The Financial Planning Association of Australia The Financial Planning Association of Australia

Who do women trust with their money and life?


 

By Dante De Gori CFP®, CEO, Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA)

It’s not uncommon for the female partner in a relationship not to turn up to appointments with their financial planner, delegating her partner to represent their joint interests.

Read that again.

Is it true, that women simply aren’t showing up?

If it is true, that’s a moral burden we must choose to share as an emerging profession.

Too many women are being left vulnerable to financial abuse and loss of financial control over their lives. Who do women trust with their money and life?

As financial planners, we play a critical role enabling financial freedom, and confidence in building wealth, risk protection, and literacy, and that’s true for men, women, couples, singles, young adults, retirees and every life stage in between.

But the truth is, I don’t think women are not showing up to their appointments because they’re not interested in a brighter financial future for themselves.

I fear they’re not showing up because they believe we are not interested in their particular goals, needs, strengths, and priorities. They fear we will not listen to them.

We must actively refuse to subscribe to stereotypes of men being the financial provider and decision maker, and insist on equal air time with our female clients.

Women are earning more, leading more, and choosing more than ever in history.

Our financial services and economic infrastructures, and our client engagement models, need to work harder and faster to catch up and adapt to their needs and expectations.

I believe women want more female professional financial planners.

The famous Edelman Trust Barometer shows women today are less trusting than men overall, and particularly in business. One analysis of the 2019 global study suggests “women feel less represented, and more disenfranchised” as likely contributing factors to their mistrust.

Today, only 20% of all Australian financial planners are female.  I’m proud to say that representation is much higher within the FPA, where 27% of our members are female, as are the majority of the FPA Board including its Chair, Marisa Broome CFP®.

But we simply need to see more women represented on the front lines of financial advice to more accurately reflect the Australian population.

I believe men need more female professional financial planners.

If we are to actively deconstruct traditional gender stereotypes when it comes to money matters, we must normalise men actively seeking the powerful combination of intelligence, knowledge and emotional intelligence of a female professional financial planner.

So how do we attract more women to financial planning?

The most important attributes for a good financial planner are being trustworthy, knowledgeable, and having strong emotional intelligence (EQ), according to this Attitudes Towards Women in Financial Advice report.

These traits are known to quantifiably drive client satisfaction, and are all commonly identified in women (and men).

So clearly a natural propensity or professional skill is not the obstacle.

Perhaps the problem is more systemic in nature?

Supported by the FPA, a collaborative research project between Dr Daniel Richards from the RMIT School of Accounting and Nicole Heales Financial investigated the career drivers and barriers for women working in financial planning.

Their research identified four significant issues that need to be addressed:

  • Mentoring and support: Mentoring and support (from organisations, colleagues and home) enables financial planning careers. There is a higher proportion of women working as paraplanners than financial planners. If this progression is easier and not gender biased, more women would become financial planners. Informal on-the-job learning disadvantages women, so the research advocates a method of formal training programs for the development of soft skills.
  • Balancing work and family: Flexible work practices are generally recognised now as critical to supporting career opportunities but flexible work is often still gender stereotyped as only for women. Flexible and part-time working arrangements should be made available for male and female financial planners to encourage industry wide participation.
  • Networking: Networking is vital for financial planners as a method to obtain clients and is used to connect with influential people in the industry for opportunities. However, caring responsibilities often impede women’s ability to network outside their work hours. The research suggests networking opportunities should be accessible to those with caring responsibilities and around topics that interest men and women in equal measure.
  • Sales culture: A sales-driven culture involving sales-based targets deters some women from progressing careers. The research suggests KPIs could be based on team performance or client satisfaction metrics, rather than revenue or sales volume.

We created FPA Women in Wealth to create more networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities specifically for women, and most of the events this year were sold out across five cities from 29 July until 26 August, so there’s clearly demand for the types of inclusive initiatives Dr Richards and his co-authors’ research suggests.

I’d welcome your comments and thoughts on changes we can each make at a macro and micro level to attract and retain more women to financial planning as graduates, associates, financial planners, practice owners, and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals.

Because I believe women are showing up, and it’s time we step outside traditional mindsets to meet them.