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Women’s world

This month, the Women’s Financial Adviser Group present its 2005 Financial Adviser Women of the Year Awards, which are now into their fourth year.

In explaining what the awards represent, the WFG is perhaps best placed to comment itself. It says: “The time had come for women in our sector to be noticed and to play a bigger role. Women bring something different to the profession with the special emphasis they place on holistic and client- centred work, training and qualifications and long-term client relationships.

“In addition, the prepon-derance of male advisers reaching retirement age presents a great challenge and within that lies an opportunity for women. But we have our inhibitions, too. Women do not naturally consider a career in finance.

“We are risk-averse, take longer to establish our careers (usually based on trust, not targets), network differently and have fewer successful role models. So an organisation which offered a chance to meet other women advisers and encourage members to publicly shine through a high profile annual award was vital.”

What is most encouraging to see is that women are now in fact starting to consider a career in financial services in large numbers. The Institute of Financial Services has seen record numbers of women registering for its certificate in regulated general insurance (CeRGI) and with almost 2 000 registrations from women for the single-module qualification, this represents about 40 per cent of the total number of candidates.

But what is it that women bring to the financial services industry particularly? First and foremost, the answer must be access to a wider pool of recruits for employers across the sector. Clearly, men are capable and in some cases exceptional at the jobs they do but for firms not attracting applications from female candidates for vacant positions, they are immediately ruling out a big swathe of possible recruits and hampering their chances of hiring the best staff.

In terms of appealing to clientele, it also seems obvious that there are a sizeable number of women that would rather do business with other women in the same way that some men would prefer to be advised by a male counterpart. As such, having female advisers has become increasingly important as the number of women seeking financial advice continues to grow. This growth has come as a result of social and demographic changes and as a market, women have their own particular needs that are different to those of the average male working his way through a 40-year career.

Attracting a share of that growing market must be a priority for any IFA serious about future growth.

Many young women in the workplace today, who may be considering having children at a future date, will need advice on flexible pensions that will be able to cater for any career break they need to take.

Those looking out for their children may also need advice on how best to invest the child’s trust fund credits provided by the Government.

For others, it may simply be a case of making sure they are aware of the specialist products that are available for them in the market. To date, the insurance industry has led the way in this with motor insurance firms offering cover for female drivers only but others will surely follow across a broader spectrum of product areas.

While many women in the past have not considered a career in financial services, it offers some attractive benefits. The remuneration is good and is reliant on relationship building and interpersonal skills, which often come more naturally to women than men.

For those entering the industry who may need to take a break as they have their own family, the opportunities to return are also excellent. Clearly, one has to be dealing with products, clients and legislation on a daily basis to keep on top of market changes, trends and moods but for those wishing to keep apace from afar, there is plenty of media coverage in both consumer and trade journals to make this relatively simple.

In getting back into the saddle of giving professional advice, there are also professional exams that can be sat or retaken to ensure the individual is up to speed on the market and ready to work again in front of clients.

Many IFAs also work from home and for women with a family, operating on a part- time basis with a reduced client book may also be an attractive option both in the long term and merely as an option before they return full time.

Hence for women seeking a long-term career or for those who wish to combine their working and family lives, there are flexible opportunities afforded by the financial advice industry which they can take advantage of.

It is believed that the average age of advisers in the UK is somewhere in the mid-50s and the vast majority of them are male. As they seek to retire and the industry looks for new blood to replenish itself, attracting a greater number of women into the industry has to be the road forward.

Not only will firms following such a policy give themselves access to a wider selection of applicants for the positions they offer but create a workforce better placed to cater for the demands of the personal finance market which is now a much

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