Openwork calls for diversity in adviser community

Openwork calls for diversity in adviser community

Openwork has called on the financial advice community to become more representative of its client population to encourage consumers to approach advisers.

Speaking at a Zurich ‘Balance for Better’ briefing this morning (March 7), ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday, Openwork's wealth and platform director Mike Morrow said more consumers will need advice as their situation becomes more complicated.

But Mr Morrow warned the wealth marketplace must be more representative of the population it is serving if consumers are to be encouraged to seek face-to-face advice.

He said: "There are 26,000 wealth advisers in the UK and 11 per cent are female.  

"This is relatively problematic, you can’t be representative of the people you are trying to serve unless you look a bit like them and we don’t as a financial advice community.  

"If you’re trying to explain relatively complex financial challenges to people, it helps if you have the empathy and understanding of what they are looking for."

Mr Morrow said accessibility in the industry was still a challenge, particularly for young entrepreneurial females looking for good quality financial advisers.

Mr Morrow said Openwork has sought to actively drive gender diversity in its financial adviser community, particularly within its academy programme.

Of the candidates graduating from the network’s academy today, 39 per cent are female, he said.

What's more, a career in financial advice is "very conducive" to mothers looking to return to work or part-time, Mr Morrow said, especially with the flexibility offered as a self-employed adviser.

He said: "The wealth marketplace in particular is a very flexible industry and it’s also a very remunerative industry, but it also needs to be more representative of the 65m people in the UK.

"The working population and retired population will always need a financial adviser and as financial problems become more complicated they are less likely to want to solve those by logging on to a website and going direct-to-consumer."

Mr Morrow said direct-to-consumer could fill certain gaps in the accessibility problem, but face-to-face advice offered a solution to complicated issues such as understanding defined benefit pensions and whether a consumer has enough money to retire.

He added: "Those are conversations people want to have with qualified advisers who look and feel a bit like them and have empathy and understanding."