Every so often a siren call goes out demanding female advisers for female clients, and initially this sounds reasonably sensible. But it’s a knee-jerk ‘politically correct’ idea that is fundamentally flawed.
Yes, it would be fantastic to have more women financial planners, not exclusively for women, but to give advice to men and women alike. Allocating advisers to clients by gender is a blunt tool with limited effectiveness. It’s also divisive and sexist, and as such is not really helpful.
Historically the financial needs of women have been different to men, but the continuous shift towards equality, particularly financial equality, means these differences have all but disappeared. Any remaining differences are largely technical issues that can be understood and appreciated regardless of gender.
We wouldn’t dream of suggesting client/adviser divisions along the lines of race, so why do some people still believe there’s place for segregation by gender?
If we believe (and I do) that women are every bit as good as men at giving financial advice to men, then why shouldn’t it apply the other way round? The skills needed by advisers have nothing to do with genitalia. Although apparently this will come as a surprise to some.
There is no gender exclusivity for technical skill, nor for the soft skills needed by a good financial planner. Empathy, listening and communication are human traits, and can be learned and improved. I know many male planners whose soft skills are every bit as good as their female peers. Similarly, I’ve met several female advisers who behave and perform like a stereotypical alpha male. It is the person and not their gender that matters.
Within my own practice we advise more women than men, largely because of the better longevity of women over men. In situations where we’ve been advising a couple and the husband dies, we have retained an ongoing relationship with the widow. However, research suggests widows tend to ditch an adviser about 17 months following the husband’s death – not based on gender, but on attitude.
Are we different to any other profession in the interaction between genders? I don’t think so. Whether talking about doctors, psychiatrists, or counsellors (just three examples) there are people routinely advising (and even physically examining) members of the opposite sex. If it works in the medical profession then surely it should work in financial services.
The bottom line is, I don’t have a problem in advising women, and my female clients say they don’t have a problem either. So if there is a problem, it’s in the minds of those who make their regular call for female advisers for female clients. Go and fix that and stop trying to divide us.