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Women’s career progression in the UK financial planning sector


Publication date:

12 April 2022

Last updated:

18 December 2023


Samantha Secomb

This study considers women’s career progression in the UK financial advice sector where 84% of financial advisers are men.

Only 16% of the financial advisers in the UK are women. Yet we have a shortage of advisers since numbers fell in response to changing legislation in 2013 that have only partially recovered. There is no fundamental reason why women cannot be competent and effective financial advisers. There are thousands of women in the sector sufficiently well qualified to advise clients but are not doing so.

The purpose of the primary research at the centre of this project was to explore whether these women are choosing not to advise clients, or if they are unable to make the transition into the adviser role. Semi-structured interviews with professionally qualified women were designed to enable understanding of how women come to be making careers in financial services, what their career expectations are, provide information about career barriers and enablers they are encountering,
and the impact of these on their careers.

The findings confirm that women make good use of entry-level opportunities and work hard to achieve a career they can feel proud of. They place value on positive working environments and prioritise this above career advancement. They enjoy collaborating with others and sharing responsibility rather than competing with colleagues for status and authority, making career choices relative to other objectives in their lives. In competition with men, who are celebrated for being single-minded and determined careerists stereotypically supported by a woman to manage the home and family, the women in this study tolerate limited career expectations resulting from discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

Results indicate that women are resistant to assimilate into male-dominated organisations that favour masculine characteristics over feminine. In response, there is evidence that modern organisations are being born that take advantage of the commercial need to accommodate women in the financial advice sector. Platform businesses that provide paraplanning and technical services to advisers, by appealing to and harnessing the underappreciated talent of women, are growing in number. They offer more flexible work arrangements, transparent pay and career opportunities, flatter organisational structures with supportive and communal environments that do not relegate flexible workers and part-timers to a second-class status.

These new style firms are setting an example to traditional gendered organisations that can expect to find it increasingly difficult to compete for technical talent. But these businesses are not authorised to deliver advice and are therefore unable to contribute to uplifting the number of female advisers in the UK. They are more likely to contribute to, what appears to be, a professional ceiling for women who are capable and qualified to be advisers, but remain in a support roles to those who are known to the clients as “the adviser”.

This study contributes to current literature on women in professional services careers by highlighting unique barriers in women’s progression into adviser/planner roles in the UK financial planning sector. It also explores the growing attractiveness of the paraplanner role within the sector.


Read the report HERE (pdf)

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), the CII group, local institute or Society, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the CII group, local institutes, or Societies.