Jodie Blackledge and Paul Cullen.

For the advice industry to attract and retain talent it may need a better system for part-time licensing to allow greater flexibility for the way people work.

Currently, fixed-cost regulatory and licensee requirements mean it is financially handicapping not to have a full-time client load.

With the industry moving towards being a profession that aims to attract talent from more diverse backgrounds, the lack of flexibility creates the risk of turning people away from working in the industry.

Jodie Blackledge, Fitzpatricks Financial Group chief executive, tells Professional Planner the system needs to change to help support women who have smaller practices with less support.

“The long-term outlook for gender equality is really positive but I do see some short-term challenges to help set them up for success,” Blackledge says.

“It’s not unique to women but they are often wanting that flexibility,” she says “But we do see it with some men as well.”

When Fitzpatricks was founded, she explains, the aim was to have a philosophy of “four and 40”, which meant the firm envisaged advisers working four days a week, 40 weeks a year.

“It was the idea of building a business that has the flexibility within it that meets the client needs but allows the advice practitioner to have a balanced life as well,” Blackledge says.

Because the industry is about relationships, Blackledge says it can operate in a capacity that allows part-time work.

“At the moment flexibility is quite challenged,” Blackledge says. “The additional processes required, particularly in a smaller advice practice put some challenges in the way of female participants who’ve chosen that pathway.”

Paul Cullen, Centrepoint Alliance group executive for advice, says the listed group has been trying to introduce more flexibility into its fee structure.

“A firm approached us [with] an adviser coming back from maternity leave and asked us if we would consider an arrangement that recognised they were going to work three days a week,” Cullen says.

“It provides for three or four days a week, no less because based on responsibilities people have (including professional development) it’s hard to do less than three days.”

This structure meant cutting 7.5 per cent of the total fee per day, which isn’t the pro rata benefit advisers would ideally prefer, but fixed costs made this impractical.

“There’s certain fixed fees that don’t change as a result of the number of hours someone might work, like professional indemnity cover,” Cullen says.

“But then there are services we provide that are directly related to how many days someone might work, for example how often people access research or technical queries.”

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