Profile: Rebecca Robertson of Evolution Financial Planning

Rebecca Robertson of Evolution Financial Planning is on a mission to empower women to take control of their finances

Rebecca Robertson is on what she ‘wouldn’t say is a crusade’, but certainly seems like a small uprising, for gender equality in financial advice and society in general.

Her firm, Evolution Financial Planning, is marketed towards women at different stages of their life. ‘By 2025, women will hold 60% of the world’s wealth,’ Robertson says. ‘Women are going to be the most powerful economy in the world. But if we don’t look after it, and we don’t get financial advice, what are we going to do with it?’

This sentiment formed the basis of Robertson’s recent TEDx Talk, and she says women’s empowerment is her main business driver. She wants to see more women in financial advice. Not necessarily to just make the profession more gender balanced, ‘because let’s face it, finance is a well-paid industry,’ but also because ‘if there were more women advisers, more women would get financial advice’.

Robertson believes more women in the profession, and in the top jobs, will create a nicer environment. It can be a lose-lose situation for women who adopt masculine traits to get to the top, but then end up branded as bossy or aggressive. Whereas a man exhibiting those traits might be called assertive or a good leader. 

‘You become a bit of a cow, you get known as the bolshy one, “oh don’t mess with her”,’ she says.

To help flip this narrative Robertson has joined One of Many, a community for professional women. ‘It believes in soft power,’ Robertson says. ‘You can harness that energy, that power, into a more tactful, regal and astute way. It empowers women to be confident and have a voice.’

Rebecca Robertson is on what she ‘wouldn’t say is a crusade’, but certainly seems like a small uprising, for gender equality in financial advice and society in general.

Her firm, Evolution Financial Planning, is marketed towards women at different stages of their life. ‘By 2025, women will hold 60% of the world’s wealth,’ Robertson says. ‘Women are going to be the most powerful economy in the world. But if we don’t look after it, and we don’t get financial advice, what are we going to do with it?’

This sentiment formed the basis of Robertson’s recent TEDx Talk, and she says women’s empowerment is her main business driver. She wants to see more women in financial advice. Not necessarily to just make the profession more gender balanced, ‘because let’s face it, finance is a well-paid industry,’ but also because ‘if there were more women advisers, more women would get financial advice’.

Robertson believes more women in the profession, and in the top jobs, will create a nicer environment. It can be a lose-lose situation for women who adopt masculine traits to get to the top, but then end up branded as bossy or aggressive. Whereas a man exhibiting those traits might be called assertive or a good leader. 

‘You become a bit of a cow, you get known as the bolshy one, “oh don’t mess with her”,’ she says.

To help flip this narrative Robertson has joined One of Many, a community for professional women. ‘It believes in soft power,’ Robertson says. ‘You can harness that energy, that power, into a more tactful, regal and astute way. It empowers women to be confident and have a voice.’

Ups and downs

Robertson’s journey started when she was 15. She left school and was told she would probably be a hairdresser or retailer. But she went on to college.

To afford college she got a job over the summer picking strawberries, which required a 5am start. ‘I’ve always been driven,’ she says. ‘I think it comes from my working class dad, but I see it in my daughter as well.’

The only problem was her father could not cover the expenses that came with it, such as daily train fares. Once she started, she worked until midnight packing food in a factory to pay for the train tickets to and from college.

After college she worked as a receptionist, and eventually, at 19, set foot in a bank, Alliance & Leicester, for the first time for her first day as a cashier. ‘I had a drawer full of money, a queue out the door, no training, I couldn’t use the computers, nothing.’

Six months later she was ‘regional relief’, training staff at other branches. By 28 she was a regional sales manager, running a team of 45 mortgage advisers and financial advisers, ‘all men’, but then in 2007 was made redundant. ‘The company wasn’t doing so well and it coincided with me telling them I was 14 weeks’ pregnant,’ she says.

After the birth of her first child, Robertson says she tried to go back into work, but found it difficult to find a job. ‘Eventually I tried to go back to a bank, Halifax, as a cashier, literally back where I had started.

‘But I had baby brain and I’d lost my confidence. I literally ran out of the interview crying. That was one of the lowest points of my life.’

Her old boss eventually took her on as a protection adviser, but she says the money the company was charging for mortgages and estate planning meant she ‘couldn’t sleep at night’. In 2011 she struck out on her own.

Shared knowledge

Evolution Financial Planning is an appointed representative of New Leaf Distribution. Robertson knew the company from recruiting and training its advisers in her previous role.

‘I get CPD [continuing professional development], I get plugged into all its systems, I pay a monthly fee, and it gets a cut of my business. But I don’t have to worry about all the regulation stuff.’

The firm comprises self-employed advisers, currently spread over Wales, Essex, Kent, London and Hampshire. Some are IFAs but others do mortgages or non-investment planning.

Robertson says she is careful about who she takes on. She appreciates, much as previous cover stars Ermin Fosse recently told New Model Adviser®, that ‘many good women advisers want their own thing, their own brand, their own assets, their own company’.

She thinks self-employment satisfies this well, but also sees her role as a coach. For a fee she will coach women advisers without taking them into the business.

It is often said financial advice provides a good career for women, who may require flexibility for childcare and other responsibilities. ‘I know a financial adviser, she’s the only black female financial adviser I know, and she is incredible,’ Robertson says. ‘Her clients are very high net worth. So when she had a baby she was able to work one day a week just looking after her existing client bank and still have enough money to live on.’

Robertson put herself through the advice qualifications and got her diploma in 2017. In 2016 she took time out to study and also to have another child.

The business in its current iteration – she also changed the name from Evolution for Women as she wanted it to have broader appeal – really began in January 2017 and took about a year to get off the ground again financially (click on for business figures).

Emotional investment

Her arguably already ‘niche’ client base is further segmented into packages that tend to suit women at different stages of their lives, or different levels financial knowledge. This includes older women clients finding themselves suddenly in charge of their finances for the first time, or younger clients thinking about starting a family. She also provides non-regulated holistic financial plans (see fees box). As what she calls a ‘new IFA’, Robertson says she has no plans to get out of the profession, or the business, just yet. But she sees herself gravitating more towards a coaching and business development role over time.

‘Eventually I see myself passing the business I generate onto the other advisers I am training up in my team,’ she says. ‘It would have to be a really good offer if I were to sell because I am very passionate about what I do and I would always want my clients to be looked after.

‘I see myself being involved in some capacity. I can’t see myself selling the business.’

The fee bit...

There is no minimum amount of assets women need to have to be considered a client of Evolution.

Initial meetings are free, and then the firm offers five tiers of regulated and non-regulated financial planning. For example: a simple service for setting up new pensions; a holistic financial planning service including ongoing investment advice; a holistic financial planning service without investments; just the financial plan; or an ongoing financial plan.

A financial plan, which includes cashflow modelling, would typically cost a flat fee of £550 for a single person or £850 for a couple plus VAT. An ongoing financial planning service may cost £2,500 as an ongoing flat fee.

Regulated advice such as on investments or products is typically charged at 2% in total for implementation and ongoing management charge.

The firm displays its fees on its website as part of Robertson’s bid to be ‘transparent and authentic’. ‘As soon as we talk to clients they will see our fees anyway in our disclosure document,’ she says.

‘If they see them and think they are a bit scary and go speak to someone else, they will end of receiving the same information because we are not that different in that regard. So then they might come back to us, in which case we will have attracted the right people.’

The investment bit...

Evolution Financial Planning has a centralised investment proposition, with access to discretionary fund managers (DFMs) Cannacord, Quilter and Brooks MacDonald as well as portfolios from Beaufort Investments. It uses Parmenion and Standard Life Wrap platforms, typically Vanguard for passive funds.

‘I enjoy the investment side of things,’ Robertson says. ‘I wouldn’t be picking funds but I like explaining things to clients and decoding the jargon.’

For example she says she had a client recently with £750,000 to invest who wanted to use mainly passive investments. ‘But after discussions, we found a DFM was more suitable. It uses some trackers but is mainly active. It works better for her overall in this case because it is trust work for children.’

She adds the cost of active elements can be mitigated if a DFM is willing to lower their own costs. She also believes the value of active management can outweigh the added cost. ‘I think there is a misunderstanding with actively managed or more bespoke offerings. There are some really expensive offerings out there but I try to keep fees to a minimum.’

Share this story

More Content

BUSINESS

Adviser Profile: Josh Matthews of Maseco Private Wealth

Adviser Profile: Josh Matthews of Maseco Private Wealth

Josh Matthews says a single-minded focus on clients married with a well-defined company culture has given Maseco Private Wealth purposefulness, momentum and a clear trajectory

ADVICE

Maggie & Mifid: Iron Lady’s legacy to investment advice

Maggie & Mifid: Iron Lady’s legacy to investment advice

Margaret Thatcher’s hope for a Britain in which owning shares is common has not come true, as much of the general public remains unaware of the value of advice

twitter_banner

INVESTMENT