In the UK, men named David run more funds than those run by all female managers put together. That’s a pretty damning statistic for the UK investment industry.
And before advisers reading this make the classic distinction that this statistic relates to the investment ‘industry’, not the planning ‘profession’, be aware I could marshal a host of similar evidence of a gender gap in advice too; not least that the proportion of all funds run by ‘Daves’ – 8 per cent – is not far off the proportion of all advisers that are women.
The gender gap matters for investors because there is mounting evidence that female managers and companies with strong female representation perform better than their peers. It matters for advisers because women are going to become an increasingly important part of their client base, which they can’t afford to ignore.
It’s happening more slowly than most of us would like, but flexible working, the gig economy, and new gender pay gap reporting and shared parental leave laws are making it easier for women to remain in the workforce and accumulate wealth – and they are doing so with wealth rising at a faster rate than men’s.
One of my favourite statistics in this area comes from the US, where more than 70 per cent of all women fire their adviser within a year of their husband’s death. Divorce rates are still high. Women are still living longer than men, with investment portfolios and planning needs that need careful management from advisers. There is no way your firm should be missing out on this; think of closing the gender gap across the investment space as an opportunity, not a zero sum game where one group or individual has to lose for the other to gain.
Many things can be done at a policy level to improve women’s financial resilience, from action on childcare costs to tweaking auto-enrolment so it benefits the lowest paid with multiple jobs. We can look at how carers – more likely to be women – can ensure they make sufficient contributions too.
Advisers and their professional bodies should pressure for such moves and are doing so already. But they can also look at their own firms and whether they are set up to handle intergenerational planning issues, to make sure women of all ages feel involved in the decisions that will affect their financial future.
Hopefully, engagement at this level will give more women confidence that they can forge a financial life to rival that of their male counterparts.
Justin Cash is editor of Money Marketing
Follow him on Twitter @Justin_Cash_1