Trains, planes and?

Trains, planes and?

Have phones at work become the new smoking in the workplace?

A walk into any office, anywhere in the UK, will make clear that attention to the job in the workplace during working hours is being jeopardised by the use of mobile phones.

Mobiles are everywhere today, you cannot escape them. In the office, on the train, in the street, the office, the plane, the underground, cinema, restaurants, theatre, gym, spa, saunas- all areas I have experience of although I may have forgotten some.

Even the delivery room is not out of bounds. Constance Hall, in our image, has snapped back at ‘mummy shamers’, who said that it was ‘poor parenting’ for her to be on her phone!

The streets are being walked by individuals in a zombie like trance, gazing in thrall at screen content- a book, an e mail, a movie. Even mothers with babies in prams and pushchairs are not exempt. And in some cases, sadly, death has followed.

A recent RAC Report on Motoring revealed a significant increase in the number of drivers admitting to using a mobile phone at the wheel. According to the report, between 2014 and 2016 this figure has risen from 8% to 31%. Regardless of the reason, any distraction behind the wheel can lead to accidents, severe injuries and car write offs.

In January this year, the Trump White House issued a new ruling banning the use of personal cellular devices in the West Wing, citing security concerns

From what I see on my way to meetings around the country, mobile dependency is so bad that the use of phones is almost the equivalent corporate time waste of office smokers who regularly decamp for a puff at the expense of their non-smoking co-workers although I guess some multi-tasking with Phone and fag could occur.

I would be the first to declare that I have an iPhone and iPad, but I yearn for some quiet time both in and out of the office.

Train journeys are a nightmare, even in so-called quiet carriages. You are never more than a seat away from some idiot shouting down a phone. Along with their loud summaries of the most important business deal ever done by anyone, anywhere, anytime, conversations also contain stock phrases like ’I am on the train’, ‘Sorry, I just went through a tunnel’, must be a dead spot’, ‘can you e mail me that’, ‘sorry can you say that again’.

The conversations often contain corporate buzz phrases like:

At the end of the day, Sophie will take the lead on this, Colin will be having a 360,Ecosystem, Better run this with the scrum master, start building consensus, We’re working in silos here…….I could go on, perhaps you may wish to add some that irritate below?

“Distracted walking” incidents, according to the National Safety Council “are on the rise, and everyone with a cell phone is at risk. According to a Governors Highway Safety Association report, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities in 2017. This number mirrors 2016 fatalities”.

We are losing focus on our surroundings and putting our safety – and the safety of others – at risk.

The solution: Think about your surroundings and those around you. Stop using phones while driving, walking, in the gym, spa, getting off trains, buses and planes, on crossings too. Amazingly over half of so called distracted walking injuries occur in our own homes, proving that we need to stay aware of our surroundings, whether they’re new or familiar.

We have all sorts of ‘cause’ days, weeks or months in the UK today, the time has come to have a ‘cause’ month for not using a mobile device for calls, texts and e mailing in ALL public places?

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The Three Certainties of Human Life are Death, Taxes, and more regulation

The Three Certainties of Human Life are Death, Taxes, and more regulation

“The regulator has found concerns over value for money in drawdown, including significant variance in charges, which can be complex, opaque or tough to compare, so has set out plans to force firms to show a one-year charge figure in pounds and pence in the key features illustration they provide to consumers”.

It is a commercial world out there and I can think of no other industry that has a regulatory insistence that charges for what they make/ build/ sell have to be granularly declared.

When you buy a new house, is there a breakdown of building and material costs supplied with the contract? The same with a new car: design.testing, parts and labour. A prescription drug does not come with a breakdown per tablet for research, development and testing, a holiday cost does not breakdowns for flights, hotels, food, drink or flight. Supermarkets do not declare what the business costs are for selling you a pack of sausages.

A bit simplistic I know but if regulation stops messing with fixing what in many cases is not broken and more people use a financial adviser, the world of independent advice and consumer trust may be a better place.

As an owner in the 1970’s of a waterbed (with the attendant life affirming fond memories) the illustrative metaphor of the movement in a water-filled mattress seems to be a common sense albeit simplistic description supported by a little known mathematical formula called Bode’s Sensitivity Integral.

Bode’s waterbed theory ‘outcome’ is already well illustrated in the mobile phone and utilities industries where regulation and political interference fixes or manipulates the prices of basic products and services only for consumers to see complicated pricing structures ensue by way of significant increases in the price of peripherals and additional services as a direct consequence.

Thiseffect is a phenomenon that should increasingly cause concern to those who regulate the industry and those it regulates in regard to pricing and the detriment the post RDR world has wrought upon the intended beneficiary- the consumer.

It is the natural but not necessarily intended potential to squeeze one part of a complicated and complex regulated business model (and the attendant regulatory processes) to cause a serious bulge elsewhere in the process.

So, the theorising in RDR should have foreseen that in achieving:

  • the elimination of bias in the market
  • ensuring the adviser is the true agent of the consumer
  • clarity over the costs of advice
  • and various other factors,

the industry would no doubt see the bulge appear somewhere else.

And this has been seen in costs in every conceivable way and particularly for consumers.

Cost is something that FCA regulation incurs for firms, often with little thought of logic or affordability and with little benefit analysis being done on the consumer impact and detriment it created.

So how else did the theory manifest itself?

In ensuring the adviser is the true agent of the consumer, the result was that the mass-market consumer did not, does not want to pay for advice that had previously been seen as free.

When a consumer is able to obtain lower prices from an adviser or a provider for drawdown, is it possible that other consumers will have to pay more for the same input from another adviser or provider firm as a result?

Is this bad for consumers?

The asymmetric exercise of regulatory or consumer power can lead to consumer detriment through raising other consumers’ advice and provider charges- the Waterbed effect.

While a large and powerful provider firm or distribution channel improves its own terms by exercising its market power in getting cost reductions, the terms of its lesser resourced competitors can deteriorate sufficiently so as ultimately to increase the average price of advice – the Waterbed effect.

It seems to me that the only organisations in the world of financial services that should raise serious “concerns over value for money, including significant variance in charges, which can be complex, opaque or tough to compare” are the FCA, FOS and the FSCS. 

We never see a breakdown of costs, budget breakdowns yes but costs????

IFA Antony Cousins at SPF rightly comments that “value for money has always been important to clients, however with returns from financial products expected to be lower over in the short to medium term, the level of charges are now even more relevant.  For many years Financial Advisers Fee Agreements have had to specify the exact service(s) being provided and the associated initial and ongoing cost in pounds and pence, hence I see no reason why providers illustrations for drawdown should not follow this model”.

He goes on to note that this should be“coupled with an educational programme to enhance customers understanding of a highly technical area would remove some of the scepticism in the industry”. 

There is some suspicion that the FCA are more concerned about clients going direct to providers in this drawdown market and not taking advice where we have to stipulate and review all these costs.

Regulation has created a race for the bottom on price. I am not sure that the average consumer ‘buys’ financial advice on the cheapest cost. I think that for the mass market consumer it could be about not paying anything at all as they see the pension plans providers they have been invested in for years should provide that advice for free.

This is in turn a problem for providers who are predominantly distributing their products via the intermediated channel. They do not want to carry out work, with added customer care regulatory liabilities or redress, that they see, is an IFAs role. But if the client has either been disenfranchised by RDR segmentation or just does want to pay what else can be done.

Waterbed effect at work again????

A Brave new world

A Brave new world

My father worked for the ‘Pru’, joining them after the end of WW2. The ‘Man from the Pru’ was him, a suited figure striding forward with that strange roof shaped umbrella logo. And income tax for him was at 98%.

This was the age of the mega (although that word did not exist then) insurer brands: Royal London, Norwich Union, Cornhill, Legal & General, Standard Life, Scottish Amicable, Scottish Life, Scottish Equitable (that’s enough Scottish-“Ed”).

Most were mutual. Nobody questioned cost, life office expenses, bonus levels, solvency, maturity pay-outs or even commission. The consumer had to rely on the integrity of the insurer and their way of treating customers fairly, which in those days seemed pretty good indeed, and not a regulator or ombudsman. And all without the technology of today, not even electronic calculators.

Endowment based investments performed well, unit trusts were around, you could buy stocks and shares via your bank, but the plethora of investment firms we see today had not really landed on UK shores until ‘Big Bang’ ‘rocked up’ on the 27th October 1986.

So, with the latest announcement from Prudential are we seeing a continued slow decline among the largest life offices or are we entering a brave new world?

I think neither.

That ‘BNW’ was enter in 1986.

I was working in the City at the time and the financial services world, as we knew it changed forever from that date. The late starts, long lunches, early finishes were no longer fashionable, everybody started dressing like Gordon Gekko, huge mobile phones were ‘hand borne’ not hand held, the colourful LIFFE boys would strut their stuff around the Royal Exchange between trades and generally life seemed to have a very particular and agreeable buzz.

Over the past 30 years what was once a rather staid gene pool of public school chums in pin stripes, a veritable gentleman’s club of friends and relatives, had morphed into a US-stylisation of business practices.

With it came dress down Friday, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City all linked with the considerable diversity introduced by foreign banks as plus points, but, the downside was that it came with a certain killer instinct that would mean even your friends and colleagues were not guaranteed a particular benefit without a cost attaching.

But in the post big bang world, as Mr. Gekko would say, “if you need a friend, get a dog”.

In the feeding frenzy Barclays paid huge money indeed for Wedd, Durlacher and de Zoete and Bevan, Deutsche Bank ate up Morgan Grenfell, Midland Bank (who are they) bought W Greenwell and this then got digested by HSBC. Kleinwort Benson bought Grieveson Grant, and NM Rothschild devoured Smith Brothers.

And what of the “Gentlemen and Players”?

Well they all retired to their stockbroker belt houses and country estates swapping pin stripe for tweeds, having “trousered” some very serious money.

With this sea change we saw the disappearance of those traditional and cautious values, my word is my bond, trust, nods, winks and tips were all to be replaced by what is now seen in many quarters as a strange mix of treating customers fairly, compliance, compensation, redress, learnings, reckless abandon, using somebody else’s money to trade on your own account for the benefit of the Banks who employed you and more importantly yourself.

So, the big life offices have gone the way of all flesh where they could not adapt to change

Is it a change for the better, well I am not so sure

This article appeared in FT Adviser on 15th March 2018

Paralysed by Gunfire, but Denied Care

Having recently returned from a holiday in the US, I thought that IFAs would be interested in reading about this very sad case written, reported on by reported on by RONI CARYN RABIN on JULY 20, 2015 10:31 AM

“There is no video of the altercation between Monroe Bird III, a 21-year-old sitting in a car with a friend, and Ricky Leroy Stone, 56, a security guard who found them one night in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Tulsa, Okla.

But the tragic culmination of their encounter is not disputed: Mr. Stone drew his gun and shot Mr. Bird, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Three months later, as he lay in the hospital hooked to a ventilator, Mr. Bird’s insurance company declined to cover his medical bills. The reason? His injuries resulted from “illegal activity.”

Yet Mr. Bird was not convicted of any crime in connection with the incident. He was not even charged.

Without insurance, Mr. Bird’s family could not move him to a rehabilitation center specializing in spinal cord injuries. He was discharged from the hospital and died at home last month from a preventable complication often seen in paralyzed patients.

The incident joins a disturbing litany of cases in which black men have been shot by white men in law-enforcement capacities. Mr. Bird’s family and their supporters believe racial bias motivated the shooting, at least in part, and protected the guard from criminal prosecution.

But Mr. Bird’s story comes with a particularly bitter sequel relevant to Americans of any background: The plan’s refusal to pay has left his family owing as much as $1 million in medical bills and, experts say, shines a light on a little-known loophole buried in the fine print of many health plans.

There are no firm numbers on how often insurers deny medical coverage based on allegations of illegal activity. But cases like Mr. Bird’s “are more common than people think,” said Crystal Patterson, an attorney in Minneapolis and chairwoman of the American Bar Association’s committee on fiduciary litigation.

Insurers have long relied on allegations of illegal activity to deny coverage to patients injured in a variety of contexts, from traffic infractions to gun accidents. The judicial rationale is that “we don’t want to reward illegal activity,” she said.

In one court case, a union health plan denied the claims of a worker’s son who was injured while allegedly building a pipe bomb, Ms. Patterson noted. In another, an insurer declined to cover the medical expenses of a man who lost control of an uninsured, unregistered car while trying to pass another driver in a no-passing zone.

Courts have upheld the denials even when there were no convictions for illegal activity. The administrator of the policy can deny claims even when no criminal charges are filed, Ms. Patterson said.

“The administrator gets a lot of latitude to make that decision,” Ms. Patterson said. “It’s a much lower burden than ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

Lisa Stites, a spokeswoman for Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation facility for patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries in Denver, said in an email that it was common for health policies to contain so-called exclusions for injuries resulting from drug or alcohol use, felonies, self-inflicted trauma or “hazardous” behavior.

Dr. Ford Vox, a specialist who works at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, said the exclusions provided insurance companies with “an excuse to get out of very expensive cases.”

“The insurance can pull the rug out at any time,” said Dr. Vox, who also writes about medical topics for various publications. “And it’s all top secret — people don’t know about it until something happens to them.”

Insurance exclusions for illegal activity have been outlawed in some states, but state laws do not apply to health plans administered under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which sets standards for most pension and health plans in private industry.

Even after passage of the Affordable Care Act, self-insured plans regulated under Erisa maintain wide latitude to determine coverage. These plans “can do pretty much what they want to do,” said Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant in Washington.

Mr. Bird’s family was insured by his stepfather’s employer, Southern Hills Country Club, and claims were processed by HealthCare Solutions Group of Muskogee, Okla. Citing privacy laws, representatives of both companies declined to comment on Mr. Bird’s case.

The events leading to Mr. Bird’s shooting may never be fully known. Like many trauma patients, Mr. Bird had no memory of the incident.

According to the police report, Mr. Bird was sitting in his car with a girl in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he lived with his sister’s family around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.

Mr. Stone, the security guard, told police he approached the car because he had been instructed to look out for couples having sex in the parking lot. Mr. Stone said he shone a light into the car, told Mr. Bird that he was with security, asked for identification, and then tried to open the car doors.

Mr. Bird locked the car doors and tried to back out of the spot, according to Mr. Stone, who told police he stood behind the car to prevent Mr. Bird from leaving and was hit when the car backed up. He said that he jumped and fell against the rear window, breaking it.

When he was back on his feet, he said, he fired three shots as Mr. Bird drove away. He told police that he feared for his life.

But the car passenger, a minor whose name has not been released, told police she did not think the car struck the guard, and said the guard only started firing as they drove away.

Mr. Bird was paralyzed immediately and was treated in Tulsa hospitals for several months. In April, an official with HealthCare Solutions Group called Mr. Bird’s stepfather, Johnny Magness, to say that the company was beginning an investigation.

“I told her, ‘It sounds like to me you’re about to become the judge, prosecutor and jury,’” Mr. Magness said. “I said, ‘Please ma’am, don’t turn my son into a statistic. He needs care.’”

Two days later, the company denied coverage for Mr. Bird’s medical claims. The denial letter cited three exclusions, including one for illegal activity, which the letter said was triggered by Mr. Bird’s allegedly “striking the security guard with his motor vehicle and then leaving the scene.”

The denial meant the family could not transfer Mr. Bird to a rehab center where he could have received preventive care and adapted to life as a quadriplegic. The family appealed the denial, but it was affirmed last week.

This time, however, HealthCare Solutions cited “hazardous activity,” not illegal activity, and suggested that a third party, like the apartment complex, should pay the medical bills.

Mr. Bird’s medical claims might not have been denied had criminal charges been brought against Mr. Stone. But Oklahoma has a “stand your ground” law permitting citizens to “meet force with force” if they are attacked.

Steve Kunzweiler, the Tulsa County district attorney, concluded that Mr. Stone’s use of force was justified because he thought his life was in danger. “Mr. Bird might have made choices that might have gone a different way if he had listened to the security guard and obeyed his instructions,” Mr. Kunzweiler said.

Police discovered a vial of marijuana, illegal in Oklahoma, in Mr. Stone’s bag that night, and the results of a preliminary blood test showed that he had cannabinoids in his system.

David Riggs, a lawyer for Mr. Bird’s family, noted that the state’s stand-your-ground law did not apply when “the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity,” such as drug possession.

“The fact is, he was shot in the back as he was fleeing, driving away from this security guard,” Mr. Riggs said of Mr. Bird. “If there was ever a threat, there is no longer a threat.”

Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Stone for comment were unsuccessful. Mr. Bird’s family has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Stone, the security firm that employed him, the apartment complex where the shooting took place, and its property managers.

After the denial of coverage, Mr. Bird was discharged and went to his family’s home in Boley, Okla.

The young man, who required a ventilator to breathe, was cared for around the clock by his mother and grandmother, who fed him, bathed him, helped him cough, turned him in bed to prevent bedsores, and moved his limbs to maintain his range of motion, said Tezlyn Figaro, a publicist speaking on the family’s behalf.

Despite their care, Mr. Bird developed blood clots in his lungs and died on June 30”.

We do know that UK insurers have a clause in their policies regarding criminal activity such as: ‘We do not cover treatment you need as a result of your active involvement in criminal activity’.

The UK situation is slightly different as immediate A&E care would be provided by the NHS, the patient would then transfer to the NHS or private (as required) when they are stable.

We are sure most insurers would judge each case on its own merits and to our knowledge we have not seen a situation like this in the UK. 

However, we would be interested to hear of any example of declinatures such as this.

Don’t wanna confuse nobody, dont wanna be confused

European politicians reject plans for commission ban,making the FSA look increasingly isolated in Europe.Thefinal version of Mifid expected early next year, will combine the European Parliament’s amendments with those from the European Council – formed by representatives from national regulators – alongside the initial proposal from the European Commission.

 “German MEP Markus Ferber first took steps to remove references to a commission ban in March, and there has been significant opposition to the ban, proposed by the European Commission from both advisers and fund managers on the continent”.

Mifid is the key piece of EU regulation that is set to transform the way a range of instruments are traded in Europe. It aims to update and build on the reforms introduced by the 2007 directive, it is the European Commission’s proposed view on what the new rules ought to look like for all EU member countries.

So now, with this political rejection thrown into the mix,  are we all about to start walking down Conundrum Street?

Where does this proposed ruling fit with FSMA 200 regarding UK compliance with EU directives, will RDR produce two tier regulation, opportunity and remuneration and how will it affect advisers and most importantly the Consumer?

Uncertainty is the impact for sure, the FSA has pressed on with RDR regardless of advices from many, including the TSC to hold off until Mifid II decisions are clear. The European parliament earlier this year was reportedly set to reject the introduction of a Europe-wide ban on commission paid to IFAs and that is what appears could be now happening.

The EU parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee had removed references to the ban in amendments to a revised draft of Mifid II. The European  Econ committee is proposing tougher disclosure rather than a Europe-wide ban on commission.

Swedish MEP and Econ member Olle Schmidt was on record as saying: “A total ban was not supported by the majority of Econ members”.

He went on to say: “If you introduce a ban, as in the UK, you can go too far. It would limit freedom of choice for ordinary investors and those most in need of advice would not be able to afford it. A more balanced approach is needed. There are other ways of safeguarding investor protection.”

As an industry we have all been led to believe by the regulator that they were as one with European Union regulation plans yet it would appear this might not now be true.

There are some overlaps with existing UK regulatory requirements and planned regulatory changes, such as the RDR, which could lead to implementation challenges for firms. For example, the MiFID II proposals set out that in order to qualify as ‘independent’, advice should be based ona ‘sufficiently large number of financial instruments available on the market’

However, this is different to the definition adopted as part of the RDR.

In addition, the proposed scope of Mifid extends to include structured deposits but the confirmed scope of the RDR does not. Under the RDR changes, advisers giving restricted advice (as well as independent advisers) will not be able to receive commission. These differences will need to be addressed by the relevant bodies prior to Mifid implementation.

The TSC advised Messrs Sants & Turner earlier this year that EU rulings could throw up some difficulties with the grand plan and this clearly fell on deaf ears.

So with all this confusion swirling around, Linda Woodall has ‘upped the anti’ telling advisers “ Don’t be caught unprepared for RDR”. She wrote a very long article and when referring to implementation deadlines being only a few months away, she said, “it’s time to embrace the changes that both regulators and industry have worked so hard to achieve……….the FSA is committed to helping advisers achieve a charging model which works for them, their clients and for the future.

Think about this now before it’s too late. Any London-based advisers will be familiar with mayor Boris Johnson’s catch-phrase for travelling during the Olympics: ‘Don’t get caught out!’ This is sound advice for all as we prepare for the RDR.

Wise words that sadly only appear to apply one way, the FSA have a history of being caught out failing to listen to “sound advice”. Is this yet another example of the European Parliament’s amendments putting a spanner in the works at Canary Wharf?

Ms Woodall may wish to take something from the EU position, the great Mr. Dylan’s lyrics sum up that something very well:

“But if you do right to me, baby, I’ll do right to you, too

Ya got to do unto others Like you’d have them, like you’d have them, do unto you”

UK firms have spent quite enough time and money dealing with “having it done unto them” please do not have them spending any more until Mifid is 100% clear to all.

He said She Said?

 

Compliance and protecting yourself against the impact of “He said/ She said” claims can no longer rely on file notes and correspondence. This is a sad fact in any business today and especially in the world of financial services

The Regulator and the Ombudsman expect firms to be ever more diligent in record keeping and how you monitor and control your staff on and off-site can no longer be based on trust.

So many large firms and institutions today record telephone calls under the guise of “training and quality control” simply to protect themselves against opportunist claims from an ever more compensation hungry consumer.

No joined up and creditable record keeping today therefore equals trouble.

All adviser firms would probably like to record all their telephone calls if it was it easy and cheap to do and if you were able to store the records conveniently with quick access to them. But for small firms this is a real issue.

The benefits are easy to see:

 

Business protection: You can produce clear and totally unambiguous evidence in the event of a dispute about what you or did not promise to a client from call made on and off-site.

 

Staff Training: Record the various client/ adviser conversations between team members and customers then you play them back together to ensure compliance and good advice standards are being met.

 

Quality Control: Play back call records at random to check that your staff members

are saying the right things and representing your business appropriately.

 

Compliance Management: Call recordings give a very convenient way to demonstrate to regulatory bodies that you are complying fully with your regulatory responsibilities.

 

You do not need any kind of special licence to record your calls and you are not even obliged to tell your clients that you are recording calls.  The law just requires that at least one party in each conversation is aware that the call being recorded.

Cost and complexity are a very big problem, recording staff calls made off site by mobile or landline is just a nightmare. Equipment, call storage and retrieval are another obstacle to overcome. Until now small firms have neither had the money, space or resource to reasonably and reliably do so.

With traditional telephone solutions you need expensive equipment (which also bring a maintenance overhead) and it is not easy to keep a readily accessible archive of your call records

But now, low cost salvation is at hand. PanaceaIFA has teamed up with YTEL and their new-generation VoIP telephone system removes these obstacles completely.   The system records all incoming and outgoing calls automatically.

Recordings are stored securely in digital format on their hosted servers for as long as you need them.   You can access and playback your call recordings easily via your PC.   You can search the call archive quickly either by date or by telephone number.

 

You can set up a new YTEL telephone solution with no initial cash outlay.   They will supply you with new phones and take over your telephone numbers from your existing provider.   Then you pay a monthly service charge based on the number of phones you use.    If you prefer to buy your phones outright then you pay a lower service charge.   There is no minimum period of contract.  You can close your account at any time for any reason with no cancellation charges.

This is a simply fantastic, low cost solution that will add extreme protection value at very low cost to your business, do call 023 9267 8800 or visit their website today.

Should I dress like a woman and act like a man?

The highly successful 1982 film ‘Tootsie’ starring Dustin Hoffman, is about an unemployed actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a role in a soap opera.  As it is ‘Women in Financial Services’ month, this got me thinking, in a male-dominated industry, should us ladies dress like a woman but act like man in order to gain success?

I have worked within financial services for the last 15 years and over that time have noticed that in a male dominated industry, women only seem to be prevalent within administration, marketing or HR functions; the glass ceiling remains, with women extremely underrepresented in senior positions and currently not a single global financial institution is run by a woman.

Research by head-hunting firm Odgers Berndtson, published last year (2012), revealed that women occupy just 23% of board positions within private companies in the UK, and although the number of female board members has increased since 2009, the rate of growth is a pretty pathetic 2.1%.  These figures are for companies overall, and if you look at financial services specifically the number of women in positions of power falls even further.  Additionally, according to Touchstone Financial Analytics, only 17% of financial advisers in the UK are women.

The stats don’t lie and the fact remains that financial services is still a man’s world.

Some could argue that looking to employ more women within high powered positions equates to ‘positive’ discrimination.  Surely the ability to do the job is what counts and gender should not matter. So what is the case exactly?

In some areas, such as the front office, the explanation could be of a more physical nature.  An ex-broker friend of mind says:

“I started on a trading exchange 18 years ago and although there were several women working there, most were in “support” or client liaison roles. This was the end of the 90’s where ‘girl power’ and the whole ‘ladette’ culture was rife; a few strong willed women had crossed over the male-dominated division to become traders. Six years on there were exactly zero female traders left on the exchange. It was suggested that physical issues held women back; our voices were harder to be heard over the men and when trading the “kerb” our smaller frames allowed us to be pushed out.”

Would a more aggressive, larger-framed, louder female make the grade? And does this mean that women should become more aggressive to get ahead?

Did testosterone fuel the financial crisis?

According to a recent interview in the London Evening Standard economist Vicky Pryce believes:

“Studies about [these] traders find that — partly because of the hormones — they don’t actually think they are taking risks, they’re just optimistic. They think they’ll beat the market… and they think, ‘I’d better deal with someone else who also thinks this is a fantastic idea, rather than [someone] who thinks it’s really risky’.”

Pryce believes women are better at ‘collegiate behaviour and caring for the common good’.

However, this can only be the case when women are behaving naturally and not trying to compete with their more risk-averse, optimistic male colleagues by acting just like them.

The new ‘Old Boys’ Network

History has shown that when women work together, they are successful in their aims, from the Suffragette movement in the early 1900’s to World War II, where women made significant gains in the workplace, demonstrating they were capable of performing in the work place as well as men following.

In the modern world and with the rise of social networking, we have seen a number of dedicated forums and events set up specifically for women in business, and an increase in female-only social networking sites which gives them the ability to talk more freely – the modern day equivalent of men on the golf course. Men help each other, so why shouldn’t women.

Holly Mackay, MD of The Platforum is an inspiration to aspiring ladies in financial services – having evolved her business from, in her words, “typing on a laptop next to the ironing board in my 2nd bedroom” to building a profitable and successful company in five years with two children under five. Holly is so passionate about helping young women in the early stages of their financial services career, she holds an annual event for women-only to hear from senior female directors and build a network.

“I think it’s such a shame that financial services is still so blokey. I think it can be very intimidating for young women to stand up and join the conversation. We all talk about how we fail to engage with consumers, how we talk in jargon and alienate ‘real people’ – I genuinely believe this would be different if more women had a voice in financial services. The CEO of Procter and Gamble regularly talks about how teams of men and women perform better than teams of just one gender. I long for the day when the boss of a life company, an IFA firm or a fund manager acknowledges the problem we have – and does something about it. Once a year, we run an event which is principally designed to help women build a network, share ideas and find inspiration and mentors. Anyone who would like to come is most welcome to get in touch with me – if your boss is a bit mean or you won’t get approval for the £200 conference fee, I’ll invite you as my guest.”

In fact, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, created in 2008 to analyse trends expected to affect global markets, shares of companies with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide over a period of six years.

Personally, it is my belief that to be hugely successful within financial services as a woman you are still expected to harp back to the 80’s ideal of the “Iron Lady” image – if you want to do the job of a man you have to think like a man and act like a man. In many cases you have to be more ruthless than a man to prove your worth. I have never been to a senior management meeting chaired by a woman and she has been dressed in anything less than a suit that wouldn’t have looked out of place on good old Maggie.

It was greed and over-lending that fuelled the financial crisis and a sense of “invincibility”. I believe that possibly women in the higher positions of the institutions that aided the crisis had just as much pseudo-testosterone as the men, so blame would fall at both sets of Gucci-clad feet.

However, in this changing world you have to play the long game. A career is built slowly and steadily. You work your way up through a much stricter hierarchy, earning respect, not as a sheep in wolfs clothing, but as an equal, with a different perspective, which can balance the business, confident in the knowledge you’d have the backing of other females colleagues, as men have always had.

If women think like women, act like women, support each other and stay true to themselves, in a male oriented environment, it can only be for the benefit of the industry as a whole and I for one will not be donning a pinstriped power suit any time soon.

Sarah Paul

Marketing Director

PanaceaIFA

 

Useful Links

Women in finance: the past 50 years

BCG Women Want More (in Financial Services) Report

Women in Banking & Finance

City Women’s Network

Top 10 Professional Networks for Women in Finance

United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles