St James’s Place is trying to bring more women advisers into the industry through its training academy so that clients have more choice.
Women are under-represented in the financial services industry, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that only around 10 per cent of UK advisers are female. But some clients may prefer to see a woman adviser so their choice is limited.
SJP Academy director Adrian Bachelor says: “The industry has been traditionally male dominated so maybe it hasn’t appealed to women. But the academy is unique in the way it works and offers a lot of flexibility in things like work/life balance that typically appeal to women.”
Bachelor says the quality of applicants is the most important consideration but SJP wants to increase awareness of the academy among women as route to running their own wealth management businesses.
The perception that advisers are male is still common among both men and women but the women who are passing through the SJP Academy are keen to challenge the stereotype and avoid issues such as gender inequality in pay and the glass ceiling.
SJP Academy graduate Jenny Moloney (pictured) says: “I don’t see it as an obstacle that I’m a woman – it’s part of my brand. Some of the people I talk to like the idea of having a woman adviser if they are visiting the home for example, or it is a sensitive situation.
“We’ve had the RDR and a lot of old school financial advisers have retired. That gives us an opportunity to change the whole dynamics of the industry.”
Moloney passed her diploma in July, after six months intensive training at the SJP Academy. She had wanted to move to the next stage of her career while using skills and experience she had gained from 20 years in financial journalism and media.
”I was interested in using my financial knowledge and furthering it. My finance background was something I wanted to build on but I didn’t have adviser skills. I met a couple of SJP partners, worked freelance for an IFA and the more I looked into it I thought it was a great opportunity. I looked for other places I could start my own business but nothing compared with what was on offer at the academy. And I didn’t have to pay for it as I came on board as an academy member,” she says.
Now focusing on her business plan, Moloney is working with a SJP business development manager to get her SJP practice off the ground. As a mum who needs to balance work with school commitments, changing career has given Moloney more control in her life.
“I was previously at my desk before breakfast time and any time with my family had to be requested. Now I can manage my own diary, so I can do the school commitments but have the motivation that this is my business and I make the time up. But it’s not only about whether you have kids, there is an academy graduate who has an elderly mother – that is a commitment where you need flexibility that the corporate world doesn’t offer.”
Moloney says that jobs which provide flexible hours for professional women who are trying to get back into work after a break often penalise women on the pay scale. “I refuse to believe that is the only choice,” she says.
The shortage of women in financial services
A shortage of women in high profile and senior positions in financial services could be holding businesses back.
According to a recent report from consultants PwC says that although women make up 60 per cent of the workforce in financial services globally, they fill only 19 per cent of executive roles.
Although it is difficult to get figures for financial advice in the UK, the general perception is that this is an industry that is dominated by middle aged men, with a recent survey from Sesame Bankhall’s Financial Adviser School reporting that nine in ten consumers think the typical financial adviser is a middle aged male.
The financial services industry could be putting itself at a disadvantage as women control the majority of discretionary spending but businesses are failing to engage directly with them. Globally, PwC estimates that women are responsible for 65 per cent of $18trn of discretionary spending, worth $12trn or £7.5trn, and it concludes: “Without more women in leadership, financial institutions could struggle to understand and win over this crucial customer demographic. Female clientele, and the potential value they represent, are too important to ignore.”
However, there is evidence that adviser firms are taking steps to tackle this perceived imbalance. In addition to the St James’s Place Academy initiative to increase female adviser numbers, the ifs School of Finance last month reported the number of women registering for its financial adviser qualifications had increased from 12 per cent of applicants to 22 per cent of the total number of applicants.
Institute of Financial Services chief executive Anne Kiem said: “These figures show that the sector is becoming more appealing to people from different backgrounds. In the long-term, an increasingly diverse and highly-qualified workforce will ultimately be to the benefit of both the industry and the consumer seeking advice.”