Gooding: 'Women tend to take a more holistic approach to building relationships with clients and providing advice. A lot of research has shown that they are naturally better listeners and provide more considered opinion' Belcher: 'It is difficult to gain the kind of exposure I have had since winning the award. To be able to comment on issues of the day and sit on panels with some of the industry's leading experts is very rewarding' Price with her dog Benjamin: 'The winners of the awards so far have proved to be very thoughtful and caring of the industry itself. It shows their commitment and dedication to it' Nominations are now open for the Women's IFA Group's IFA Woman of the Year, an award that has gained considerable momentum over its two-year existence.
WIG founder and chairwoman Fiona Price, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, says the award is going a long way to promote a side of the ind-ustry that has not had the exposure it deserves.
She says: “Women operate differently as IFAs and this is one way of showcasing the success that many women IFAs are.”
She says in a male-dominated world such as financial services, it is very easy for women to believe that they are not as successful as their male counterparts. “But this award shows that, in fact, women are keenly suited to the role of advisers and are some of the greatest successes in the industry,” says Price The judging criteria for IFA Woman of the Year is very thorough. It is judged by industry heavyweights such as Price, Aegon head of industry development Peter Williams. Money Marketing editor John Lappin is also a judge.
Over a series of stages, ent-rants must be able to prove they are technically “first rate”, can apply their knowledge and think holistically. They also need to display excellent communication skills, confidence and professionalism.
Price says potential candidates should not be put off by thinking that the award is only for people who run their own companies or are directors at big IFAs. “This is not a management award. It is one that thoroughly examines an IFA's skill as an adviser. They need to understand broader industry issues and have also achieved a balance between their business and personal life.”
Last year's winner, Yvonne Gooding, an IFA with Pearson Jones in Leeds, proved this point. Gooding has been at the firm for 25 years and worked her way up from being a receptionist in the early days of the firm.
She has a strong book of long-term clients, who ask her for advice outside financial services. She says: “Women tend to take a more holistic approach to building relationships with clients and providing advice. A lot of research has shown that they are naturally better listeners and provide more considered opinion. This is something that a lot of clients are looking for when they look for an IFA.”
She says a lot of her work goes into “non-billable functions” but this is all part of building the rel-ationship with the client. “It is often hard for people to put their financial trust in someone if they don't know them well enough.”
Gooding says winning the award has enabled her to grow in confidence as an IFA, helping to provide her with the conviction to speak out on industry issues. She says: “Although I have always been confident in my abilities, the award gave me a platform to add my voice to industry debate on issues such as regulation and PI.”
2002 winner Viv Belcher, a director at Cheshire-based Hornbuckle Mitchell Group, says winning the award has helped her to grow as an IFA, with the chance to talk with many leading industry figures that many IFAs do not have access to.
She has also become a spokeswoman on industry issues, speaking on BBC Radio and providing opinion and commentary for newspapers.
She says: “It is very difficult to gain the kind of exposure I have had since winning the award. To be able to comment on issues of the day and sit on panels with some of the industry's leading experts is very rewarding.”
The winners of the award receive a luxury holiday for two in a Medit-erranean spa hotel and are presented with the award at a lavish dinner in The City. The kudos is well deserved and, says Belcher and Gooding, very flattering. But the importance of the award is more far reaching than just that. Price says: “The winners of the awards so far have proved to be very thoughtful and caring of the ind-ustry itself. It shows their commitment and dedication to it.”
For instance, Gooding has been watching the FSA's movement into financial capability very closely. She is concerned that more needs to be done to educate the public on how to manage their money, savings and debt.
She says: “It is unfortunate for the country that there is not a greater awareness regarding money management. This is an issue that will take generations to fix and more work needs to be done to help ease the situation.”
Both Gooding and Belcher are concerned with the reputation that advisers have in the wider industry. Belcher believes depolarisation may improve the image of IFAs as it may prove to weed out many of the bad eggs.
“Unfortunately, we have inherited a lot of bad press from problems that have largely been precipitated by the Government itself. The majority of IFAs have done all they can to help their clients get ahead and this is very rarely recognised by the press.”
Hopefully, awards such as IFA Woman of The Year will go some way to improving the profile of independent advisers.