Financial Planning

Financial services making strides in opening up to women

By Anna Rich

While there is still a way to go, the financial services industry has made major strides in opening up to women intent on pursuing a career in finance.

This is the view of Llewellyn Paulse, managing director of The Recruitment Council, which serves the financial services and advisory recruitment sector. “Although financial services across insurance, wealth, banking, finance and financial management have traditionally been a predominantly male career choice, we have seen a major shift in this space over a number of years,” Paulse says.

In part, he attributes the shift to societal changes in gender roles. “Within the financial advisory sector, the playing field has been levelled between male and female professionals due to factors such as the necessity for dual household incomes, co-parenting, and the increase in women requiring advice on their finances,” Paulse says. “Furthermore, financial services and finance are within the top three industries that women aspire to as a career choice.”

The South African financial sector is a significant provider of employment, and of employment for women. “There are 11 576 active financial services provider (FSP) licences registered with the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA). Finance-related companies employ about 2.5 million people, according to the Statistics SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey figures for the first quarter of 2021. And of these employees, approximately 43% are women,” says Paulse. “It is encouraging to see this upswing in female representation.”

In the financial planning sector, the most recent figures from the Financial Planning Institute (FPI) show that the proportion of female members of the Institute is currently 32%. The number of women with a relevant professional designation is 1 668, and of those, the number who have the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is 1 514. The proportion of black women is lower, but numbers have been increasing slightly each year.

Employers are making a concerted effort to appoint women. “Companies across the sector – from financial advisory firms to blue chip corporates, brokerages, investment advisory firms in the wealth space, and life, short-term and commercial insurance – are driving the acquisition of female candidates across all races, but of black African women in particular,” Paulse says.

This is certainly not tokenism, he notes. “At The Recruitment Council, we see our role in this empowerment drive as being a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘hand out’ to women in the financial services industry. Women are being given the opportunity to prove their worth.”

And among black African women in particular, he sees immense untapped potential. “There are phenomenally qualified, highly skilled women who have every right to lead, deliver financial advice, manage teams and direct businesses.

“We are pleased to see how the demographic of Black women in financial services is shifting positively, with the emergence of dynamic, highly educated, professional women who can command attention at the highest level, right up to the boardroom.”

When looking at prospective employees, the financial services and advisory recruitment sector requires a particular focus on regulatory requirements. “FSPs are beholden to a regulatory landscape,” explains Paulse. “This includes ‘fit and proper’ regulations (relating to honesty and integrity), the retail distribution review (reforms that ensure that financial products are distributed in ways that meet the principles of Treating Customers Fairly), annual continued professional development (CPD); and many other aspects of compliance that are required by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority.”

Women excel in attaining the academic qualifications and in meeting the regulatory requirements, says Paulse.

In his experience, the qualifications that are high in demand in the financial advisory sector are Certified Financial Planner (CFP); BComm in financial planning, investment management or economics; postgraduate diploma in investment management; MBA; honours in actuarial sciences; and Certified Financial Analyst (CFA).

However, he says financial services companies are now looking beyond these qualifications. “We are noticing a trend in that companies are shifting towards onboarding candidates who have atypical qualifications. This now allows candidates who previously could not enter the sector to be considered as serious contenders in the market.”

Some examples of these qualifications are bachelors of arts and law, bachelors of commerce in entrepreneurship and financial journalism, and even honours in agriculture management. And the “atypical” qualifications are not limited to these.

Looking to the future, to ensure further transformation, Paulse says the following strategies need to be put in place:

  • An aggressive talent acquisition strategy for head-hunting and recruiting women to ensure that they are represented in the workplace.
  • Focused, highly specialised, exclusive training academies to onboard newly qualified female professionals.
  • Long-term succession planning across administration, advisory, investment management and short-term insurance to executive level to ensure sustainable female representation well into the future.
  • Graduate and internship programmes that will attract women with no work experience and expose them to all aspects of the sector.
  • Strong leadership and mentors for up and coming females to emulate.
  • Follow through of mentorship programmes that will fast-track development, skills and career success with a view towards long-term retention.

This article was first published on Personal Finance website

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