a functioning members of the society they live in.

As a result of this process, men’s brains gradually become wired in a  different way to women. They learn to behave differently, to strive for things in a slightly more aggressive and single-minded manner.

Having listened to many IFAs over the years, my personal experience is that there is a difference between the sexes in the way they both listen and talk.

With men, there is often an underlying assertiveness in the way they approach their clients. While sometimes a useful strategy, it also means they don’t listen well enough and often fail to pick up on the nuances in a client’s own language. Essentially, their “hand-holding” skills are weaker.

By contrast, female advisers tend to display a completely different set of skills. They often pick up on things better than men. They are far more disarming when dealing with stroppy clients. 

If they were taught sales skills, the old “overcoming of objections”, they learn to personalise them in a way that isn’t so obvious to their clients.

And, like Neil, I believe on the whole women are more conscientious than men. They “feel” for their clients more and often relate to them better than men.

Indeed, women are most successful at being IFAs when they use their skills rather than those that most commonly apply to men. 

Conversely, they are at their weakest when they try to ape their male counterparts.

You can see that at all levels. For example, in February last year, Tenet appointed Helen Turner to the post of distribution and development director, replacing Keith Richards, who was leaving to become Personal Finance Society chief executive.

In a prescient article back then, MM reporter Sam Macdonald quoted IFAs saying Turner would need to prove herself by being “as vocally supportive of advisers as her predecessor”.

A few months later, purely coincidentally, Turner launched a populist crusade to garner 10,000 signatures needed for the Government’s  petition committee to address the issue of a long-stop for advisers.

To date, the campaign has barely garnered half the signatures it needs, an embarassing reminder that despite a large vocal – and male-dominated – minority bigging up the issue, the majority of IFAs are not hugely bothered by it one way or another.

Of course, if women are potentially so brilliant at being advisers – and they are – the real question is that of how to address the fact that so few of them are joining the profession. 

Neil’s very personal solution has been to hire a female adviser whom he felt complemented his business, even though he did not even have a vacancy at the time. 

He combines this with an understanding attitude about time off arrangements.

There is also a strong argument for targeting women to enter financial services while still at school and university, perhaps even to apply positive discrimination.

More fundamentally, it is the industry as a whole which needs to move away from a macho culture where sales matters more than consistently good advice and service, or where a female senior executive initiates a misfiring campaign to prove she is “vocally supportive of advisers”.

Vocal support for women to enter the industry is about vocal support for good practice as IFAs – and Gill Cardy, along with other female IFAs I have met, embodies these dual qualities better than anyone.

Nic Cicutti can be cntacted at nic@inspiredmoney.co.uk

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Comments

There are 20 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. For what it is worth I cannot agree with very much of this. Some female advisers may well be better than some male advisers but then some left handed advisers may be better than some right handed advisers-so what? The suggestion that female advisers are inherently better than male advisers is unproven. Honestly Nic some females are really strident and unpleasant – I’ve met a few. I have also met some very pleasant females of great charm.
    This stuff about females coming from Mars and males coming from Venus (or possibly the other way round) is ok if you are trying to sell a book but the essential skills and empathy needed to be a good adviser are found in males and females. Some ladies may of course prefer a female adviser but plenty are not bothered.

  2. As I always suspected, Nic is a lesbian.

  3. Simon Mansell 15th May 2014 at 1:07 pm

    It really is facile to stereotype advice by gender but there are other issues. I created my client base over the last 31 years through 10-hour days, mainly evening calls on client’s homes. Things are different now but in my earlier days I was dealing with new prospective clients who I had not met.

    The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was formed as a result of the very real dangers females face in similar situations, in that case a female estate agent. I have absolutely no doubt that female advisers can offers quality advise (but no more so or less than male). It may be a 9-5 office based adviser with an in-house clientele visiting would partially resolve this problem. However, in my world clients don’t line up outside my office every morning. They may well do for the a city based metropolitan elite but for me articles like this reflect the divide between what some people “think” we do and what we actually do.

  4. Patrick Schan 15th May 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I, also, think this is largely bunkham. When I worked as a tied agent there were plenty of shifty females about. Of course we know that men and women have differing levels of testosterone coarsing through them but, when it comes to financial services, I don’t agree that it counts for much except for the fact that they are less likely to come to blows with you.

  5. Philip Castle 15th May 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I agree with Blair Cain and about the only thing Nic has written in this article of any value is (and I have rearranegd ti slightly) ” Gill Cardy, embodies these dual qualities (vocal support for good practice as IFAs) – better than anyone.” but that has little to do with the fact she is a woman and more to do with what she believes in.

  6. Again I have to agree with most of these posts.

    I have just spent 2 days at the Morningstar Investment Conference. Not one female speaker and the number of females in the audience you could count on the fingers of one hand.

    I too have come across some very shifty female advisers and ones who also used their charms as a sales tool. (I’m not saying that it wasn’t enjoyable for the recipients – I too am a sucker for a good pair of legs!)

    As I have posted before this industry isn’t unique in this respect. I’m afraid that these articles (like so much else in the modern world) just panders to the modern PC culture. What next? Complaints about the dearth of Gay advisers?

  7. Nic , as usual, is short of copy so writes a load of rubbish.
    My previous comments being censored.

  8. The disappointing numbers of people signing the longstop petition reflects on the apathy that stymies the actions of many advisers.

    Whilst there are a few naysayers who delude themselves that a 15 year longstop is anti-consumer those who are capable of cogent thought and choose to express their belief in fairness and balance have already signed the petition.

    Apathy is main reason why APFA, Adviser Alliance, IFA Centre and any other body which aims for widespread acceptance has never been able to garner the support of the rump of small advisers.

    It is also why lying politicians and mealy-mouthed scumbags are able to assume positions of power, but that’s another story.

  9. Philip Castle 16th May 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I’ve just returned from an FCA CCA roadshow hosted by Martin Weatley and he prectically laughed when I raised the issue of the longsstop.
    I pointed out to him when he said that they had “committed to look at the longstop issue”, that his predecessor had told the same thing to the TSC a couple of years ago, to which he replied 3 years ago.
    He said, yes but that was the FSA, bot us we’re the FCA.
    I said, yes BUT the FCA IS the FCA as far as companies house is concerned (and most of the FCA staff are the same)…..

    He said, were are going to look at it. I said, that will be good as it was NEVER debated before it’s removal from the rule book.

    Most of the attendees were ignorant of the longstop (a lot of them were car dealers to be fair) and I wonder what they will say as they start to realize that they will be held to account infinitely by the F Pack, with NO recourse to the Common Law rights, nor the courts, just a quango court of Ombudspeople.

  10. Alan

    Calm down dear -Think of your blood pressure! What has this to do with the fair sex? Unless the longstop to which you refer has another connotation.

    Have a restful weekend and enjoy the sunshine.

  11. Julian Stevens 17th May 2014 at 11:00 am

    The FSA had no moral right to decree that the 15 year longstop, supposedly enshrined in British Law, shall be void as far as financial advisers are concerned. Did it have a legal right to do so? On the basis that it’s unaccountable to any outside body (not even Parliament in any meaningful way), many might well wearily resign themselves to the fact that effectively it did.

    Despite Martin Wheatley’s claim that “the FCA is a very different animal from the FSA”, the FCA continues to act in much the same way on many fronts (examples of which hardly need to set out here). Basically, the FSA/FCA is above the Law and, as far as the community it regulates is concerned, remains free to enact whatever new regulatory statutes it pleases, to perpetuate those already in place and to set and pursue its own agendas.

    Enjoying as it does statutory immunity from prosecution (whoever thought that THAT could possibly be good for anyone except the FSA/FCA?), the FCA cannot even be challenged in court.

    Recalling Martin Wheatley’s response (effectively a V sign) to the suggestion put to him by Andrew Tyrie that there’s a strong moral case for the FCA to reimburse intermediaries for the £118m we were over-charged by the FSA over a 5 year period, we can predict with some certainty a similar response if it were put to him that the FCA’s continuing denial to intermediaries of any Longstop is unjust, unreasonable, downright malicious in fact, and inconsistent with the Law of the Land that applies to all other professions.

    Which is why I keep banging on about……….. But nobody else seems to be interested so I really don’t understand why those who can’t be arsed to get behind the idea of a Statutory Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee bother posting comments about the behaviour of the regulator on so many fronts. It’s just pointless spleen venting. Nobody in any position of power or influence takes any notice so it doesn’t actually achieve anything at all.

    APFA seems to have no power or influence and nor does it seem to be interested in trying to build alliances with those who do. If APFA’s membership considers that its activities and strategies are failing to serve their legitimate concerns they should write to Chris Hannant to let him know in no uncertain terms. Either you pull your finger out Mr Hannant or I shall cancel my subscription and tell the world exactly why.

    In most (reported) cases, my own included, correspondence with MP’s also fails to yield any results. They send a copy of your letter to the regulator, the regulator sends back a typical fob-off reply and, without actually questioning whether or not this response is in any way adequate, let alone truthful, your MP sends you a copy of it and considers himself to have done his job. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS. As I have done, contact your MP’s constituency office (mine happens to be about 80 yards from my house so I can just walk over there) and book a face to face meeting. Mine is scheduled for Friday 6th June, somewhat inconveniently at Bristol’s council offices right in the centre of Bristol (why not just across the road from where I live I don’t know), but so be it.

    If you make no effort actually to get something done then what do you expect ever to change?

  12. You too Julian?

    What has this to do with Women?

  13. Sorry for posting off topic !

    Julian I totally support your campaign fro a oversight committee, and I like many others have written countless letters to the PM and my local MP, with the response being little more than a thank you for the letter but sod off !!!
    I have informed them both they will not get my vote from my household (which is 4), this may not be significant in the grand scheme of things, but we need to hit them were it hurts.

  14. The context is that Nic chose to mention the longstop petition incepted by Helen Turner.

    On a timely note congratulations to Natalie Holt the new FEMALE editor.

  15. @DH – But who else do you vote for? Unlike Harry who I think says he doesn’t vote, I plan on always voting for the least worst option. Unfortunately none of them are good for regulation and control of the FCA etc.

  16. Morning Philip

    Probably one of the lower parties, yes I know they may be a wasted vote but it may also make the main parties sit up and take note ? (the Tories don’t like to share, Labour are just not liked and as for the Lib Dems ? no comment)
    Re-: control of the regulator; we know they ( the regulator ) are a very useful political tool and if government know they are losing valuable votes because the industry has lost total confidence in them, then they fast become unfit for purpose !!!
    We also know; with the best will in the world our trade bodies and others, TSC included, hold no sway whatsoever. It is through government, and government alone that any action will happen and that will only be done via the loss of votes !!!

    Wasn’t the PM told the other day lift the ban on fox hunting and you “will” win the next election by a landslide !!! what a carrot to dangle in front of his nose !!!

    Jut my humble opinion of course !

  17. @ DH – I don’t know if you will have scale on your side – Financial Services employs just over 1 million people in the UK, of that around 22k are advisers which is approximately 2%, then consider (as previously mentioned) that maybe 3-5k of them would actually make any form of political stand – your influence drops to a fraction of 1%.

    And this is only of financial services, not the whole electorate.

    Consider who the big players in financial services actually are and sadly, advisers are unlikely to be in any position to make considerable political difference.

    @ Julian – when you objectively look at the number of FA representatives on the regulators panels (2), FA’s are actually over represented compared to the rest of the FS market!

  18. Actually I will vote on Thursday. For the European Election I’ll vote for the only party that supports Europe – the Lib Dems – a completely wasted vote, I know, but a gesture on my part. For the local election we have three ladies standing for the Conservatives – and they will certainly get my vote. The are all hard workers and may just rein in the profligacy of Labour on the council.

  19. @Harry – Good well done. I usually vote based on my knowledge of the individual first and party only if I don’t know anything about them.

  20. Morning Matthew

    You are right, and the government would never know what industry sectors are voting where, however if the results show they are loosing votes irrespective of who and where, they would still need to ask some very searching questions, especially if some smaller parties are rising through the ranks ?. My point is if we are not happy, we need to be able to express that and we have no real avenue of getting change, we (as a profession) are largely devoid of representation, and rights.

    My vote is important, however on its own; its little more than a grain of sand on the beach

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