Wealth For Women founder Mary Waring never used to shout about being a chartered accountant as well as a chartered financial planner. However, as a specialist in financial advice to women going through a divorce, she realised it made sense to highlight her extra credentials.
“I get a lot of referrals from solicitors and I didn’t used to have it on my business card that I’m a chartered accountant,” says Waring.
When a solicitor told her that being a chartered accountant was more impressive than being a chartered adviser, Waring decided to add that qualification to her card and tell everyone.
“That was pre-RDR but lots of people still don’t know what a chartered financial planner, wealth planner or IFA is. They understand the term chartered accountant, though. It’s another level of qualification that helps me stand out from others.”
Building relationships with solicitors is vital for advisers working in the area of divorce and Waring believes specialist accreditation from the family law organisation Resolution is a must.
“Other advisers ring me up and ask if it’s worth getting Resolution accreditation. If you’re serious about working in this market you should do it. You need to show solicitors you are serious. I learned a lot from it but it is very hard – I suppose it’s meant to be,” she says.
She adds it is also relevant for understanding the divorce process; particularly the process solicitors go through with clients so the adviser can understand what is going on and the terminology used.
“Solicitors see Resolution accreditation as their independent check that the adviser knows what they are talking about,” she says.
Waring’s focus on advising women going through divorce was not a conscious decision. After training as an accountant and working in that field as a financial director until 2005, Waring reached the point when she wanted to be self-employed. She became a mortgage adviser and attracted a lot of female clients. When the mortgage and property market collapsed in the 2008, Waring decided to upgrade her qualifications to become a chartered financial planner.
“I love learning but I don’t like exams. I’d said I hadn’t the time to do more exams but my business suffered so badly that I did have the time,” she says. “I became a chartered financial planner in 12 months. I just put my head down and got on with it because I was keen to get it all done.”
She then joined MDM Associates for the launch of its service for women facing divorce before leaving in 2012 to set up Wealth For Women. Waring was initially a registered individual at IFA firm Informed Choice, which took care of compliance until she took Wealth For Women directly authorised in 2016.
As Waring had already been dealing with women going through divorce, and to some extent had personal experience because her mother had been trapped in an unhappy marriage for financial reasons, she had firm ideas about the approach she would take.
“These clients are vulnerable and feel they should have taken more financial responsibility. They don’t understand finance and when they’re going through a divorce they are totally overwhelmed. If they’re not earning, whatever settlement they get is likely to be the only money they are going to have for the rest of their lives,” she says.
“Regardless of the size of the pot, they panic they are going to run out of money. They feel embarrassed and need looking after more than they need black and white financial advice. So I set my stall out to look after them.”
Waring says empathy is one of the main qualities advisers need when dealing with women going through a divorce. “A number of clients want to come in and just talk when it’s not necessarily relevant to finance. You need to be interested in listening to it – you can’t’ keep moving them along – but at the same time you can’t listen to it forever.”
At Wealth For Women, Waring has just launched the Elite service for women with assets of £10m plus.
“It’s about giving them more time and more meetings. I attend meetings with their accountants and solicitors, and if the client hasn’t understood it I’ll explain it to her outside of the meeting,” she says.
“Because my time is being spent on Elite I’m looking for other advisers for Wealth For Women as I have more clients than I can cope with.”
Waring acknowledges her clients can afford to get the advice and support, unlike women who do not have enough assets to be profitable clients for advice firms. How can the industry do more for those women?
“It’s hard with all the regulation in place. Those types of clients are not going to get robo-advice because they need people to explain things. You can’t just say: ‘here’s a computer’,” she says.
“Advisers run businesses so they need to be profitable. I offer a 30-minute free phone call and sometimes that is all they need. I also do some pro bono work but I don’t know the bigger answer for people who desperately need advice. Lots of clients in this position lack confidence and they are not in a great place. Coming on top of everything else, getting to grips with finance is too much.”
Mary Waring’s CV
2012-present: Managing director, Wealth For Women
2010-2012: IFA/chartered financial planner, MDM Associates
2006-2010: Mortgage adviser, self-employed/Positive Mortgages
1980-2005: Various accountancy roles from trainee at Deloitte to financial director at Property Investment Holdings
According to Waring, the well-documented increase in divorce among older people could be attributed to retirement. “A lot of the people I deal with are non-working wives with husbands working full time. Things go wrong when he retires. Previously, things were just about okay, but when they spend 24 hours together the little niggles become huge and if the wife is 60 she will think ‘I can’t spend another 20 years in this marriage’.
“If she hasn’t been earning there is going to be a lack of opportunities because employers wouldn’t want someone who hasn’t worked for 20 years. But on the plus side there could be an opportunity to downsize and the mortgage would be paid off, or she could have a recent inheritance from parents.”
Waring says it’s a shame there is still a lack of women in the advice industry as, in many ways, it is the perfect career. Its flexibility works well with raising a family and traditional perceptions of finance being a male area do not reflect the nuts and bolts of the job.
“It’s about working out problems, client needs and what they want to achieve and finding solutions so they can do what they want,” she says. “There is a dreadful lack of females in the industry but hopefully that will change.”
What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?
Always create a great client experience. Consider what the client needs, not what you need.
What keeps you awake at night?
There is a lot happening in Wealth For Women and I frequently get ideas in the night.
What has had the most significant impact on financial advice if the last year?
Still pension freedoms. There is so much choice now and more need for an adviser.
If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…
Make sure we concerned ourselves with the bad boys in the industry. The vast majority of advisers do a fantastic job but are burdened with compliance.
Any advice for new advisers?
Surround yourself with well qualified people you respect and who are happy to mentor you.