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WOMEN in Wealth Management: Interview One

Posted on
November 9, 2020

WOMEN in Wealth Management 

An Interview with Graeme Winn

D&I is something that is and has been high up the agenda for many firms in the last 18-24 months but, from a recent report for a client, we found that there are still disparities between the male to female split in the majority of firms.

Often, I’m asked by clients “what can we do to ensure we attract a more diverse workforce”. The answer is multi-faceted as there are several factors to consider such as; market perception of a specific firm, the structure of the current leadership team, and, more importantly, what a client does to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

A lot of the time, clients are unaware of their reputation in the marketplace, etc so, as a recruitment partner, we play an active part in ensuring they are able to hire a more diverse workforce yet not purely for just ticking a box. It’s important to remember that any new hire should be hired based on their ability to do the job and not based on their gender, ethnicity, or even sexual orientation.

To provide some insights for clients (and candidates) I wanted to do something different and decided that I will interview females within the Investment Management market on some of the following topics:

  • Their introduction into the industry
  • Any challenges or barriers they have experienced?
  • What it’s really like to work within a male-dominated environment?
  • Their advice to young women looking to enter the industry

...and so much more!

The purpose of these discussions is not to highlight the negative experiences which will then be published but also to highlight the positive experiences! Hopefully, by doing this we can also help clients understand some of the potential barriers in attracting females to their teams. These discussions will also help guide more junior candidates and empower them to continue down this career path by offering some advice and guidance along the way as we continue to see an increase in the number of females entering the industry who will become leaders in the years to come.

This is something I will continue to do for the remainder of 2020 so, if you’re reading this and would like to take part, please reach out!

Personally, I expect to learn so much from this and I am looking forward to sharing these stories with you all.

This weeks’ interview is with a very successful Wealth Manager who has over 20 years within the industry with senior roles including Head of Office.

How did you enter the industry?

I began my career in the High St branch of a commercial bank, which seemed like a good place to work whilst I decided what I wanted to do for a living. That was over 25 years ago! I moved into Private Banking almost by accident when I joined a team at what is now LV, which was an outsourced department of Kleinwort Benson Private Bank, following which I was asked to move to work for KB PB directly, in London. I have since spent around 20 years working for various Private Banks and Wealth Managers.

When I joined, I did not have any specific qualifications in the industry, apart from an A-Level in Economics! I have since obtained a degree in Financial Services, along with numerous banking and wealth management qualifications. As well as being a requirement, I found this very beneficial to widen my knowledge and to build credibility. I also actually really enjoyed some of the studying!

What is it like to work within a male-dominated environment?

It can be a mixed bag. In the past, I have had clients ask to be looked after by a man – this hasn’t happened for many years and could have been a combination of being young and female, perhaps, rather than just being a woman. Having said that, I have experience with lots of clients who prefer to be looked after by a woman. I’ve been told that they find a woman easier to talk to and to ask questions of. 

In the early years, I had to have a thick skin sometimes, for example sexist “jokes” were far more prevalent and accepted than they are now. I genuinely believe this is less of an issue now, but it hasn’t disappeared entirely. 

Is the lack of female Investment Managers a significant issue?

I believe this is far less of an issue than in the past. In my current role, there are several female investment managers, at all levels. Most senior roles are held by men, but this is certainly changing, and the organisation I am with currently has a female CEO.

Have you experienced any particular challenges or barriers to promotion?

Not overtly, but I have been asked about my plans to marry and/or have children. Again, this hasn’t happened for some time – I am older so perhaps this is perceived as less of a risk, or it could be a genuine shift in attitudes – I sincerely hope it is the latter!

Something I noticed, particularly in my earlier carer, is that a lot of networking can be built around typically “male” activities, for example playing golf, or drinks in the evening. My situation is such that this has not been a hindrance to me, but for women with other responsibilities at home, this can lead to them being excluded, simply because they do not have time available at the end of the workday to “pop for a quick drink”. Again, my experience is that this is changing and more networking is done during the working day, and now of course, it is being done remotely!

Have you ever faced discrimination (albeit subconsciously) in your career?

I was once told that I was “too young, too female and too pretty” to be taken seriously in the industry. This was hard to hear, but my actual experience has not borne this out. I have worked hard to ensure that I have excellent credentials in terms of qualifications and experience, but I couldn’t say if this has been driven by being female or simply having a good work ethic.

Do you agree with women-only events?

I have mixed feelings about this. I believe people should succeed or fail on their own merits and talents, but I wonder if this might be somewhat naïve. On the plus side, such events encourage women to speak up and their voices are heard, not drowned out by louder, male voices. It is also important to build strong networks that are able to support and champion each other. In my experience, women are good at this, thriving on helping each other succeed. Also, there are fewer women in many professions and such events offer a great way to get to know each other and learn from each other’s experiences.

Nevertheless, I also think it is important not to attend such events exclusively. This is a male-dominated industry and it is important to build networks across it. Also, I believe that we need to break barriers, not build them higher. This is best achieved by working together and learning from each other’s complementary skills.

Events I have attended which are aimed at female clients have been very successful. There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating that women are far less likely to invest their money, seeing this as too risky. The reality is that taking no risk is a significant risk in itself. Women, generally, have a different relationship with and perception of money. As a result, the presentation of how money may be managed to provide for their future needs to be framed differently. There are so many more organisations that now recognise this and the way financial advice is delivered to women is changing. This can only be a good thing. 

Women typically earn less through their careers than their male colleagues, often owing to taking a break to raise a family. This has long term effects when it comes to pension provision, as less money is contributed to savings for retirement. In addition, women tend to be far less comfortable with the concept of risk, and as a result take less risk with their pension savings, leading to lower levels of growth over the long term.

Do you feel that recent changes in WFH and increased flexibility will help to give women more opportunities? 

Again, I don’t think there is a simple answer to this. The flexibility to work from home may be beneficial to women who tend to be responsible for childcare and other dependents such as elderly parents. The ability to work more flexibly should give an opportunity to be able to work full time, but not necessarily in a 9-5 workday. Whereas previously, women may have had to work on a part-time basis to accommodate other demands, greater flexibility may enable them to take time out for this and then work earlier in the morning, or later in the day. This can, of course, be a double-edged sword, leading to less leisure time owing to the need or wish to take on more and more responsibilities in their career and home life. It is important that caring and domestic tasks do not continue to be seen as female responsibilities, but this is a far wider issue.

What do you enjoy most about being a woman in the industry?

I have found that, overall, my experience of the industry has been overwhelmingly positive. As I mentioned earlier, this has not been the case entirely but I have been able to build some great relationships with clients, colleagues, and professional contacts.

I have had experiences where clients have asked questions which they have told me they would feel less comfortable asking of a male adviser without worrying that they “should” know something that they don’t. In my experience, women tend to be better at listening and at asking more probing questions, enabling them to really get to the crux of what’s important and what money is for. Maybe we are sometimes better at asking the more personal questions in a perhaps less confrontational manner.

What advice would you give young women looking to enter the industry? 

Do it! It is a great industry and there are now lots of opportunities for everyone. I would say that qualifications are far more important now than when I joined the industry – indeed one must be qualified to a certain level before you are allowed to advise clients.  Don’t be daunted by this. There is enormous support from professional bodies and organisations in the industry to support you through your studies.

The industry is about people. I have compared my role to that of a social worker, and often say that I talk for a living. Clients tell me things they probably don’t expect - I know so much about family politics and dynamics. It is fascinating and an enormous privilege to be so involved in someone’s life. Money is important as it gives us choices, but managing that money is vital to ensure that opportunities are not missed and that money doesn’t cause more problems than it solves. 

We sometimes need to have difficult conversations about death or divorce, for example, so it is important that you spend time really getting to know the people you are advising.  Understand what is important to them and don’t assume everyone will react in the same way to similar situations. Be open-minded and able to think on your feet. 

I also suggest finding a mentor. I worked with a mentor for several years and I found his advice invaluable. I benefitted from some very frank conversations about my own and his experience I still refer back to his advice many years later. I also am still in contact with him. 

Even if you cannot find a formal mentor, make sure you are curious. Ask questions of your colleagues. Listen to conversations they are having with each other and with clients (with their knowledge/consent, of course!). It is amazing how much you can learn in this informal way. One of my big worries about the increase in remote working is that these experiences will be lost. I thrive on learning from my colleagues and from seeking advice about how others have dealt with unfamiliar experiences. I also find it incredibly beneficial to hear how colleagues answer some common client questions. This can be especially important during times of stress, e.g. market corrections. Clients often have similar concerns, so it is important to give a consistent, professional, and reassuring message.

I think the most important advice I can give anyone in any industry is; never ever pretend to know an answer or try to “wing it”. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know, but I will find out”. This will ensure you don’t give your client bad advice, and also it helps you learn and build your knowledge.

I found this discussion to be really insightful. I feel that she is one of the most passionate people in the industry and this piece certainly demonstrates this. She has experienced comments that aren’t acceptable in ANY environment, however, she has remained undeterred to become a successful Wealth Manager and has focussed on everything that is positive about the sector.

At BWD we realise that the markets we operate in are changing and that data is the new currency, the difference between a good firm and a great firm is the ability of its leaders to adapt quickly and make the right decisions about future strategy. The key to this is about having credible information about buying behaviours, product innovation, disruptive technology, and competitors. Because we are so embedded in the markets we operate in we have the ability to provide this information in bespoke reports, allowing our clients to make the best-informed and optimal decisions for their businesses.

I hope this proves to be an interesting read for you as all and I look forward to conducting and releasing another interview in the coming weeks.

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