Not old yet: how a financial planner can fight ageism

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Ageism is an issue in a lot of industries, but perhaps particularly so in finance. If you feel it’s affecting you, what can be done?

Finance businesses are well-known for their focus on younger workers. In an industry that prizes youthful energy, having clocked up a few years can often be a real drawback.

The shift to a digital world is making it even harder for older finance professionals. With the arrival of fintech, financial businesses increasingly reflect Silicon Valley’s youth culture, rather than the solid traditions of banking.

While this attitudinal switch is making many older financial advisers uncomfortable, Sally Evans, a non-executive director with a range of organisations in the retirement and ageing field, believes it’s important to remember ageism affects people at all ages1.

“Not all old people are wise and not all young people are tech savvy. Age is really irrelevant. Our brains use it as a shortcut to try to make sense of a rapidly changing world, but people shouldn’t really be judged by that criteria,” she says.

Changing attitudes to ageing

Ageing needs to be reframed as a positive attribute and should be seen as a time of ‘gain’ rather than a time of ‘loss’, Evans argues. “Age has traditionally been defined through the lens of loss, but older people are actually gaining freedom, as they are living healthier, longer lives.”

For a financial practice, failing to see the value older advisers bring to the business is short-sighted.

“If you look at intergenerational teams, they are higher performing than mono-generational ones. Diverse teams assist with understanding the world in a better way. Older employees can also help the business prepare for the future, as they are the customer or colleague of the future,” she explains.

Challenging common myths and attitudes is vital.

“Call out myths about ageing – like old dogs can’t learn new tricks – as extensive research has proved this is wrong. Many of the myths about older people have become accepted truths when they are not,” Evans notes.

Staying relevant: listen and learn

Advisers need to work on remaining relevant at a personal level, particularly as an ageing client base creates the need to attract and retain new – often much younger – clients.

Career coaches usually advise being authentic is more effective than faking trendiness, but Evans believes the key to relevance is being attentive. “With younger people, ask what matters most to them and really listen to their response.”

Adopting a professional manner and emphasising an interested attitude are also important. “Take age out of it and connect with them in that relationship, not through age,” she suggests.

“Remind yourself we are two people and I have the skills you need to deal with the problem you are facing. Engage with them at a really human level.”

Remain open and engaged

A desire to learn and staying open to new ideas and trends is essential for older advisers.

“The most critical thing you can do is to commit to a life of lifelong learning – and that’s not just continuous professional development. You need to sign up to do something that includes younger people and lots of different people,” Evans says.

“Be curious about what’s going on around you and what matters most to your clients. These days you can be paying off a mortgage and have a two-year-old at age 20, or at age 50.”

With most younger clients being tech-driven and often preferring their first contact to be electronic, older advisers need to ensure their skills include at least some tech savvy.

“Engage with technology. Not to be hip, but because this is how people engage with the world around them now. You don’t have to be across every social media channel, just pick one or two,” notes Evans.

Changing your own attitudes is also important. “You need to look at your language, as we often talk about being old as something that’s bad. Catch yourself if you say it and work on changing it.”

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Important: This article has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial or taxation situation or needs of any particular individual. Before acting on the information, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. Any information used in this article is for illustrative purposes only. Sally Evans is external and not a member of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group of Companies (the Group) and the content or any view expressed by Sally Evans does not represent an endorsement, recommendation, guarantee or advice in regard to any matter. CBA, nor members of the Group accept any liability for losses or damage arising from any reliance on external parties, their products, services and material. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.