September 21, 2018
In our interview with Julian Marr, editor of Professional Adviser, we asked him why the Professional Adviser had chosen this time to shine the spotlight on women in financial advice? He didn’t mince his words…
“I think in an ideal world, we would not have to do so but when fewer than a fifth of the UK’s financial advisers are women, this is clearly not an ideal world.”
Julian made one point abundantly clear: “A profession in such dire need of attracting new blood needs to convey that it is an attractive career prospect for both men and women.”
Hopefully, showcasing women who are at the very top of their game will inspire more women (and men) into financial planning.
Take Natalie Wright, for instance, nominated in the 2018 Women in Financial Advice Awards, tells us: ‘I wasn’t attracted to a career in financial planning from the outset. I kind of ‘fell’ into the industry and profession.’
From a stop-gap job, to being nominated by clients and colleagues for the top spot in her industry, that’s certainly one happy accident, in our book. As director at Mazars, as well as nominee for adviser of the year, Natalie now has a platform to inspire many others.
‘I feel honoured to have been nominated for an award: the fact that someone else felt that I should be put forward is really humbling. It was also great to see so many women being recognised for the great work that they are doing, not just as planners but in different roles and capacities.’
Natalie had her first experience at an advice firm by chance, as an interim job before she was due to start studying at university, joining as an admin assistant. After three months, the firm suggested that she take some exams and begin the journey towards becoming an adviser. The rest, as they say, is history.
Attracted to how much she enjoyed the work, as well as the earning potential, Natalie decided to pursue financial planning rather than take up her place at university. But she soon found at 21 that she ‘didn’t feel ready or confident enough to advise people, so I went on to work in compliance, research and ultimately became a paraplanner for six years.’
As she learned her craft, she found that it wasn’t simply a matter of building her confidence but also developing her perception of exactly what it was that a financial adviser offers their clients.
‘Something that put me off becoming a planner for a long time was the ‘sales’ aspect of the job’, recalls Natalie, ‘From experience I think this puts off many women. It was only when I started to focus on my strengths and the fact that I am not actually selling a thing but instead providing a service that I realised I shouldn’t let it worry me.
‘Over the last 2–3 years I have seen more planners focusing on behavioural finance, coaching and genuinely understanding clients and constructing a financial plan that can change with them throughout their lifetimes. This brings a different dynamic to what we do.’
What would Natalie’s first piece of advice be, to a client who is in the millennial age bracket whom she hoped to advise for a long time?
‘Pay yourself first. I picked this up from Andy Hart’s podcast Maven Money, but believe it was originally from Warren Buffett. So the basic principle is to put money in savings before you spend it, not to save from what’s left over once you’ve spent.
‘For example, if someone asked you if you could save 20% of your income you would probably say no, but if they asked if you could live from 80% of your income you would probably say yes. That’s the idea behind paying it forward.
‘A huge part of our job is about the client relationship and instilling trust and confidence and the industry and profession does seem to be focusing on this.’
Adviser Technology has been crucial to this change. Natalie agrees, adding that technology can put the client front and centre: ‘I read something online recently which said “Artificial Intelligence will not replace financial professionals, those professionals who use artificial intelligence will replace the ones who don’t,” and I think this is really apt.
‘We must embrace technology but make sure we are using it to better the client experience as well as maximising efficiencies in our own business.’
Take Natalie’s favourite tool: cash flow forecasting. ‘It has had such a positive effect on how we interact with clients and how we help them recognise the value of what we are doing. It is far easier to demonstrate the impact of decisions if you can illustrate this and run through various scenarios rather than just talking about figures. I would expect all financial planners to be using cash flow planning software as part of their proposition.’
‘Technology will no doubt play a major part in financial planning but I strongly believe there will always be a place for face to face advice. Where money is concerned, people buy people.’
The industry of financial services can sometimes be slow to adopt change. Today, it is a reluctance to adopt technology, once upon a time it was being hostile to female colleagues in a traditionally ‘male’ profession. One almost wonders if it is the way that technology has developed an advisers role and leveled the playing field, that has brought so many female planners to their ‘lean in’ moment.
Natalie says: ‘I have come up against assumptions. I was once at an industry event and was asked by a much older male adviser if I could get him a coffee. He was quite embarrassed when I told him I was attending the meeting but he could feel free to get us both a coffee.
‘One piece of advice I would give to a younger female planner is to say yes to everything in terms of opportunities and experience. Going outside your comfort zone and doing things that make you feel uncomfortable are good because they push and challenge you.’
Would Natalie encourage others to follow her into the advice profession? Of course: ‘This is a great profession to move into. Especially if you are keen to learn, and want to focus on providing a great service while working in a fast-paced environment.’