“I didn’t know advice was for someone like me.”
This statement is one of the central issues our industry faces: how do we bring more people from a broader range of backgrounds into Advice? While there’s still work to be done, the sector is making important progress, and the FCA’s decision in to relax the advice/guidance boundary was another step in the right direction.
Serving a deeper pool of clients
To make further headway, we can’t just look at how we provide advice, we need to think about who is helping to deliver it — from frontline professionals right through to the supply chain that stretches far behind the adviser’s desk.
A stronger focus on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is key. Why? Diversity in teams equates to diversity of thought and experience. If our industry wants to serve a broader, deeper market of clients, we must have the perspectives, skills and products to reflect the circumstances and needs of our expanded market.
Minimising bias and challenging groupthink
Advisers know better than anyone the benefits of personalised approaches. And the Consumer Duty has put under a microscope the need to ensure every part of the advice process is geared towards delivering good outcomes.
Bringing more perspectives on board — whether that’s in terms of gender, race, or socio-economic background — will help deliver these good outcomes and support us in identifying opportunities for new products and services.
There will also be significant benefits for businesses themselves, particularly with decision making. As a long-time manager, I know first-hand how valuable a range of viewpoints is to minimising potential bias and challenging the groupthink that can lead to narrow ideas and ineffective action.
So, what can the sector do now to help make our industry more diverse? This is something close to my heart — not just given the responsibility I have for our culture and business, but as someone who entered this industry straight from an inner-city state school and who didn’t go to university.
Diverse businesses are more resilient and successful
Two important focuses should be promoting accessibility and demonstrating opportunity.
In part, this is about showing people — particularly those from backgrounds or with characteristics that have previously been or felt excluded from the sector — that advice can be an industry that offers them opportunity, career progression and professional fulfilment.
For a person who feels excluded or disenfranchised, there is nothing more powerful than hearing directly from someone with a similar background about how they have successfully made the industry their home. Supporting and profiling role models will be important here. There are still cases where people say, ‘I didn’t know advice was for someone like me.’
noel butwell, ceo abrdn adviser.
Diversity in teams equates to diversity of thought and experience.
We must do more to enable these stories to be told and listen when they highlight issues that still need to be addressed. As well as helping to attract a broader range of talent, this will foster a culture of greater transparency — something that enables businesses to continue to challenge themselves, grow and improve, but also shows clients and employees that a more inclusive workplace is a genuine commitment.
We must also deliver clearer pathways into our businesses and keep reviewing the ways we help people of all backgrounds to thrive.
abrdn is a proud member of the Diversity Project and a backer of careers routes such as the Investment 20/20 programme. We are also focused on upskilling through a partnership with Limelight Careers, which gives young people the opportunity to secure a Scottish Vocational Qualification in providing financial services or in management.
DE&I is a journey
Improving DE&I will be a journey; one we all must be diligent and persistent in following. And, while it will have specific benefits for the advice gap, its advantages stretch far beyond.
I’m a firm believer that more diverse businesses are also more resilient and successful. Above all, it’s the right thing to do.
This article originally appeared in Money Marketing in February 2024.