Financial advice is still dominated by middle-aged men and red tape is causing lengthy delays for clients accessing advice, research by NextWealth and the Personal Finance Society (PFS) has found.

The consultancy and trade body together surveyed 482 PFS members in July and found just a fifth (20%) of financial planners were female, while the average age of planners was 49.

Elsewhere, it found clients wait up to four weeks from their first point of contact with a planner before they receive advice, mainly because financial planners need to wait for providers to release information on existing policies.

“It is vital that our profession reflects the diversity of the clients that they serve in an ever-changing society where expectations of inclusivity are the norm.”

NextWealth managing director Heather Hopkins said: “The most dramatic finding is the inefficiencies at the heart of retail investing. The lengthiest step in the process is waiting for providers to release information on existing policies. This inefficiency is not only a huge source of frustration for financial planners, but it drives up the cost of advice and damages the customer experience.

“The study also shows that we have not attracted enough women or young people to the industry. Only one-fifth of financial planners are female and the average age of a financial planner is 49. Only 39% of financial advice businesses have recruited a financial planner in the past year.”

The joint research found just 39% of advice firms recruited in the last year and almost half (48%) plan to achieve Chartered status.

Elsewhere, it found less than half (44%) of financial planners used discretionary managers, with Brewin Dolphin, Brooks Macdonald and LGT Vestra the most common firms, while ethical funds are used by four-fifths (80%) of financial planners, though ethical investing comes up in less than one-in-ten (7%) client conversations.

PFS chief executive Keith Richards said the research provided a valuable insight into the industry, which could be used to improve diversity in the sector: “It is vital that our profession reflects the diversity of the clients that they serve in an ever-changing society where expectations of inclusivity are the norm.

“With changing demographics our perspectives are growing, and it requires a broad range of people to understand the intricacies of individuals, their different lifestyles, and therefore their different needs.”

This article originally appeared in Professional Adviser on 20 November 2019.