02/05/18Where are all of the female financial advisers?

female financial advisers

Have you ever heard of Shelley Kerr?

If I mentioned names like José Mourinho, Arsène Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson, I would bet good money they would immediately trigger an association with football team management.

Shelley Kerr holds an equally as impressive position as these male giants of football, following her appointment in 2014 as the first woman to manage a senior men’s football team in Britain. The former Arsenal Ladies manager took on the role managing Stirling University, in the fifth tier of Scottish football.

When I took my son along to his football trials last week, the coaching team asked me if I would be interested in becoming a coach, as there are so few female coaches. Thankfully, there are lots of young girls keen to start playing football, which bodes well for the future of the sport.

It got me thinking about the lack of female financial advisers within my own profession.

It’s no secret that there are relatively few women practising as financial advisers. When I attend industry conferences, the typical demographic in the room is male, white and middle-aged. I’m something of an anomaly by comparison.

The best estimates are that only 11% of financial advisers in the UK are female and almost half of financial advice firms employ no female advisers!

Anecdotally at least, there do seem to be more ladies entering our profession in recent years, which is of course great news for all concerned.

Some research published last year from Investec Wealth & Investment found that women represent a growing share of the new clients engaging with financial advisers. Women accounted for just 40% of clients in 2012, which rose to 47% between 2015 and 2017.

According to the research, the drivers behind this rise in female clients were divorce and the death of spouses; both challenging life events which often prompt women who have previously relied on male partners to seek expert advice.

When women get financial advice, they often like to work with a female financial adviser. There are lots of benefits from working with a lady.

Women assess risk differently from men. In a profession where understanding risk and managing those risks is central to the service we offer, this can be really important.

One academic study from 2006, looking at gender differences in risk assessment, concluded that men engage in more risky behaviours than women, possibly due to women’s perceived likelihood of negative outcomes and lesser expectation of enjoyment from taking risk.

Applied to investment management and managing the risks associated with different personal finance outcomes, this more cautious approach to risk is no bad thing.

There’s also a perception – which in my experience is very real – that men and women have different approaches to communication. As a result, female financial advisers could be better at listening.

Yes, our job is to share expert knowledge with our clients, but this only has value if we first understand your position and what you are trying to achieve through your financial planning.

But really it comes down to a matter of comfort; if a female client is more comfortable spending time with a female financial adviser, especially during a difficult time in their life, than that is the right choice to make.

As for the prospect of me becoming a football coach? My talents might be better served championing the cause of women in retail financial services instead!

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