Helen Blackford (second from left), Nicole Mahan and Allison Dummett

The advice profession lags with flexibility after maternity leave, presenting a challenge for female advisers who want to develop their careers. Centrepoint licensee general manager Allison Dummett cited flexibility after maternity leave as a critical issue.

“When women go on maternity leave, [businesses may] take them off the register and then re-appoint [them] when they come back on, provided they meet [the] criteria,” she said at the Professional Planner Licensee Summit last week.

“We’ve got to have a much better pathway for women who are going to go in and out of the workforce because they’re having children.”

Centrepoint introduced part-time licensing in 2021, offering firms with more than one authorised representative to pro-rata fees if they worked fewer days.

“That may be helpful for women coming back from maternity leave, but it may be helpful to other people for other reasons as well,” Dummett said.

She added it’s a tough call for licensees because it is important to get the price point right for the fee.

“We deliberately said [it wouldn’t work] for a single AR business, that’s just a way of cutting your price back,” Dummett said.

“The real issue there is, in terms of flexibility, you can’t be a part-time single adviser in Australia. The regulatory barriers to that are significant.”

Although equality and diversification have improved in recent times, there are still barriers to successfully promoting the financial industry to women.

Some individuals are not convinced financial advice is a viable career path, and some firms continue to struggle to overcome the older white male financial adviser stereotype plaguing the industry.

Expanded base

While adding more women to the industry is necessary, attracting anyone is a much greater challenge.

Iress commercial director Nicole Mahan said the priority task for attracting talent is educating young people about the purpose of financial planning.

“We [also need to] think differently about how we nurture [young people] through university,” she said.

“They don’t have to come out and be advisers. There are so many other jobs in the industry: there’s risk; there’s compliance; there’s general management.”

Mahan said the industry could better explain how planners can help influence the financial outcomes of Australians because “graduates today are looking for purpose-led careers”.

However, Dummett said there are also some logistical challenges for young people trying to determine what to do next because they are not learning the nuts and bolts of the industry and discovering its appeal until too late in their education. “[There are] some things to correct there,” she said.

Helen Blackford, the CEO of Millennium 3, Lonsdale, and IOOF Alliances, said it would be advantageous to attract talent from other professions, but it needs to be done in a unified way.

“If we think about who our best advisers are, they have great empathy,” she said. “If you think about professions that already have that, nursing is an absolute standout.”

Blackford argued that nurses have the people skills for clients, and the burnout in the profession means advice could be an attractive offering. Additionally, it is a female-dominated profession.

“We know nurses are woefully underpaid [and hospitals have] massive shortages,” Blackford said.

“If they’re going to leave that profession, they will appreciate the flexibility [being a financial adviser or planner] can offer. There’s so many synergies there, and probably not being tapped at all, at this point in time.”

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