8 minute read

Unique roles present distinctive opportunities for women in advice

Published on
November 17, 2023
Anne-Marie Esler
Co-CEO & Co-Founder

Women who joined the financial advice profession believe it is more than about giving advice with – some pursuing different business models that prioritise financial outcomes for women.

The Women in Financial Advice series, hosted by Professional Planner in partnership with BT, has focused on encouraging more women to become financial advisers to present a better cross-section of society to clients.

The third and final roundtable studied women who left the traditional advice model behind to become financial coaches so they can provide more women with the more basic advice they need.

Growth in these roles is part of the reason Money Mentor managing director and senior wealth adviser Adele Martin, Greenhouse Steps founder Jessica Brady, and Women Talking Finance founder Karen Eley are choosing to work more in the coaching space, according to the coaches represented on the roundtable.

Brady said women have been taught that money is taboo, and this impacts the number of women who end up wanting to study financial advice.

“I really passionately believe that we need to make that industry more diverse,” she said.

Brady added that the industry is seeing a rise in financial coaches but it is concerning that only some have come from a financial planning background.

“They know the difference between actual advice, general advice, personal advice, whereas people that have come from life coaching have never had any financial background,” she said.

Caboodle co-founder Peita Diamantidis wondered aloud if there is a volunteer program for money mentors.

“Imagine each school has a money mentor and they turn up a couple of times a year and they sessions and Year 11 [students] get to go and learn about [financial literacy],” she said.

Diamantidis acknowledged the lack of qualified financial advisers but said she would prefer to see 5000 more coaches rather than 5000 new advisers.

But Martin said that if the number of female advisers does not increase, women generally will be discouraged from seeking advice, with consequences beyond the financial. She added that “a lot” of domestic violence cases are the result of women lacking financial independence.

LGT Crestone Wealth Management national front office risk manager Melissa Richardson said financial literacy briefly appears in the school curriculum, but she would like to see it feature prominently, alongside maths and English.

“It’s so important that you get in young,” she said. “If you can’t navigate our financial institutions and our financial construct, you really are left behind.”

More women and ‘weirdos’

The roundtable participants agreed that the financial advice industry needs to be more diverse and inclusive in all roles.

“We need all sorts of weirdos like us out there talking about, in lots of different ways, about money and about life,” Diamantidis said.

“I just think there’s a gap…generally, and I’d love women to be stepping into that gap.”

Jess Mather, BT senior manager of process optimisation and customer relations, said the firm has a clear role to play in improving diversity in the financial advice industry.

“Our focus is to see financial advice thrive and part of that is supporting advice businesses,” Mather said.

“How do we educate the advisers that we come in contact with and support their ideas?”

Unisuper select advice manager Renae Anderson said allowing superannuation funds to provide advice will encourage more students to consider advice as a career, in turn improving diversity.

The Quality of Advice Review has earmarked super funds as potential advice providers to mitigate the advice gap across lower balance clients with simpler advice needs, and Anderson said she is “really excited for the future” of advice as a result.

BT senior manager of events and engagement Sarah Philips said the firm supports advice practices through education, networking and thought leadership. She said it provided close to 100 hours of continuing professional development to the industry last year and offered over 200 activities.

“A focus on attracting and retaining a diverse cohort of advice professionals has seen us showcase successful women in our new podcast series HerAdvice,” Philips said.

She said BT would continue to support advice through a mentoring program due to start later this year, and through a partnership with Striver to ensure more graduates consider entering the advice industry.

“There is nothing more important than representing the people that you’re going to advise to,” she said.

“A more diverse industry can only mean good things for everyone.”

Diverse career opportunities

For women who want a career in the profession, but not as a financial adviser or coach, there is still an abundance of roles that require unique of talents and skills.

Select Advice’s Anderson said Unisuper has “a spectrum of roles available, and we absolutely develop our people”.

“Over the next two years, [UniSuper] will have one in six members retiring, one in five members reaching preservation age, and at the same time, we have proven the benefits of advice for retirement outcomes,” she said, adding that by increasing the representation of women in advisory roles, the diversity of the industry will be improved.

Mutual Trust family office partner Ros Odgers said there are plentiful opportunities for women in within Mutual Trust’s family offices.

“All the skill sets that financial services women have, family offices are one area that they should have a good look [at], whether that’s a multi-family office like the one I currently work at,” Odgers said.

She adds that family offices are expanding.

“Family offices are really big in Europe, but there’s only one multi-family office in Australia, which is the Myer Baillieu family office.”

Odgers’ role is the partner of the family office, so she does “all the family meetings and strategies” and brings in specialists as needed.

“Seventy per cent of my work in dealing with a family is not financial, seventy per cent is family unity, harmony, education, planning,” Odgers said.

“It’s all around passing on the values of the family. It’s all about the psychology of work of going to a meeting, looking after your finances, looking after the investments. All the rest is all around that psychology piece of people working together.”

Flexibility is a must-have

Money Mentor’s Martin said the advice industry needs more flexibility to help attract and retain women.

“We [need] more female business owners, because I just think that once they see what it is like and they realise it’s just about the client and helping, we can make it easier and learn about the compliance stuff, help them outsource stuff so they can just do it better.”

LGT Crestone’s Richardson said she chooses the hours she works but is accountable to advisers to a degree.

“[This is] because I need to meet with the 100-odd advisers that I support at times that suit them,” she said.

“As an adviser, if a client wants to meet at five o’clock on a Friday, I will meet them at five o’clock on a Friday. These days, my advisers definitely don’t want to meet me at five o’clock on a Friday, but I do have to navigate around their client meetings. It is flexible, but I think both roles have equal flexibility. It’s just in slightly different ways.”

Padua Solutions co-founder and co-CEO Anne-Marie Esler said flexibility enables Padua staff to be more productive, happier, and energised.

“We find that it’s hugely beneficial,” she said.

“People are so grateful to have a job in a regional area that is in professional services. We don’t have any trouble at all [with] finding staff and employing people. We employ about 80 staff, and we also have about 20 contractors that we work with, who are all flexible and do their own hours and work their own time schedule.”

Aged Care Steps founder Louise Biti said that individuals who don’t work a traditional five-day week can feel like they are not being treated like real employees.

“Therefore, there is a real fear that if they take a role in some high-pressure job, where they’re already working part-time [and] going to be paid part-time, but still have to do this full-time work. There’s that perception, and that’s where leadership is really needed.”

Dismantling the boys’ club

Profile Financial Services CEO Lena Ridley said, at the first Women in Advice roundtable, that women in finance have “all felt the brunt of boys’ clubs over the years. The participants of the third roundtable picked up this thread.

Richardson said female advisers have historically had to learn to play in the boys’ club or they will be left out.

She added that in her work life there had been any number of golf days for men, but no corresponding event for women.

“Day spa, wine and cheese, shopping – you name it, I would have been there,” she said.

Aged Care Steps’ Biti said she has encountered “a lot of boys’ clubs” in her career and has also seen “really inappropriate stuff”.

“You felt like you either had to join them, or you’re outside it,” she said.

“I didn’t ever feel I needed to join them, but I felt like I really did have to stand out. I was lucky that I had a very unique skill within the business that they needed and they couldn’t do, so I got away with a little bit more of pushing back on them, and still was quite successful in that.”

Caboodle’s Diamantidis said: “Going into an industry event and having a rugby union player as the keynote motivational speaker… what the hell can they tell us about finance and advising? There’s just this conditioning that’s from the old environment.”

The group suggested that to attract and retain a diverse cohort of professionals the ‘old way’ of doing things – golf days, retired sport players as keynote speakers, drinking – should be rethought, and how the industry thinks about networking events should be reconsidered.

Female networks have been set up to promote more diversity in the industry, such as the Stella Network and Inspire. Sadly, the FAAA has recently announced that its female mentoring program will be discontinued in 2024 due to a lack of funding.


The original article by Callum Jones, Professional Planner can be viewed here: