DiversityMar 16 2023

How to build a neuro-inclusive advice business

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How to build a neuro-inclusive advice business
Building a diverse financial advice firm in Britain must include neurodiversity. (Duc Anh Nguyen/Pexels).
ByAnita Boniface

UK government figures have put the number of neurodiverse people in Britain at one in seven - roughly 15 per cent.

Among these are millions of people who need access to financial advice - but how well-equipped are the majority of financial advice firms to welcome people with neuro-diverse conditions, either as colleagues or clients?

It is important to understand what this term 'neurodiverse' means.

Neurodiversity is the way we think, move, process and communicate differently. It is not owned by one condition or one part of our brains.

People can have neurodivergent traits that are acquired during our lifetimes.--Dame Amanda Kirby

Being neurodiverse impacts on our strengths and weaknesses and the contrast between these.

Differences between strengths and vulnerabilities can often be more accentuated than in the average, ‘neuro-typical’ person.

As a result, employers need to be aware of, and adjust to, the vulnerabilities of neurodiverse staff and clients, while looking to maximise on strengths and potential that often works really well to complement the strengths of their neuro-typical teams. These have been outlined in a previous article

Understanding traits

According to Professor Dame Amanda Kirby, founder of Do-It Solutions, we often associate neurodivergent traits with particular conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Conditions, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, dyspraxia (also known as developmental coordination disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and tic disorders.

We do this because they commonly overlap or co-occur with each other. These are known as developmental conditions because people are generally born with them. 

However, Kirby is keen to point out that “people can have neurodivergent traits that are acquired during our lifetimes”, just as with needing glasses or hearing aids.

Likewise, accidents and conditions, such as Parkinson's, can all affect how we move, process, act and communicate.

Research carried out by Autism Research, entitled The Vulnerability Experiences Quotient: A Study of Vulnerability, Mental Health and Life Satisfaction in Autistic Adults, highlights the difficulties faced by neurodivergent individuals as they look to find fulfilling work.

The research found:

  • 20% of autistic people were in full-time employment 
  • 46% left workplace due to mistreatment 
  • 72% left due to their environment 
  • 31% were regularly overlooked for promotion 
  • 53% were unable to get a role that matched their qualifications 
  • 47% had spent a year unemployed and seeking work.

These significant percentages are indicative of the barriers that currently exist which prevent people on the autism spectrum, and likewise, other neurodiverse processing, emotional and thinking conditions entering and progressing in the workplace. 

It also highlights the challenges staff face in succeeding, especially where business practices, processes and culture is predominately designed for neuro-typical employees. 

Overcoming barriers

Dan Harris, founder and chief executive of Neurodiversity in Business, says it is possible to overcome these barriers, and potential employers can go further to make the workplace inclusive.

He says it is important to design roles and create job descriptions that are truly reflective of the skills needed.

This can help recruit a neurodiverse person who can have exceptional skills needed for that role like pattern spotting, or big picture thinking, but may not be strong at communication, or in customer-facing roles.