Ben Goss, co-founder of Dynamic Planner, the company that provides a financial planning system and risk-rates investment funds, has already built a diverse workforce, although “there is still work to do”.
Dynamic Planner has 75 employees, 40 per cent of whom are women, and there are multiple ethnicities, religious beliefs, and geographical origins.
We would tell our agencies: ‘You have to include long lists that have more women.’ Ben Goss, Dynamic Planner
He says: “I’m very proud of what we’ve built at Dynamic Planner.
“We sit at the confluence of two industries that are not hugely diverse.
“Financial services is one of them, and women in technology are relatively few; ethnic minorities in certain roles in technology are probably also few.
“Our firm was started by three men that still work here today”.
But now, he says, it is staffed with people from 12 different countries from across Europe, Africa and Asia.
“We have people from the north of England, Wales and Scotland; we are a pretty diverse group, and mostly that just happened [organically].”
However, he says earlier on the company had to work for it.
This meant being quite clear to agencies when they were hiring that they wanted more diverse candidates.
“We would tell our agencies: ‘You have to include long lists that have more women.’
“We had to repeat that message a number of times. Now it’s very normal.
“If you look at our website you will see lots of people from different ethnic backgrounds.”
However, he adds, Dynamic Planner still has to work harder, closer to the top of the company.
“We have one female director [out of five directors] – we have work to do within our executive management team.”
Lower down the ranks at team leader level there are more women than men, he adds, with five out of eight of the individuals being female.
Dynamic Planner came about as a result of a mix of Mr Goss’ experiences and insight into what would make financial advice easier.
He can date his awareness back to his student days when he used to give “advice” to people over the phone, based on a script.
Even then, despite his lack of experience of the real world, he sensed that it did not feel right.
After university he worked as a strategy consultant at PwC in the banking and insurance sectors, but he felt that people should be given a better way of getting financial advice.
“Most people, broadly, are not very interested in financial services; they’re more interested in holidays and jobs, and a pension comes a long way down the list.”
His first business, Sort, which he set up in the late 1990s, was the UK’s first online investment adviser.
It was regulated by the Personal Investment Authority, and ended up advising 1,000 people a day, mainly on simple products such as Isas.
“We made financial advice very simple and very transparent. We then sold it at the height of the dotcom boom to mPower, the largest provider of dotcom advice.”
He left mPower to set up Distribution Technology, which trades under the name Dynamic Planner, to help provide the mechanism by which people provide financial advice.
It’s hugely important that if you can see me you can be me Ben Goss, Dynamic Planner
The technology works by helping advice companies match people to portfolios through a risk-based end-to-end financial planning system.
It is now used by about a third of financial advisers, and Mr Goss has been made an Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year, and is a winner of the Deloitte UK Fast 50, which recognises the UK’s fastest-growing tech companies.
Mr Goss, also a qualified financial adviser, tries to give back to the younger generation.
Clearly a successful entrepreneur in his own right, he spends time with inner city children in Lewisham, mentoring them and talking about their aspirations, through an organisation called Urban Synergy.
He says: “It’s hugely important that if you can see me you can be me.
“If you can see someone who looks like you in a financial advice or a fintech firm, subconsciously, it gives you a sense that this is a possibility.
“These pathways are not traditional pathways; you do need to see people who look like you to think it might be possible.”
Mr Goss, who has mixed heritage himself, goes to Urban Synergy events that are attended by local children from very diverse backgrounds.
They sit and talk about what they want to do in life. “I’ve been doing it with kids that want to be doctors and lawyers and sports people.
“I’ve met someone who wanted to be a financial adviser – but that was quite rare.
He says it is all about being a role model and putting yourself in front of these children so they can see that it is possible to make a career in areas they may have previously thought were not open to them.
“My personal view is that you can achieve anything you want to as long as you’re prepared to work at it.
“Lots of people will say you can’t do something in life; if you work hard at something then you can achieve it.”
So what does he think about diversity in the financial advice profession?
“What I would observe historically, if you go back 30 years, advisers were focusing on male clients, and were having men to do that.
“If you then think about how firms are built, they are built on social networks; it was an industry that unconsciously hired people they already knew, so the network was quite strong.
“So we have to be quite deliberate to encourage more women to come.
“If you want to change the mix you have to be quite deliberate about it. If you’re great at the job, we will want you.
“I imagine if I were a woman and looking at a firm that just had pictures of men on its website, I might think about whether this is the right place for me to work.
“I do think you have to put effort in. Yes, we do need networks but we have to be deliberate about diversity and inclusion.”
Melanie Tringham is features editor at Financial Adviser and FTAdviser