Advice giant St. James Place (SJP) has said a lack of knowledge about drawing women to investment is holding the finance industry back and advisers need to do more to appeal to all demographics.
Speaking at The Wisdom Council's launch of the Yes She Can initiative, addressing the gender gap in investment, SJP marketing director Claire Blackwell said the industry had an "unconscious lack of awareness". SJP, Aberdeen Standard Investments, EY, HSBC Asset Management UK, Royal London Group, Scottish Widows and Vitality all form Yes She Can - a research and advertising campaign targeted at female investors.
Blackwell said: "I don't think we've gone out of our way to make ourselves not accessible to women. As an industry I don't think we have done enough but I don't believe it's been a conscious decision."
In September, SJP was accused of using dated stereotypes in its efforts to try and attract women to its academy. The firm held an event at up-market department store Harvey Nichols in September, 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.
When asked about alleged sexism at SJP and whether the firm would have to work harder to attract more women to its products, a spokesperson at the firm said gender bias was "not something we would recognise in our business model". Blackwell said the public perception of SJP as old-fashioned firm was a more relevant issue and changing that would help attract more female clients.
"It is about making ourselves more accessible and appealing to a broad range of people across the UK, not just women - young people too," she said.
Yes She Can
Wisdom Council chief executive Anna Lane said advisers need to look to other industries to address the finance sector's inherent lack of diversification and get more women to invest. She said brands such as Nike and Amazon had done a lot to engage more women, while financial services was lagging behind.
"To address the gender pensions gap and raise awareness, we need to make it part of all of our networks and conversations. This is a big challenge and one that is not possible for one firm to do alone," she added.
"It needs the wisdom of the crowds and diverse minds working together, so the industry and society will benefit. Collaboration is very much the zeitgeist."
EY Associate Partner David Hilton, meanwhile, said the rhetoric about investment needed to change to draw more women, which was the responsibility of all industry players: "We need to have a better story across the industry - the entire industry needs to get together and story-telling is a big part of that," he said.
Lane said the firms involved in Yes You Can represented 50% of UK consumers, which not only presented a significant commercial opportunity, but addressed a "massive need to help people address their financial futures".
"Closing the savings gap is a huge social issue, and one that impacts our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends," she said.
More than 100 people from the finance industry attended the launch and some were critical of the sector's approach to the issue so far.
"We've known about these issues for a long time - why have we not done anything about it?" One audience member asked at the event on Wednesday (27 November).
Lane responded that changing the way the sector looked at the issue by learning from other industries was a big step towards change.
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