In Focus: Profitable advice business  

How advice firms can tackle gender imbalance

How advice firms can tackle gender imbalance
Cheryl Ferris, adviser at Richmond Wealth

Advice firms may not be reaching their full potential as a result of gender imbalance in advice roles according to Cheryl Ferris, a financial adviser with Richmond Wealth in Northern Ireland. 

Speaking to FTAdviser, Ferris said value can be added to IFA businesses by hiring more women in adviser roles.

Pointing to the benefit of skills that are traditionally seen as more ‘feminine’, Ferris argued that the industry only stands to benefit from greater diversity.

“Advising clients is quite a personal relationship," she said. "You’re dealing with how to help them meet their goals in life as well as confronting the disruptions along the way.

"That could be someone sadly passing away, so you’re dealing with emotional issues and that’s definitely something where soft skills can help."

Ferris said that this is particularly important for small firms and can really help the firm's success. 

“It’s like when you go to the doctor,” she said. “You might prefer a female doctor and you should have that choice.”

Increasing diversity

At the crux of it, encouraging more women to go down the adviser role comes down to two main areas for Ferris, who made the move from paraplanner to adviser in 2021.

Firstly, visibility is key. 

Ferris pointed out that it can be difficult for female paraplanners to take the leap to adviser, particularly in small firms, as advisers are typically men:

“For example, in our firm I am the only female adviser so it can be hard for female paraplanners or admin staff to see themselves in that role,” she said.

On this front, Ferris said getting out and networking is vital. 

“It’s important for people in back office roles to get out and see more of the industry.

"If you’re in an office where there are only male advisers in the firm, it’s hard for you to see yourself in that role but when you go to networking events, like seminars and paraplanning workshops you can look around and see there are plenty of women in the room who are giving advice and they’re just as successful as the men around them."

Another thing she highlighted is that the providers are all very diverse these days.

"So there will be presentations from providers and quite often it’s women doing these presentations as well as men so this can be quite inspirational and help you to see yourself more in that role,” she added.

The second area is the entry-path and making it more accessible.

Ferris cited the ability to do the exams at home and at flexible times as a real benefit, particularly for women who have children and might already be working full time. 

Being given the opportunity to gain on the job experience made the transition from paraplanner to adviser much smoother for Ferris.