Q&A with Michelle Lambell on Women in Finance
What do you perceive to be the main challenge for a woman in a male dominated profession?
People’s perceptions and stereotypes. Many believe that because this is a male dominated profession that only a man can be a successful financial adviser. For a woman in the early stage of her career and for some clients, this perception can be disconcerting. In reality both men and women can be and are equally as successful in an adviser role and they both bring different strengths to the advice process. Financial planning is emotive and client’s needs are ever-evolving and we as advisers need to adapt to not only show the technical knowledge we work so hard to achieve and maintain, but also compassion and empathy, both of which are naturally used by women in their everyday life. To change the current perception, we need to encourage women to see that their natural skill-set is very valuable to this role and can make them outstanding financial advisers, who can go on to mentor and guide other women (and men) coming into the industry.
How important is financial education in our schools?
Extremely important. As a mum of two teenage girls and as an adviser, I feel improving financial education in schools is key to ensuring younger generations better understand the fundamentals of the financial world. This will enable them to make informed financial decisions as they progress through life and help them to avoid poor financial decisions which could negatively impact them in later years. This would also build a strong foundation from a younger age than at present to save for their retirement years, to give them the opportunity to have a comfortable retirement, something which many of my own generation will struggle with.
How do you balance your career and bringing up a family?
I think we need to have the mindset that as a woman you can have a family and further your career. It is incredibly important to me that my two teenage daughters understand and see that you can have both. I have a very supportive husband and we work as a team; this has enabled me to have time and focus to study, take exams and fulfil my role as an adviser to the best of my ability. It also allows me to set aside valuable time to spend with my husband and daughters, something which I very much look forward to and treasure. There are times as we go through life where the balance can be lost but it is important at this time to take a moment, look at your priorities and take each day at a time until the balance is restored.
Why do women often seek advice from a female financial adviser?
Both male and female advisers provide good financial advice to many women every day, however sometimes a woman would prefer to receive advice from a female adviser as they can feel that they may be more understanding of their needs and views. In many cases the finances and the relationship with a financial adviser for a couple is led by the man, which means the woman is sometimes not as informed about their finances or the financial decision-making process. However, women often need to seek financial advice on their own following a major life event such as divorce or bereavement and this can be very daunting. During this emotional time, compassion and empathy are key parts of the advice process and many women have stated they would feel more comfortable with a female adviser as they may be more understanding of their situation and that they may even have their own experiences which they can draw upon. It is important that we encourage all women to engage with financial advice throughout their lives and not just after major life events, this would help to close the confidence gap that many women face when making financial decisions.
How would you describe the current environment for financial advisers?
Challenging. In the last 12 months we have seen the most challenging market conditions for many years, with increasing volatility and we have also faced challenges from a regulatory perspective. We work hard to navigate our way through changes as and when they are presented to us and our continuing learning also helps us to adapt. From a client perspective it is important that we continue to put them at the heart of what we do, to reassure them and to ensure that we always strive to achieve the best outcome for them.