What does #Inspireinclusion mean to those working in the financial services industry?

by | Mar 8, 2024

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The theme of this years International Women’s Day is #Inspireinclusion which aims to achieve “a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.”

At IFA Magazine we wanted to find out what inclusion looks like in the financial sector and what it means to the people working within it.

Romany Youell, financial adviser at NeedingAdvice.co.uk said: “Inspire inclusion is very important to me as a young woman in the financial services industry. I feel that Inspire Inclusion has different meanings. Firstly, it’s the ability to recognise the perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life and to appreciate the value that they can add. 

 
 

“However, it’s also more than this. It’s about educating and encouraging people to speak up when women aren’t represented in various settings and making the necessary positive changes. A need to boost gender diversity in the financial services industry is overdue. Recent data from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that only 17 per cent of advisers are female. 

“As the number of women who need financial advice is increasing, it’s vital to ensure that the number of women advisers increases, too. Naturally, many women would feel more comfortable speaking to a female adviser due to shared experiences, and it’s important to have this option available. 

“A career as a financial adviser can be an excellent opportunity for women to use their many strengths. The role allows women to utilise their listening skills and empathy, ensuring that information is given to clients in a way everyone can understand.”

 
 

Yasmina Siadatan, Chief Revenue Officer, Dynamic Planner said:  “Women are making huge strides in the financial advice industry. They clearly love their jobs, with an overwhelming majority saying they would recommend their profession to others.”

“This year’s theme #InspireInclusion for International Women’s Day should be looked at through every lens, be it attracting more women into the industry or ensuring that what we as an industry deliver in terms of product, brand and communications resonates with female investors.”

“The industry has moved on significantly from where it once was, and that is evident in the analysis we’ve recently reported on for our Spotlight Report. Building a more inclusive financial planning industry will have more positive outcomes for everyone – female advice professionals and female clients alike.”

 
 

Linda Wallace, Director of Wesleyan Financial Services, said: “The ongoing delivery of good financial advice hinges on our sector continuing to build a more diverse workforce. This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made when it comes to gender diversity, and the distance we still have to go.

“Without question our industry is shining a bright light on the ongoing need to bring more women into financial services. I know from first-hand experience that some women simply feel more comfortable speaking to another woman about their financial planning needs. Encouraging and supporting female advisers into the industry also raises the chances that more women will consider seeking financial advice, and ultimately secure better financial outcomes as a result.”

 
 

Mangala Ananthanarayanan, Head of Business Management for EMEA & APAC at PIMCO, said: “I am passionate about the need to get more girls to study STEM related subjects as they are a crucial part of the entry requirements for the core roles in financial services. That’s where we really struggle. Scientific enquiry and quantitative skills are essential when it comes to portfolio management functions, we simply do not have enough girls doing the degrees you need to become a strong portfolio manager. 

“It is very important for some of the change to happen earlier, so we can increase the number of senior women in finance. Physics and further mathematics are the A-level subjects that seem to be perennially unpopular with the girls. It all starts there, at school and college.”

Caroline Start, Paraplanner, Ex-PFS President and founder/owner of Sparrow Paraplanning, said: “I’ve worked in financial services and financial planning for coming up to 25 years, and I never ceased to be surprised, but also really proud, of some of the amazing women we have working in our sector. 

 
 

“FCA data shows that only 16% of regulated individuals are female and we of course need to address this to make the profession more appealing to women. However, in that 16%, we have some of the most incredible, dedicated, and forward thinking women, who certainly inspire me every day. 

“Whilst focus is often on that 16%, we shouldn’t overlook the other parts of our profession, which also has some incredible women who have been blazing a trail. In compliance, platforms, research, paraplanning, administration and support services, as well as training and development. 

“We have come along way as a profession, and whilst we still have some ways to go to really Inspire Inclusion, it does feel like we are now definitely on the right track.”

 
 

Rupi Bahra, Head of Strategic Accounts and Implementation at MetLife UK said: “It is a fact that having a more diverse and inclusive workplace increases creativity, innovation, and progression – ultimately leading to more successful business output. Companies with more women in leadership roles are significantly more profitable than those without.

“Women bring a much-needed different perspective to situations (just as the opinions of other minority groups do!) and for a business to be successful, views of both men and women are vital. 

“It is really important for any organisation to form a good bench of female leaders. If women do not see other women in leadership positions, it can damage trust in equal career development opportunities and could result in companies losing good talent.”

 
 

 For Annabel Hornsby, Business Development Director, Cazenove Capital, inspiring inclusion within the business is really important as she comments: “Cazenove Capital is a wealth manager dealing with individuals from across the UK and from a very wide range of backgrounds. This means that diversity is absolutely crucial for us! Clients don’t all expect to work with someone who is the same gender as them or comes from exactly their background; but they do expect us to have some familiarity with what they are going through and their circumstances and that only happens with a diverse workforce. So it’s really a core part of our commitment to providing our clients with the best service that we can. That will be true for many other financial services businesses in the UK and around the world. If the industry gets it right, it should lead to higher levels of financial inclusion, which brings with it many wider benefits.”

Chloe Lewis, Director of Client Management, Alight Solutions: “The role of gender equality does not rest on the shoulders of HR. This comes from every leader within a business to drive change.  

“Yet, HR does have a responsibility to be the driving force,  set expectations and challenge the business to be the best it can. This begins in the people function and alignment of business objectives by strategically managing talent is where it starts. The best saying I’ve ever heard is “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Relating this to my career and background, HR need to be the role models for the wider business and ensure inclusivity and diversity within their team first and foremost – but this must be about inspiring and challenging the wider leadership to drive change. Ticking any box has the worst possible effect you can imagine.  

 
 

“There are simple tasks HR can do and people policies that can be put in place to truly benefit women. Is your maternity or paternity leave offering competitive? Have you thought about how you will support those going through menopause? We know that 1 in 10 women leave because of these symptoms. Companies that are bold in their support are a true shop window of how important women are to their business. But it’s not just policies. It’s how leaders create the culture to support these. As yourself: are you really leading the way? So many are currently falling at the first hurdle.” 

“Prioritising DE&I goes beyond inclusivity: it just makes good business sense. There is evidence already that diverse organisations drive higher performance as businesses are available to greater POV’s which diversify and bolster the workforce. It seems so simple, but driving change successfully must be delivered with authenticity. Organisations can’t be seen to be ‘ticking a box.’ Employees will see right through this. By tapping into culture and leadership, being bold but genuine and taking a stance to ensure equality is a priority, companies can thrive.”  

Kharla Mullen, Chief Operating Officer, Countrywide Surveying Services said: “For me, it’s that we should actively encourage and empower everyone to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. This is crucial for businesses and individuals to thrive regardless of gender.”

 
 

Laura Grenier, director of operations at WHEB Asset Management said: “I feel it is important for women to feel confident in their abilities, and (at least!) comparable to their male colleagues even if their role is flexible and/or part-time.  Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and we need to learn how to manage this and inspire others to be confident in their abilities.”

Sarah Shove, Head of EMEA Marketing at PIMCO, said: “#InspireInclusion resonates deeply with me on both a personal and professional level. It is imperative to create environments where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential. This is particularly close to my heart as I envision a future where my daughter, and indeed all young women, are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts across all spheres of life, including in leadership roles within any field they choose to pursue. 

“In Marketing, boosting gender diversity is key to broadening creativity of thought and fostering a culture of innovation. Diverse teams enriched by a variety of perspectives, backgrounds and educational experiences are more likely to challenge the status quo and avoid the pitfall of groupthink. We want to have a culture of healthy debate and respectful challenge, because that is how we generate the best ideas. Gender diversity is a critical component of this diversity, ensuring that we benefit from the full spectrum of insights and experiences. 

“Also, in a world where data and digital is constantly evolving, diversity is particularly important. This is because data is about storytelling, about science and art, and a diverse range of people can help navigate the complexities of data, avoiding biases that could lead to erroneous conclusions and instead uncovering insights that drive forward-thinking strategies.”

Tania Bachmann, Equity Research Analyst at PIMCO said: “Communication is key. We need to make finance jobs more accessible or, at least, make them sound less inaccessible. People have strong views about the finance sector that they might have gained from movies or the media, or even from speaking to people already in the industry, but they can easily get the wrong impression. So we need to explain what our jobs actually entail and to make it clear that anyone can work in finance. 

“In short, we need female professionals to communicate better about their jobs, to avoid making them sound non-accessible. Why is trading, for example, more complicated than consulting? When we explain our work to people, we can use jargon and make the job sound very complicated, or we can explain it in more simple terms – and inspire people. We can do a better job of effecting change through communication about our work.”

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