At its birth, financial planning was a male-dominated world and looking back even one or two decades, female advisers were few and far between. According to the most recent data from US-based Cerulli Associates, females represent just 7.9 per cent of the country’s advisory businesses. While the Australian landscape has improved significantly and welcomed more women into the profession, no one disagrees that there is still room for improvement.
Bridges Financial Services, part of the IOOF group, recorded the highest percentage of female advisers out of all ifa Top 50 Dealer Group Survey participants this year.
Almost half of Bridges’ 259 advisers – 47.8 per cent – are female.
“Bridges has a long-standing development program for its network that encourages people looking for a career in financial planning to progress through the three levels of Authorised Representative status – restricted, conditional and unrestricted,” Bridges’ chief executive, Michael Carter, told ifa.
“Because Bridges is also a market participant – a stockbroker – our restricted authority holders are able to gain valuable experience in client-facing roles, often taking and submitting share trades, which provides good grounding for a career ultimately as a full-service financial adviser.
“Many of our successful, fully-fledged female advisers have started in the back office of a practice and have progressed through the business in this manner. Importantly, a large number of Bridges’ most successful practices have had and continue to have a female principal at the helm.”
The group’s program has encouraged an equitable gender balance across its network and this is seen as one of Bridges’ strengths.
While the growth of Bridges’ female advisers was not intentional, Carter upholds the need for an open and supportive culture that will allow career opportunities to foster, regardless of gender.
As a strong partner of choice in the mutual Australian deposit-taking institution sector, Bridges has found that its gender balance reflects positively on the broad range of relationships it managers and fosters at all levels, Carter says.
“Additionally, and particularly in the retiree market, some of our clients actually prefer to deal with a female financial planner,” he says. “But while there are a number of paths into the role of a financial planner, it is all about a professional service and the provision of quality advice, not gender.”
Bridges certified financial planner Nicole Gyde-Parslow commenced in an administrative role at Bridges after completing her studies at business college. After working for the group for a number of years, she completed a Diploma of Financial Planning and began practising officially as an adviser in 1999, initially under a mentor arrangement with a senior adviser.
“Historically, Bridges has been well known in supporting its female planners [as] the founding managing directors saw the benefit of internal growth within the company, and this is demonstrated by the number of long-term planners, para-planners and support staff that still exist,” Gyde-Parslow says.
“I wouldn’t say that the female planners are treated any differently to the male planners; however, being treated as an equal is supportive in itself. The industry as a whole has evolved, as society has, to having a higher regard for women in general.
“Financial decisions have historically been made by men in most relationships but the industry now recognises that women make an equal contribution to financial decisions. The culture I have seen develop is that of empathy for each other and the clients we deal with. I find the industry to be a lot more respectful than big business is usually perceived [to be].”
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