It's time to declare images of the 'old boys' network' dead – the up-and-coming women of wealth management still have too much left to offer, says Penny Lovell
From an early age and fortunately motivated by a very financially aware mother, I knew that I wanted a career in wealth management. There have certainly been challenges along the way, but I have always had a fascinating career. I am firmly convinced that women bring unique value to the industry and the clients it serves, and I am not by any means alone.
Increasingly, some of wealth management's most pioneering thought leaders, including Close Brothers Asset Management's own CIO, Nancy Curtin, are female and it's encouraging to see more women feature among 'power lists' of industry rising stars. In 2015, however, male wealth managers still far outnumber their female colleagues, particularly at senior levels. We need to keep working to change this.
Why do we need women at the top of the wealth management industry? The industry needs to adapt to remain relevant to its customer base. At a time when more and more women are running businesses or rising through the corporate ranks and are commonly the financial decision-maker in the home, it makes sense that women should also be better represented among those that manage their wealth.
Can we change this picture? I firmly believe we can as long as we communicate. We need to persuade female graduates that the wealth management industry is for them and make sure talented rising stars know it is worth staying on board.
In practical terms, this means explaining that images of the 'old boys' network' are dead and providing practical mentoring for up-and-coming wealth managers which conveys the truth of our dynamic modern industry. Close Brothers Asset Management, for example, runs a Future Leaders programme for youth aged 18-25 who want to get an introduction in finance and entrepreneurial business.
We need to 'be the change you want to see in the world' and show that wealth management offers an exciting, supportive culture which nurtures talented young graduates and gives them the space to align their business interests with their passions.
In my case, I have been privileged to provide hands-on wealth management support to families as far away as Middle East and Asia. This has brought me an appreciation of cultural mores which has fuelled a lasting interest in society.
Wealth management has also given me the springboard to become a trustee at Pennies, the Electronic Charity Box, an amazing new charity which has already raised ’2 million through micro-donations at high street stores.
At Close Brothers Asset Management, my interest in society and the changing demographic means I spearhead initiatives like the Trustee Leadership Programme which addresses a shortfall in younger charity trustees. I also work on a steering group dedicated to delivering Close Brothers Asset Management's response to pension reform.
New female graduates might be drawn to the arts, philanthropy or property but there is absolutely no reason to leave this behind if they come into wealth management: it is exactly that spark we are looking for. There are not many other careers where you can say that.
Penny Lovell is head of private client services at Close Brothers Asset Management