The St James’s Place Academy: A Family-Friendly Option - Part Two

Wendy Spires Group Deputy Editor London 16 August 2012

The St James’s Place Academy: A Family-Friendly Option - Part Two

The St James’s Place Academy is proving to be particularly attractive to women who want a career which fits in better with their family lives. Here, Sophie Du Rouet, a graduate of the St James’s Place Academy and now a partner, explains what it has done for her.

UK-based advisory firm St James’s Place is investing £2 million (about $3 million) this year in intensively training 60 new entrants to the wealth management industry. The intake for the St James’s Place Academy is diverse, but the programme is proving to be particularly attractive to women who want a career which fits in better with their family lives. Here, Sophie Du Rouet, a graduate of the St James’s Place Academy and now a partner, explains what it has done for her. To view the first of the interviews with this firm, click here.

Could you briefly describe your career before the St James’s Place Academy?

Before joining St James’s Place I worked on the trading floor at a bulge-bracket investment bank doing specialist equity sales, specialising in healthcare. Essentially, I was an institutional stockbroker, sharing my views and recommendations with fund managers, buy-side analysts and the trading floor, on companies in the healthcare sector. I worked in the City for 13 years.

How did you hear about the St James’s Place Academy?

I had been a client of St James’s Place since my early 20s. In one of our annual review meetings I asked the guy I spoke to what being a St James’s Place Partner involved, and how would I go about it if it was something I wanted to do. He pointed me in the direction of the Academy.

What made you decide to go ahead with it?

I had recently got married and we were starting a family. My old job on the trading floor was pretty inflexible regarding working hours as it was obviously tied to the markets, five days a week. I wanted something that would enable me to have more control of my work/life balance.

How does it compare to your former career?

Both jobs require the ability to manage a client list and need an understanding of what it takes to provide a good service to those clients. Most important is an understanding of what service clients need in order to provide something that is bespoke and relevant.

After that the two worlds are completely different. Previously I felt like a very small cog in a very large wheel, now I believe I can genuinely make a tangible difference and help to improve the way people manage their finances. I find that hugely rewarding.

I am no longer part of a team with a line management set up, with some kind of 360-degree review process at the end of the year, where it is sometimes difficult to see how your contribution translates into how you are paid. Now I am completely in control of my own destiny.

Do you think that it’s a particularly female-friendly option (in light of the breaks women have to take in their careers for babies etc)?

Yes and no. It is female-friendly as I am self-employed (I represent St James’s Place, but the business is my own), so I have complete flexibility over my working hours. I can vary my hours to work around my family and my clients don’t ever need to know what it is that is affecting my availability. But there are downsides – such as no maternity leave, and when you are not working, you are not making any money.

Does your new career deliver the better work-life balance it is billed as offering?

Absolutely. Without question the situation I am in now allows me to arrange my week to suit me and my family, and going forward over the medium to long term, I can see it being brilliantly flexible around school holidays etc.

Which parts of the Academy did you find to be particularly challenging? Which parts were particularly enjoyable/satisfying?

It’s tough starting at the bottom again - when you have been at the top of your game, and known exactly what is going on, it is unsettling to feel vulnerable and exposed that your knowledge base isn’t quite where you would like it to be when you start out. The flipside to that is that it is always interesting to learn new things.

Broadly speaking, how good is the financial services as a sector for female employees? Are some sectors better than others?

The financial services world is far too varied to make a generalisation that answers the first question, and the answer to the second is clearly yes. There are opportunities across the board for women and they don’t need to be any different to the opportunities that are available to the men. It depends what you are looking for. Different women at different stages in their lives are looking for different things from their career in financial services or otherwise.

What does the FS industry need to do to cater better to women?

I think women crave flexibility in the work place. That is possible in some financial services careers and not in others. In my personal view, there will always be a higher dropout rate for women versus men, simply because for some starting a family means a career change to being a full time mother!

Do you think that women are generally better wealth managers than men?

People say to me all the time that women are better listeners. Whether that makes them better wealth managers is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the generalisations that we hear all the time apply to some extent. Do women feel compelled to work that little bit harder to prove themselves, perhaps their attention to detail is valuable with regard to the admin side of the job, maybe they are a little more risk averse and in the long run that is the better strategy...?

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