Women only IFA firms branded too niche to survive

Women only IFA firms branded too niche to survive

IFA firms that pursue a positive non-discriminatory attitide to gay and female clients have a better chance of success than firms run by women for solely female clients, according to IFA Ruth Whitehead.

Three out of the four IFA firms set up specifically to offer financial advice for women, delivered by women, listed in Unbiased.co.uk's Blue Book from 2009 are now no longer trading. 

Two were run by IFAs who have rebranded their operations to make no mention of working only for women clients.

Ms Whitehead, principal of her own London based IFA firm, where women make up half of all clients, said: "If you are going to set up an IFA that is primary for women you are making yourself too niche. If you are starting yourself off from scratch you need to be more broadly based."

She said that the client base of most IFA firms will be mostly male.

Whitehead set up her firm in 1993 with the intention of better serving both female and gay clients in an industry she described as biased against women.

"My belief belief from the outset, because I am gay and lots of my clients are gay, was that we wanted to be the only non-discriminatory IFA firm out there," she said.

Her drive was formed by experiences in conferences where presenters would make sexist jokes and refer to clients having "2.4 children and a Ford Escort".

She said: "Having spent 20 years in financial services the rhetoric has improved but there is still so much more to be done to have a positively discriminatory attitude towards women engaging with financial services. 

"The whole financial services industry is geared far more toward men than women it means generally speaking that women are under insured and under pensioned."

She said that women were still put off visiting male IFAs as they think they will be patronised.

Karen Barrett, chief executive of Unbiased, noted it was rare and unique to find female only businesses.

"In terms of business it does not make sense to go down the niche of female only and saying you do not deal with men," she said. 

"But there are advisers out there who say 'I am a woman and I feel that there is a lack of skills and empathy or understanding on how you talk to women' who want to do something in this area. 

"And there are groups of male and female advisers who are approaching the market and identifying that they can have particular marketing campaigns or services that encourage women to take financial advice."