Women in the industry highlighted that the administrative side of the mortgage market tended to be dominated by them while men took up advisory positions.
The face of the industry
The existing makeup of the sector may prove to be a barrier to both outsiders and those working within it, it was said, as employees who are not already advising may have trouble identifying with those who are.
“I guess it’s a lot to do with role modelling. If you go as a female mortgage administrator to a conference and you see all the advisers are men, maybe you don’t imagine yourself being able to go into that role,” Jo Jingree, mortgage advisor at Mortgage Confidence said.
Jingree entered the industry “by accident”, starting out as a mortgage administrator after university to save up for travelling. She ended up enjoying the role and worked for different brokers and packagers before moving on to advising, which she has done for two and a half years.
Attending events over the years, Jingree noticed the majority of advisers happen to be men and although she has seen a change, she added: “You can kind of see why some of the admin roles don’t always progress into an adviser role, which it should do in a lot of cases.
“It should be part of the job description or profession. I don’t have admin but if I did I would encourage them to progress because I think that’s how you get the best out of people.”
Larger firms, clubs and networks could also use their presence to drive gender diversity in the sector, Jingree added, as could sending minority employees to represent them at events to avoid giving the industry “one look”.
“If you are not in a certain category and are sitting there in that conference, you might not be inspired to join the industry,” she said.
Lilla Dilliway, mortgage adviser at BlueWing Financials, added some women did not have people in the industry to look up to, either through personal relationships or beyond which was possibly shaping their opinion of whether they could take up such a role.
Knowing someone who was an adviser can be a good influence and it seemed to work for Rachel Dixon, mortgage adviser at RH Dixon, who left school unsure of what career path she wanted to take. In her case, having a mother who worked as a financial adviser gave her an example of a plan for her professional life.
Additionally, it was also her natural interest in property and finance which led to her choosing mortgage advising as a job.
She said: “I didn’t go to university, I went straight into working for a bank at an early age. When I was around 20 I started doing mortgages and loved it. I worked in corporate for 18 years then made the decision 14 years ago to go on my own as a broker.
“I’ve always had an interest in finance and the interaction with people. I love seeing their dreams come true because that is what mortgages can be about.”
Apart from Dixon saying she was often mistaken for an adviser’s PA went she attended conferences, the brokers did not mention other incidences of unpleasant behaviour from colleagues and peers.
While fellow advisers may be respectful, Saira Haider, senior mortgage and protection consultant at Mansion Mortgages, said judgements occasionally came from clients.
“Sometimes the only way I’m taken seriously [by clients] is when I start talking,” Haider said.
“Otherwise, just to look at me, some might think ‘what does she know?’ a man in a suit is seen to be more powerful and knowledgeable than a woman and I think that is a huge hurdle.”
“I was dealing with development finance before and I think [clients] thought that I didn’t get it. I would have to deliver a bio on myself first before they would take me seriously,” she added.
Straying from the norm
While progressing to being the head of one’s own firm is far from uncommon in the sector, the women interviewed for this feature all happened to work alone or be the owner of their companies.
With Jingree admitting that she still sometimes felt out of place attending male-dominated industry events, the advisers were asked if the decision to separate themselves from the traditional demographic of the industry was a conscious one.
Dixon admitted she preferred to work alone as it helped her to tune out the “banter” found in the sector.
However, Haider suggested the number of female directors probably had more to do with the natural progression of the career as for many firms, rapid expansion is not an option.
She said: “There’s only so far you can go anyway. Unless you keep taking on more advisers which takes longer to do than in an estate agency, for example, because you can’t employ just anyone. People eventually move on.”
Haider also added there was less of a need for many mortgage advisers within a firm as for the most part, administrators were able to handle cases even in the absence of brokers resulting in a slower hiring process.
“I was out for two weeks with Covid and my admin kept everything going; it didn’t matter that I wasn’t there,” she added.
Jingree noted that while there were potentially a “multitude of reasons” for women setting up their own firm or working on their own, things had gone one step further with a recent rise in female branded brokerages.
She said: “There is an appeal as a female only advice firm. I have a lot of female clients and perhaps there is a case to say some women prefer to be advised by women.
“I‘m not saying I‘ve only got female clients, I‘ve got lots of males one too, but I think there is a market there for that and that’s possibly another reason.”
“There’s a trend, I would say, to promote yourself as a woman and not be afraid of that as it can give the consumer more of a choice to not go to the traditional financial adviser,” she added.
Dixon also mentioned a rise in brokers catering to the female clientele, which she had seen in a Facebook group for mums that she uses for leads.
She said: “I’ve noticed recently a few more women’s names are coming up meaning more are coming into the industry.
“In many households, women are the decision makers so it helps if you appeal to them.”
Perks of the job
Having worked their ways up to the top of the profession as directors of their own firms, the brokers said the perks of the profession should be made more known to those the sector was trying to attract.
Being given the opportunity to set one’s own hours and make a decent earning while having a positive impact on the lives of others were some of the advantages of the role that were highlighted.
It was also said that a woman’s ability to be nurturing, a good listener and competent multitasker were skills which could be valuable as an adviser and should be promoted as part of the job’s requirements as much as the analytical and financial aspects.
Dilliway said: “A lot of women are in administrative roles where attention to detail is quite important or sitting at a desk, dealing with different things at the same time.
“Similarly, mortgage broker is pretty much building on those skills as well as listening to people and engaging with them.”
However, all agreed the job came with a lot of work and said the long hours that need to be put in at the start to build up a client base and gain qualifications could be a hindrance for those with small children.
Dilliway, who is currently looking for new advisers, said: “We had a number of candidates who applied but they wanted it on a part–time basis so they could drop off their child in the morning, then leave early to pick them up.
“It’s fine to do once you know what you’re doing but while you’re training, it can’t be part–time. It can’t be guaranteed that the leads will come in the few hours they are available and how will they do their CPD training?”
“At the beginning its a full time commitment and that seems to be an obstacle to some of the candidates,” she added.