St James's Place (SJP) has been accused of using dated stereotypes in its efforts to try and attract women to its academy.
"Dated" and "very stereotypical" were the words used to describe a recent event hosted by the SJP Academy at up-market department store Harvey Nichols in Birmingham.
The event in question, which took place on 25 September, was titled ‘Fashioning a New Career' and was targeted at women interested in moving into financial advice.
SJP promised attendees 45 minutes of browsing time at the store, as well as a 30-minute fashion and beauty presentation. The evening ended with shopping time and complementary mini beauty treatments. The presentation from SJP lasted 45 minutes, while the evening itself was more than two hours long.
Money Panel founder and qualified financial planner Catherine Morgan said if SJP truly wanted to attract more women into the sector it should be talking about things like flexible working and supporting women in their careers when they have a family. She described the evening as "dated" and "very stereotypical".
"That's going to get someone way more to think about ‘fashioning their career' than it would to put up an event in a boutique, flagship store about shopping," she said.
"Why are they not putting on events that encourage flexible working and working from home around children? Because in reality, that's why, as a profession, I believe we lose a lot of skills and expertise - because companies don't support that way of working. I know SJP do, so why not talk about that?"
Similarly, ISJ Independent Financial Planning Chartered financial planner Lena Patel was not keen on the event's set-up.
"It's not all high heels and shoes, is it? [SJP advisers] are normal people that are doing their job. They're parents or mums that are working. It'll turn off so many women."
Patel continued: "The job is changing. It's not all about being able to buy expensive things - it's about having a life plan. I think sometimes it can put women off coming into the industry if they feel they've got to 'keep up with the Joneses' and be able to afford this level of expenditure and also have clients that are able to do it. It just sends out the wrong message."
'Proof in the pudding'
For Phil Bray, founder and director of the Yardstick Agency, a marketing agency used by financial advisers, said the event held at Harvey Nichols should be judged by the number of people who showed up.
"If the right number of people of the right type turned up, SJP got it right," he said. "If they didn't, I would say SJP need to think about it.
"My gut feel is that it feels like stereotype, but I think we've got to be led by the results, and if sufficient people from SJP's target audience for this event attended, then it clearly resonated with that target audience. Would I have done it at Harvey Nics? No. But the proof's in the pudding."
A spokesperson for SJP said the Birmingham event was well attended and it received positive feedback.
"We are dedicated to increasing the number of women in the financial advice profession. As part of the work we do for this, the SJP academy runs a variety of events and seminars directly aimed at engaging with women about a potential career in financial planning.
"We have already held 16 Women in Business events in locations where we have an academy, and that are easily accessible for potential attendees. These events are run by women at SJP."
The spokesperson also highlighted the fact that one-quarter (24%) of all those who have joined the advice giant's academy were women and that they were "determined" to drive the number up further by hosting events like Fashioning a New Career.
The spokesperson continued: "Alongside the Women in Business events, we are proud supporters and champions of other events and organisations which look to encourage more women into the sector. For example, we sponsor the Really Helpful Club National Conference, an organisation that helps women with career choices and help businesses support women at work, and also sponsored the Women Returners UK National Conference in May 2019, which was attended by 250 women seeking advice and support on returning to work after a career break."
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