‘The industry would benefit from more female advisers’
Claire Walsh, Chartered Financial Planner at Aspect8, talks to Adviser Business Review about attracting more women into financial advice, having cutting-edge technology and her belief that firms have a duty to offer training programmes
Adviser Business Review: What led you to follow a career in financial advice?
Claire Walsh: I used to be a self-investor and I found it very interesting. A good friend of mine is a financial adviser and I spoke to him at length about financial advice and what the job entailed and that really got me thinking. I made the decision to retrain five years ago, and I’ve certainly found my niche.
I do believe a lot of the softer skills required for financial advice are very female traits, such as listening, empathising and explaining. Traditionally, financial services is seen as a very male-orientated, sales-driven industry, but I do believe women are very suited to financial advice and the industry would benefit from having more female advisers.
I previously worked for another IFA practice in Brighton and joined Aspect8 two years ago. It had the infrastructure, technology and approach that I felt suited the direction I wanted to take.
ABR: What does your typical client look like?
CW: The majority of my clients are older, mainly in their 60s, and either approaching or at retirement. I really enjoy working with that segment of the market and I have great clients, but I would also like to work with younger people. I’m only 33 and I envisage being in this business for a long time so it would be great to build a younger client base I could grow with over the years. I’ve got a handful of clients in their 30s and 40s, but it’s much harder finding those clients, as a lot of younger people don’t yet see the value in financial advice; their focus is usually upon getting on the property ladder or starting a family. I would ideally like to work with business owners, as there are more planning opportunities available and it’s an interesting area to look at.
ABR: How have you built your client base?
CW: My client numbers have grown through referrals from other professionals, as well as recommendations and people coming across me online. A lot of clients find us through Unbiased.co.uk and I’ve long been a strong supporter of the site. Alongside my day job as an adviser, I recently became Unbiased.co.uk inaugural Head of Advice, representing Unbiased in broadcast media and promoting advice more widely.
ABR: Aspect 8 offers ethical investing, is this an area popular with clients?
CW: I do find a lot of people ask about it and I would say around 10% of my clients are in ethical portfolios. Brighton is known for being an ethical place, and I think the mentality here is that people think more carefully about where their money is going. We have an ethical investment committee who draw their fund selections from an ‘Ethical Universe’ of funds provided by EIRIS, although some people are surprised by some of the investments included in ethical funds. If clients are looking for ultra, ultra ethical then it can be a very niche market and they really need to have enough money to have a DFM. I often suggest clients go away and do research on the companies they would ideally like to invest in, with a view to possibly doing it themselves if they’re very passionate about it.
ABR: Aspect 8 prides itself on having ‘cutting edge’ technology. What does it deliver for the business and how important is it to clients?
CW: As a company Aspect 8 is extremely passionate about technology and have invested heavily to provide our clients with a cutting edge service. We live in an age where people expect instant access such as online shopping, online banking and are increasingly demanding a lot more in terms of the technology companies provide.
At Aspect8, we offer an in-built back-office system, which allows clients to view real-time information. All their assets are there for them to see and they can really get into a lot of detail if they so wish. I see other companies having to follow suit, as I do believe technology and people’s needs will continue that way. Whilst I think this is great that we are at the forefront of this technological developments and whilst some clients love this, I don’t think this is really the most important part for most clients; in my experience most clients place most value on face-to-face advice and expertise.
ABR: What exciting opportunities do you see for the financial advice market?
CW: I think auto-enrolment is exciting from a long-term perspective, as it’s prompting people to become much more engaged in their finances and retirement and of course, it will mean people will be wealthier in their later years.
What I would like to see happen in the industry is an increase in training programmes / apprenticeships offered by firms, as there really aren’t enough routes into a career as a financial adviser. You often hear firms say they don’t want to invest in training staff simply for them to leave and go elsewhere but if we don’t invest in future financial planners, what will happen to the industry? I feel there needs to be more focus on bringing young people and graduates into the firm and training them; I believe it’s hugely important to do so.
Inspiration for Aspect 8’s name was the eight elements that the firm believes must be considered in order deliver a financial plan that works for the long term.
Mortgages Income protection
Visit the Aspect8 website