Published in The Financial Observer 20 December 2017.
The time taken to fulfil ongoing educational requirements and a lingering perception of financial planning as a sales-driven profession were two of the key barriers keeping women out of the financial advice industry, according to new research from BT Financial Group and the Financial Services Council.
New research commissioned by the two groups and conducted by EY, based on a survey of 300 female advisers and 500 consumers about attitudes toward financial advice, found that among women aged 25 to 34, the perception of advice as having a culture of sales targets was the main reason they would not consider a career in financial planning.
Among women aged 35 to 49, the time needed to become a financial adviser, including both the forthcoming educational standards and continuing professional development requirements, was identified as the key reason for not becoming a financial planner.
BT General Manager of Advice and Private Wealth Jane Watts said, with women making up just 31 per cent of BT’s adviser workforce, it was clear perceptions around the profession needed to be changed to encourage more gender diversity.
“It’s disappointing to see that the proportion of women in advice today is still so low. Advisers tell us they have a rewarding and flexible career, so there is a compelling opportunity to inform younger females about what a career in advice looks like and support them to get there,” Watts said.
“If we can attract more women to become advisers, it will better equip the industry to meet the diverse group of customers it services.”
The idea of a career in advice requiring onerous technical study appeared to be a myth, with 77 per cent of female advisers saying the ability to build strong personal relationships was the key skill needed to succeed in the industry.
At the same time, 82 per cent of women said the idea of helping people was what most attracted them to a career in advice, while 92 per cent of female advisers said helping customers was what gave them the most satisfaction in their job.
Watts said the results indicated the financial planning sector might need to change the way it was marketed to women in order to underline that there was an opportunity to help others.
“At its core, advice is about helping customers to prepare and take action to ensure a healthy financial future,” she said.
“Good advice has the potential to truly change lives in a positive way. Many people, including women, could therefore find an advice career appealing.”