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Women&#39s intuition

When all-female IFA Finance 4 Women was formed last March, its founders admit they had no idea how their new venture would pan out. Eleven months later, however, they have no hesitation in declaring their new company an unqualified success.

“It has been a whirlwind,” says Karen Ritchie, one of the firm&#39s four founder members. “From no clients a year ago, we are now fully booked every week.”

The company estimates it has a client base of about 200 and it expects this number to grow steadily in the next few months.

F4W&#39s founders were bored with commuting into London and believed there was a gap in the market to create a female-only company specifically targeting women in East Anglia seeking financial advice.

It was felt that there was a lack of financial advice for women in the area and that women would feel more comfortable approaching another woman for help in managing their finances. From the start, F4W has attempted to target its services and presentation specifically towards women.

Ritchie says this strategy has worked extremely well although she admits to being surprised by the number of male clients, largely referrals, who have approached the company. Perhaps surprisingly, about 40 per cent of the firm&#39s client base is now male although this is less than the market average which Ritchie estimates is closer to 80 per cent men.

She stresses, though, that the purpose of F4W – to provide trustworthy financial advice aimed specifically at women – remains intact. “Our mission is to educate women about their financial affairs,” she says.

The four ex-Fiona Price & Partners formed F4W as an equal partnership under the aegis of parent company Millfield which provides support in specialist areas such as IT and compliance.

As a new company with limited resources, F4W&#39s publicity approach has been low key. Its plan has been to rely on referrals by word of mouth and articles in the local Cambridge press. It also has a spot on local radio, giving financial advice over the air once a week. The emphasis is on a no-jargon approach. “Everything we say to a client is in plain English,” says Ritchie.

Pensions are one of the main areas where F4W finds women need advice, especially after a divorce. The company has been working with local solicitors who have dealt with divorced and separated women interested either in sorting out their own financial affairs for the first time or disentangling their finances from former husbands.

Now the company is looking to expand. Ritchie says: “I will put my hands in the air and admit that when we first formed the company, we maybe did not plan enough for the future. But it is time to put our heads above the parapet. We are now looking to develop a plan for the next five or 10 years.”

The company&#39s main purpose has been simply to keep ahead of an ever-expanding workload but the partners now accept that a longer-term vision is needed and they are meetings with a business consultancy to plot future strategies.

There is a general mood of optimism and while the staff still only consists of the original gang of four, the partners do not rule out taking on new personnel. Ritchie says the problem is that female advisers are in short supply in East Anglia. She says it is difficult finding the right staff as the company has a quite specific vision of what it wants.

Ritchie says: “We are not actively looking to hire another IFA at the moment but if the right candidate walked through our door, we would seriously consider taking them on.”

F4W is confident about the future. Ritchie says: “I don&#39t see why we can&#39t be the biggest female IFA in the country.”

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